[Excerpt from www.geohiking.com]

Teutonia Peak Trail

EFFORT Moderate
LENGTH 4.0 miles
GEOLOGICAL FEATURE(S) Erosional Features
LOCATION Mojave National Preserve
CONTACT 760-733-4040
TRAILHEAD COORDINATES 35º 18.889N 115º 33.035W

Description: Even without the geological interest, this hike would be one of our favorites. Remote and beautiful, it provides the hiker with rewards commensurate with a much longer trail. For the entire duration of our visit, we met no one, and the view from atop Teutonia Peak gives the impression that you have indeed climbed a mountain.

Geologically speaking, this trail takes you to a view of the most symmetrical natural dome in the United States, Cima Dome, a huge circular swelling of monzonite, a type of granite with a large amount of light-colored minerals (such as quartz). This granite feature was created in the Mesozoic Era from a molten plume of magma rising towards the earth’s surface and cooling in place underground. Soil erosion eventually brought it to the level of exposure it exhibits today. The dome is huge, spanning 75 square miles, so you won’t actually see it while you’re walking on it. It rises up 1,500 feet from the desert floor, a height you will be able to comprehend only from the vantage point of Teutonia Peak. If this magnificent rock isn’t enough, this trail also visits the world’s largest Joshua tree woodland, populated with the species Yucca brevifolia jaegariana, slightly different from the trees in Joshua Tree National Park. These trees are splendidly statuesque, and many are hundreds of years old.

Teutonia Peak and surrounding boulder piles are the only incongruous features on the perfectly smooth and circular dome structure. The peak stands on the northeast side of the dome and is the highest feature in the preserve. That fact tells you that you will be climbing all the way out on this trail. The trailhead is at 5,030 feet in elevation, and the high point is 5,720, which implies that it will be a fairly gradual ascent, but almost all the elevation gain is in the last mile.

From the trailhead parking area, the granite exposure across the road is the same material which outcrops all along the trail. It is a coarse granite with pronounced feldspar phenocrysts (pink crystals). Begin walking southwest amid the cholla, yucca, Joshua trees, beavertail and barrel cactus on a nearly level trail with a clear view ahead to your destination. If you have driven or hiked through Joshua tree groves before, you will be impressed with the density of this forest. Granite outcrops occur regularly, and many of them display bold, protruding aplite dikes (white crystalline stripes). Several lizards crossed our path, and we startled one cottontail rabbit into a dash.

At 0.5 miles, cross a dirt road and pass through a cattle gate. At 0.9 miles, you reach a hiker symbol directing you to leave the dirt road for a footpath heading left. Pass through a second cattle gate and begin heading uphill towards the rocky jumble ahead. The gentle part of the trail is now past you.

The trail will climb steeply for a while, heading east to the top of a ridge where it levels off briefly. Once you reach this spot, a view opens up to the southwest of the long sloping dome you came to see. Look west to see Interstate 15 in the distance.

The last quarter mile is something of a rock scramble up the side of the mountain across granite slabs and boulders. But it was also our favorite stretch of trail. Beneath the peak, this side of the mountain reveals a sheltered enclave of attractive vegetation, a little more lush than previously encountered. There are no Joshua trees up this far, but there are healthy junipers and all of the lovely cacti varieties previously mentioned. Proceed to the summit of Teutonia Peak. Once you reach it, enjoy the views northeast and west. Pull up a rock in the shade of bordering monoliths and break out the water bottle and snack pack before heading back the way you came. The way back is all downhill, of course, sometimes steeply. You will probably slip now and then on loose gravel on the way down. Just try not to slide into a cactus.

Driving Directions: From Baker on Interstate 15, exit on Cima Road and go south 10 miles towards Cima. Turn right on Morning Star Mine Road and go six miles. The trailhead is on the west side of the road. There are no facilities. Access is free.

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