I like the desert. The dry heat, the endless sun, and the thorny plant life are all positive, in my book. For anyone who doubts that a desert can be fun, I have the perfect place to change your mind: Joshua Tree National Park.
No matter how many times I visit, I always find a new corner or a new hole to explore. This park is so unique that I think every visitor will find something to enjoy!
The wild and tangled Yuccas known as Joshua trees have such a personality, and the geology of the park is so different from the surrounding areas. This piece of wild land was designated a national park in 1994, and we understand why.
From hiking, climbing, photography, and stargazing, Joshua Tree has something for you! Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit to Joshua Tree National Park in California:
Joshua Tree packages flights to Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is located about 2.5 hours east of Los Angeles and San Diego and is a popular nature getaway from both cities.
The unique aspect of this park is exactly why walking and hiking are so special here. If you visit in the spring, you will probably see colorful wildflowers blooming on many trails, and even cacti blooming in the Colorado desert.
1. Admire the Joshua trees!
My favorite way to enter Joshua Tree National Park is through the Park Blvd entrance at Twentynine Palms. Here you can see some of the largest and most impressive Joshua trees, which are actually a kind of succulent, that only grows in very specific areas of the American Southwest. There are a lot of roadside pull-ups and mini-trials along this route. Stick to established trails when enjoying, as the desert is a surprisingly fragile ecosystem.
2. Sunset in Keys view
This is by far the most famous and popular place to watch the sunset in the park. With views of Palm Springs and Mount San Jacinto. Be sure to get there a little earlier when visiting on a weekend or during a busy period, such as spring break or Christmas, as the parking lot fills up quickly.
3. Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
The Cholla cactus garden is flat and easy. 5-mile walk. This trail is located in the Colorado desert region, so people often skip this stop and choose to stay in the North. Although it’s a very short loop, I promise it’s worth it! Photogenic chollas emerge from nowhere and decorate the landscape. However, beware-these cacti will stubbornly stick in clothes and shoes (and skin!) if you get too close.
4. Arch Rock Nature Trail
This is an easy 2.2-mile round trip hike that leads to the iconic Arch Rock. To get to Arch Rock, visitors must park across the street in the designated parking area and cross on the trail, heading for piles of large groups of rocks. The path is well marked and flat. This is a very popular trail, so expect crowds!
5. Oasis of the 49 Palm Trees Trail
This is an average 3.1-mile trail through the rugged mountains. This round trip hike features low barrel cacti on the mountains, a breathtaking view of the valley below, and a real oasis in the middle of the desert. This is the only piece of shade on the entire hike, so be sure to stop and rest here before returning.
6. Barker Dam Nature Trail
A desert oasis, this rare sighting of water in the desert makes for the perfect short and relatively flat walk in the park. You will see many Joshua trees, cacti that could be in bloom depending on the time of year, and the beautiful reflection of the rocks on the water. Sunrise is a great time to enjoy without crowds.
An easy pull on the road, the skull rock really looks like a skull! There’s not much other than a collection of rocks for an easy photo, but if it’s hot outside or you’re trying to avoid long hikes, this is an easy stop and a fun photo too.
8. Lost Horse
This is a challenging 6.8-mile loop walk named after an old mine in the park. Although you pass the mine, there is not much to see here as it is fenced for safety reasons. However, for me, the highlight of this trail is the many Joshua trees that hikers can see up close. If a 6.8-mile loop seems too long under the scorching desert sun, feel free to ride it as a shorter loop.
9. Find The Best Way To Get To Willow Hole
This is a moderate 17.6-mile round-trip hiking trail. Note that I do not recommend this trail during the summer months! Only face them during the winter months. It is located in the northern part of the park and has mini-rocks near Willow Hole. This is a good route if you are looking for a longer workout. Please allow approximately 8 or 9 hours to complete this route.
10. Mountaineering In Austria
Joshua Tree National Park has gained a good reputation for climbing. The park offers more than 8,000 documented climbing sites, the majority of which are bouldering and traditional climbing sites. Although they are not as common, there are also a few sports climbing routes.
I’ve climbed Joshua Tree before, and my best advice is to start early! The midday sun can be cruel.
Click here for information on climbing and current climbing closures.
Where to stay
Staying near Joshua Tree is almost an experience in its own right! There are so many unique Airbnbs and camping under the stars. I have stayed in many places over the years that I have visited.