Joshua Tree National Park covers roughly 800,000 acres and was first designated as a national monument in 1936 before being designated as a national park in 1994. Joshua Tree is a desolate wilderness with few facilities or services; nonetheless, it attracts roughly 3 million tourists each year for these reasons. The desert park is made up of two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, and is located just outside Palm Springs, California, about 140 miles east of Los Angeles.
Joshua trees are famed for their austere and sometimes strange terrain, which has been formed by violent winds and storms. Bighorn sheep, coyotes, and jack rabbits are among the many diverse plants and creatures that make the area home. There are over 8,000 known climbing routes strewn throughout Joshua Tree, making it a magnet for rock climbers. Large swathes of wildflowers become a huge magnet for many people in the spring. The park is also an excellent site to stargaze because of the extraordinarily pure night sky, which is unpolluted by artificial lights.
Best Time to Visit
March to May and October to November are the finest months to explore Joshua Tree National Park. Though the park is open all year, the best times to visit are in the spring and fall, when temperatures average around 85 degrees. It’s worth mentioning that the temperature in the park varies depending on where you are. Winter temperatures are around 60 degrees during the day and 30 degrees at night. Furthermore, it snows on occasion at higher elevations. Summers can be oppressively hot, with highs of over 100 degrees during the day and around 75 degrees at night.
How to get there?
Palm Springs International Airport is less than an hour’s drive from the park’s tranquil south entrance along Interstate 10. Tumbleweeds and highway traffic abound in this area, but Cottonwood Visitor Center is only seven miles from the park’s southern entrance. During high season (October to May, when reservations are required, from $20), the 62-site campsite is a less popular choice than staying within the park, and it offers various hiking routes. To sweeten the drive, take a detour to Lappert’s Ice Cream in Palm Desert, about 25 minutes southeast of the airport.
Although the park’s most prominent features are roughly a 30-minute drive within the park, the west entrance and its eponymous visitor centre are located in the small but colourful village of Joshua Tree. Visitors from Los Angeles are the ones who use it the most. The two-and-a-half-hour journey from Los Angeles International Airport is jam-packed with attractions; it’s nearly mandatory to stop and take a photo next to one of the famed Cabazon Dinosaurs—you’ll recognise them if you’re a Pee-wee Herman fan.
The north entrance is just below Twentynine Palms, which is famed for its Marine Corps facility and colourful public murals. After taking in the views, take a stroll around the shady Oasis of Mara and nearby visitor centre to cool off. Use this gate to avoid huge lines during peak season, and pay park fees at the visitor centre for even speedier entry.
Joshua Tree National Park Hiking Trails
Arch Rock Trail
Barker Dam Trail
Lost Palms Oasis
Where to Stay
During peak seasons, securing a campsite in Joshua Tree is a competitive sport; no day of the week is simple, though the odds improve midweek. Reservations are available for the Indian Cove, Black Rock, Jumbo Rocks, and Cottonwood Campgrounds (from $15); all others are first-come, first-served (and some, including Belle and Ryan, close in the summer months). White Tank, a small and rather lonely campground 20 minutes from the park’s Twentynine Palms entrance on Pinto Basin Road, is my personal favourite. A half-mile nature trail leads to fantastic sunrise views at neighbouring Arch Rock, which is only a short walk from camp. Dirtbags go to the more centrally located Hidden Valley Campground ($15) because of its near to enormous Intersection Rock, which offers excellent climbing. If you have climbing equipment laying around, you might expect to meet some new pals.