Trees and lakes make for some beautiful landscapes, but as the cold temperatures start to settle in up here in the Midwest, you might be dreaming of warmer weather and drier climates! Consider heading to the west coast to explore Joshua Tree National Park, which features a diverse desert landscape that breaks the mold of your everyday camping excursion!
About Joshua Tree National Park
Spanning 800,000 acres in southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is home to a vast variety of ecological and geological wonders! Situated at a point where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, it is a diverse and interesting landscape that features extreme contrasts! The Colorado Desert sits at a low elevation, below 3,000 feet, and is drier than its counterpart. The Mojave Desert is cooler, wetter, and is home to the park’s namesake, the Joshua tree!
The park is open 24 hours a day year-round to visitors, although some areas may have more limited hours or be closed during certain times of the year. Peak visiting season is from October through May, when temperatures are lower and the spring wildflowers start to bloom! With four visitor centers, nine campgrounds, and plenty of natural wonder to behold, you should start planning your trip ASAP!
Although the area of Joshua Tree National Park has been enjoyed by many for thousands of years, this national park is relatively young! The park started as a national monument in 1936 after a Pasadena resident became concerned with the level of cactus poaching that was occurring after the development of a new road system in the 1920s. After a fluctuation in park boundaries throughout the years, Joshua Tree National Monument was elevated to national park status in 1994, which added 234,000 acres that allows over a million visitors to experience the vast beauty of the area each year!
While animals seem to be the big draw for visitors in many destinations, the unique plant life of Joshua Tree National Park wows visitors all year long here! Several species of cacti and succulents are a favorite with visitors, as well as the uncanny looking tree that this park was named for, the Joshua tree! Visitors flock to the park in the springtime, as the desert landscape comes to life with beautiful, colorful wildflowers!
Although the plant life is a sight not to be missed, you’ll also enjoy wildlife sightings as well! It is not uncommon to see the numerous species of rodents, lizards, snakes, birds, and bats around the park, where they thrive in the dry, arid climate! You might even see a desert coyote or fox, mule deer, or a red-tailed hawk if you have your eye on the skies! Lucky visitors may even get a rare glimpse of desert bighorn sheep, a California mountain lion, or a California black bear, which aren’t very common within the park!
Notable Spots To Visit
There are four visitor centers located within Joshua Tree National Park, all dedicated to helping educate visitors and provide assistance and information to all who come to the park! All centers feature flush toilets and bookstores, with most selling water. You’ll learn more about this awesome park, and get any permits and pay for entry!
Keys Desert Queen Ranch Tour
This ranger-guided tour takes you back in time to the early 1900s when Bill Keys and his family strived to provide a comfortable life amidst the dry desert landscape. You’ll see the original buildings that the Keys family maintained to make life comfortable for settlers, including the school house, ranch house, and the workshop, with stunning rock formations as an amazing backdrop!
What’s a desert without an oasis? Joshua Tree National Park features five oases throughout the park, but Cottonwood Spring is sure to impress with its interesting history and usefulness to the surrounding land! Enjoy a variety of activities around here, like hiking, birding, camping, and even participate in a ranger-led program to learn more!
Don’t miss out on the breathtaking views of Indian Cove! One of the most popular spots within Joshua Tree, you’ll be blown away by the beautiful rock structures that tower over you at every turn! Take a stroll down the nature trail and get a closer look at the plants and animals! This is also home to the park’s largest campground, so stay here to be close to all the fun!
Things To Do
Hiking through Joshua Tree National Park is a perfect way to see all the amazing sights and experience all that this wonderful landscape has to offer! Many hikes are strenuous and taxing, but definitely worth the effort! If you’re up for a challenge, try out the Ryan Mountain hike, which takes you up to an elevation of 5,461 feet, and provides some of the most spectacular views you’ll see in your life!
A great way to see a vast amount of the amazing views of Joshua Tree is to use the park’s backcountry roads to take a mountain bike tour! Even more trails are in the works for non-motorized bike use upon approval from Congress, but for now, you’ll still enjoy the ride!
Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Joshua Tree National Park is a haven for climbing and bouldering enthusiasts! With more than 400 rock formations and 8,000 trails for everyone from beginners to more experienced climbers, it’s the perfect destination with a unique landscape that you’re sure to love!
Because of the diverse, fragile, and breathtaking landscapes and all that inhabit it, photography is a largely popular activity within Joshua Tree! From the flowering plants, stunning vistas, and plentiful animal life, you’ll conclude your trip with frame-worthy photos!
There are nine great campgrounds with nearly 500 sites within Joshua Tree National Park, and all are great for enjoying a relaxing night’s stay in this amazing natural landscape! Before embarking on a stay to the park, here are some important things to note about camping in Joshua Tree:
- The fee for camping is $15 per night at campgrounds without water and $20 per night at campgrounds with potable water.
- All campgrounds are first come, first served, with reservations available for Black Rock and Indian Cove campgrounds.
- There are NO RV hookups at any campground within Joshua Tree National Park, so be sure to prepare you RV for dry camping.
- Black Rock and Cottonwood campgrounds are the only campgrounds that have RV accessible potable water and dump stations.
- RVs and trailers must not exceed a combined maximum length of 25 feet in Hidden Valley and White Tank campgrounds.
- Backcountry camping is also available with a permit.
Black Rock Campground
You’ll find yourself surrounded by lovely Joshua trees in this great campground! Situated along the Little San Bernadino Mountains, you’ll have access to hiking trails that will lead you to some of the highest peaks of Joshua Tree National Park! You’ll also be treated to running water and flush toilets, which are infrequent in the park! This is one of only two campgrounds where advanced reservations are accepted, which can be made here!
Jumbo Rocks Campground
With 124 campsites, this amazing campground is nestled within some incredible rock formations that provide a view that you’ll never forget! You’ll enjoy campground comforts like campfire rings, picnic tables, and pit toilets, although no water is available, so plan ahead! The views and the fun you’ll have on the rocks will make it worth it!
It is imperative to practice safety in everything you do while exploring and staying at Joshua Tree National Park! Your personal safety, as well as the safety of other people, animals, and the fragile landscape, ensures the future stability of this amazing area! Here are some safety tips to remember when enjoying Joshua Tree:
- Wear sturdy shoes while out in the desert, and watch where you step to avoid cactuses and spiny plants.
- Bring plenty of provisions, especially water. The hot, arid land and high temperatures will dehydrate you quickly and there aren’t any concessions in the park, so plan accordingly.
- Wear sunscreen and appropriate clothing and sunglasses to avoid sunburn, overexposure, and overheating.
- Always check the weather forecast to see what awaits you so that you aren’t caught in extreme heat or adverse weather.
- Only burn campfires in designated fire rings, and keep an ample amount of water nearby to douse flames.
Break free and try something new for your next adventure and head out to explore Joshua Tree National Park! The views will be ones that will stick in your memory forever from this amazing adventure of a lifetime! Have you visited Joshua Tree National Park before? Leave us a comment with your best places to visit, fun memories, and favorite activities!