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What To Do In Joshua Tree National Park – Be My Travel Muse


by Rachelle Bruner



Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park, a desert oasis located in Southern California. With its unique combination of otherworldly rock formations, sprawling Joshua Tree forests, and stunning vistas, this national park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Whether you’re into hiking, rock climbing, wildlife viewing, stargazing, or simply exploring the beauty of the desert, Joshua Tree offers something for everyone.


Named after the iconic Joshua Trees that dot the landscape, this national park covers over 790,000 acres of land and spans two distinct desert ecosystems, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. The park’s diverse geology and ecosystems create a captivating blend of rugged rock formations, sandy washes, and vibrant wildflowers.


Joshua Tree National Park is a playground for adventurers seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Its unique landscape and peaceful ambiance provide the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities and quiet reflection. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or just starting to explore the wonders of nature, Joshua Tree is sure to leave a lasting impression.


In this article, we’ll guide you through the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, from hiking through picturesque trails to experiencing the thrill of rock climbing. We’ll also share tips on where to stay, hidden gems to discover, and important visitor information to make your trip to Joshua Tree a memorable one.


So, grab your hiking boots, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the enchanting landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park.


Getting to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California, approximately 140 miles east of Los Angeles and 175 miles northeast of San Diego. While there are no airports within the immediate vicinity of the park, there are several options for reaching your destination.


If you’re coming from out of state or international locations, the nearest major airports are Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Diego International Airport (SAN). From there, you can rent a car and embark on a scenic drive to Joshua Tree National Park. The drive from LAX takes about two and a half hours, while the drive from San Diego takes around three hours.


If you prefer to travel by train, the nearest Amtrak station is in Palm Springs, which is approximately 45 minutes away from the park’s entrance. From there, you can either rent a car or arrange for a shuttle service to take you to Joshua Tree.


For those who prefer a more adventurous route, you can also consider taking a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park. The park is easily accessible via major highways, including Interstate 10 and State Route 62.


Once you arrive at Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. The fee covers access to the park for a specific number of days, depending on the type of pass you purchase. It’s important to note that Joshua Tree is a popular destination, especially during peak seasons, so it’s advisable to plan ahead and arrive early to secure parking at trailheads and popular viewpoints.


Now that you know how to get to Joshua Tree, it’s time to delve into the thrilling experiences that await you in this stunning desert landscape.


Where to Stay in Joshua Tree National Park

When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, you have several options for accommodations, depending on your preferences and budget. Here are some popular choices:

  1. Camping: One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Joshua Tree is by camping in the park. Joshua Tree offers several campgrounds, including Black Rock, Cottonwood, and Indian Cove, which provide a rustic camping experience with basic amenities such as picnic tables and pit toilets. These campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you prefer a more secluded experience, backcountry camping is also permitted in designated areas.
  2. Holiday Homes: If you’re looking for a more comfortable and private stay, there are numerous holiday homes available for rent in Joshua Tree and the surrounding areas. These homes offer amenities such as full kitchens, private bathrooms, and cozy living spaces. Booking a holiday home allows you to have your own space while still being close to the park’s attractions.
  3. Hotels and Motels: If you prefer the convenience of a hotel or motel, there are options available in nearby towns such as Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, and Palm Springs. These accommodations offer a range of amenities and services, including comfortable rooms, swimming pools, and dining options.
  4. Camping Outside the Park: If all the campsites inside the park are full or if you prefer a more developed campground, you can consider camping in one of the private campgrounds located just outside the park. These campgrounds typically offer additional amenities such as showers, laundry facilities, and even Wi-Fi.
  5. Glamping: For a unique and luxurious camping experience, you can try glamping in Joshua Tree. There are several glamping sites available that offer comfortable accommodations in stylishly furnished tents or cabins. This option allows you to enjoy the beauty of the desert while still having access to modern amenities.

Regardless of where you choose to stay, it’s important to plan ahead and make reservations, especially during peak seasons. Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination and accommodations can fill up quickly. Make sure to check the availability, amenities, and cancellation policies before making your reservation.


Now that you have options for where to stay, it’s time to explore the outdoor wonders that await you in Joshua Tree National Park.


Best Hiking Trails in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a hiker’s paradise, offering a variety of trails that showcase the park’s stunning landscapes and unique rock formations. Here are some of the best hiking trails to explore:

  1. Hidden Valley Trail: This easy 1-mile loop takes you through a hidden valley surrounded by towering rock formations. It’s a great trail for beginners and offers plenty of photo opportunities.
  2. Ryan Mountain Trail: For panoramic views of the park, tackle the strenuous 3-mile round trip to the summit of Ryan Mountain. The challenging climb is rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding desert.
  3. Barker Dam Nature Trail: This 1.3-mile loop leads you to a historic dam and a lush oasis. Along the way, you’ll encounter ancient petroglyphs and enjoy the sights and sounds of desert flora and fauna.
  4. Arch Rock Nature Trail: Explore the unique rock formations and discover the famous Arch Rock on this easy 0.5-mile loop. The trail is particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset.
  5. Lost Palms Oasis Trail: For a longer and more challenging hike, embark on the 7.2-mile round trip to Lost Palms Oasis. This trail takes you through desert washes and leads to a hidden palm tree-lined oasis.
  6. Cholla Cactus Garden Trail: Take a leisurely stroll through the Cholla Cactus Garden to appreciate the beauty of these unique cacti. The easy 0.25-mile loop showcases the dense concentration of cholla cacti in the park.
  7. 49 Palms Oasis Trail: This moderate 3-mile round trip hike leads you to a secluded oasis hidden amongst the Joshua Trees. The trail offers a glimpse into the park’s diverse desert ecosystem.

Before embarking on any hike, make sure to be prepared with appropriate footwear, plenty of water, and sun protection. It’s also advisable to check trail conditions and closures on the park’s official website or visitor center.


The hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park offer a chance to connect with the desert landscape and witness the unique flora and fauna that thrive in this harsh environment. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to explore the natural wonders of Joshua Tree.


Rock Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is renowned as one of the premier rock climbing destinations in the world. With its vast expanse of granite formations, unique cracks, and challenging boulder problems, it attracts climbers of all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, Joshua Tree offers a variety of climbing routes and challenges to suit your abilities.


One of the main attractions for climbers in Joshua Tree is its traditional climbing routes. The park is known for its crack climbing, where climbers insert protective gear, such as nuts and cams, into the rock fissures for safety. The splitter cracks found in Joshua Tree present a unique challenge and provide some of the best crack climbing experiences in the world. Popular areas for crack climbing include Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, and Indian Cove.


In addition to crack climbing, Joshua Tree also offers a wealth of bouldering opportunities. The park is known for its high-quality, high-friction granite boulders that provide exciting and technical problems. Areas such as Real Hidden Valley, Hidden Valley Campground, and the Outback are popular among boulderers. The park is also home to the Joshua Tree Bouldering Salve, an annual event that celebrates the bouldering culture in the area.


When rock climbing in Joshua Tree, it’s important to keep in mind the Leave No Trace principles and respect the fragile desert environment. Stick to designated trails, use existing bolt anchors, and avoid damaging vegetation while on the rocks. Also, be aware of the park’s regulations and closures, as some areas may be closed to protect nesting birds or during periods of high fire danger.


If you’re new to rock climbing or want to improve your skills, there are guided climbing services that offer instruction and guided climbs in Joshua Tree. These services can provide valuable insights into the area’s climbing techniques and help you make the most of your climbing experience.


Whether you’re a seasoned climber or just starting out, Joshua Tree National Park offers an unparalleled rock climbing experience. From the iconic formations to the challenging cracks and boulders, the park’s diverse climbing opportunities will leave you in awe and eager for more.


Wildlife Viewing in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is not just a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and rock climbers; it is also home to a diverse array of wildlife. From the elusive desert tortoise to the majestic bighorn sheep, the park offers ample opportunities to observe and appreciate the rich biodiversity of the desert ecosystem.


One of the best ways to spot wildlife in Joshua Tree is by exploring the park’s trails early in the morning or during the evening hours when animals are most active. Keep your eyes peeled for movement and listen for the rustling of leaves, as many animals blend seamlessly with their surroundings. Binoculars can also enhance your wildlife viewing experience, allowing you to observe animals from a safe distance without disturbing their natural behavior.


Some common wildlife species you may encounter in the park include the desert tortoise, jackrabbits, coyotes, roadrunners, and various species of lizards. The park is also home to the iconic bighorn sheep, which can often be spotted grazing on the rocky slopes. Birdwatchers will delight in the diverse avian species that inhabit or pass through the park, including the western bluebird, cactus wren, and greater roadrunner.


While observing wildlife, it is important to keep a respectful distance and avoid feeding or approaching the animals. Remember, these are wild animals, and their behavior can be unpredictable. Never attempt to touch or interact with them, as it may compromise their safety and well-being.


The park’s unique vegetation also attracts an array of insects, including butterflies, bees, and beetles. Take the time to explore the desert flora and witness the intricate relationships between plants and pollinators.


Joshua Tree National Park provides a glimpse into the intricate web of life that thrives in the desert environment. It reminds us of the importance of conserving and protecting these ecosystems for future generations. So, while you’re exploring the park, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the wonders of wildlife that call Joshua Tree home.


Exploring the Joshua Tree Forests

One of the iconic features of Joshua Tree National Park is its vast and enchanting Joshua Tree forests. These unique trees, with their twisted branches and spiky leaves, create a mesmerizing landscape that is a hallmark of the park.


Exploring the Joshua Tree forests is a must-do experience during your visit to the park. The trees, which are actually a type of yucca plant, thrive in the arid desert environment and have become synonymous with the park’s identity. They provide not only a stunning visual backdrop but also a habitat for the park’s diverse wildlife.


There are several areas within the park that offer excellent opportunities to immerse yourself in the Joshua Tree forests. Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, and Belle Campground are popular spots to see these unique trees up close. You can take leisurely walks or short hikes through these areas, allowing you to appreciate the intricate beauty of the Joshua Trees and their adaptation to the harsh desert conditions.


During your exploration, keep an eye out for the distinctive white flowers that bloom on the Joshua Trees in the spring. This short-lived burst of color adds another layer of beauty to the already stunning landscape.


While the Joshua Tree forests are a captivating sight during the day, they take on a whole new level of magic at night. The silhouettes of the trees against a star-filled sky create a surreal and awe-inspiring experience. Joshua Tree National Park is renowned for its dark skies and excellent stargazing opportunities. Set up a blanket or a chair, lay back, and marvel at the celestial wonders above as the Joshua Trees stand as silent witnesses.


Remember to tread lightly and be respectful while exploring the Joshua Tree forests. These trees are integral to the park’s ecosystem, providing habitat and sustenance for many species. Avoid touching or climbing the trees to ensure their preservation for future generations to enjoy.


Exploring the Joshua Tree forests is like stepping into another world. The unique charm and ancient presence of these trees create an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the power and magic of the natural world.


Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of Joshua Tree National Park is by camping within its boundaries. The park offers several campgrounds that cater to different camping preferences and provide an opportunity to experience the desert landscape up close.


There are nine established campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park, each offering a unique camping experience. These campgrounds vary in terms of amenities and availability, so it’s important to plan ahead and make reservations if possible. Some campgrounds, such as Black Rock and Cottonwood, have amenities like pit toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings, while others have more limited facilities.


One popular campground is Joshua Tree’s Hidden Valley Campground, nestled amidst the giant rock formations. This campground offers a rustic experience and is a favorite among climbers, as it provides easy access to popular climbing areas. Belle and White Tank campgrounds are also great options for those seeking a peaceful and scenic camping experience.


For those who prefer a more secluded and adventurous camping experience, backcountry camping is allowed in designated areas of the park. You can obtain a free permit at the park’s visitor center and embark on a true desert wilderness experience under the starry night sky.


Keep in mind that camping in Joshua Tree National Park is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arriving early in the day is recommended, especially during peak seasons and weekends, as campgrounds can fill up quickly. It’s also important to come prepared with enough food, water, and supplies, as the park’s campgrounds do not have running water or electricity.


While camping in Joshua Tree, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the stunning sunrises and sunsets that paint the desert sky with an array of vibrant colors. Spend your days exploring the park’s hiking trails, rock formations, and Joshua Tree forests, and at night, gather around a campfire to share stories and marvel at the vastness of the star-filled night sky.


Remember to follow the park’s designated camping rules and practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the park’s natural beauty and protect its fragile ecosystem. Respect the desert environment and the wildlife that call it home, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the wonders of Joshua Tree National Park.


Camping in Joshua Tree offers a unique opportunity to disconnect from the modern world and reconnect with nature. It’s an experience that will leave you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the desert’s beauty.


Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a paradise for stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts. With its remote location and minimal light pollution, the park offers some of the clearest and darkest skies in Southern California, making it an ideal destination for stargazing.


When the sun sets and darkness blankets the desert, the stars come alive in a mesmerizing display above Joshua Tree. The absence of city lights allows for optimal visibility of the night sky, revealing a breathtaking vista of twinkling stars, distant galaxies, and even the occasional passing meteor.


One of the best spots for stargazing within the park is at the higher elevations around Keys View. This overlook offers panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges, providing an expansive backdrop for your stargazing experience. The wide-open spaces and relative solitude add to the enchantment of the night sky.


For a more immersive experience, consider camping within the park. Setting up camp under the starry night sky allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of the celestial wonders above. As the night deepens, watch as the stars gradually reveal themselves, painting the sky with their brilliance.


While exploring the park, keep an eye out for any ranger-led stargazing events or astronomy programs that may be offered. These programs provide valuable insight into the night sky and give you the opportunity to observe celestial objects using telescopes provided by the park.


Remember to come prepared for optimal stargazing. Bring warm clothing, blankets, and a comfortable chair or blanket to lie on. It’s also advisable to use a red-filtered flashlight or headlamp to preserve your night vision and minimize light pollution.


Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or simply appreciate the wonder of the night sky, stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park is a truly magical experience. It offers a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and connect with the vastness of the universe. So, sit back, relax, and let the captivating beauty of the stars transport you to a place of awe and wonder.


Hidden Gems in Joshua Tree National Park

While the iconic Joshua Trees and rock formations are the main attractions of Joshua Tree National Park, there are also hidden gems waiting to be discovered within its vast expanse. These lesser-known spots offer unique experiences and a chance to explore the park beyond the beaten path. Here are a few hidden gems to consider during your visit:

  1. Split Rock: Tucked away in the park, Split Rock is a captivating rock formation that has been split in half, creating a narrow passage. It’s a great spot for photography and provides a sense of wonder as you navigate through the narrow pathway.
  2. Hidden Valley: Despite its name, Hidden Valley is not truly hidden, but it does offer a sense of seclusion and beauty. This unique valley is surrounded by massive rock formations, providing a peaceful and picturesque setting for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.
  3. Keys Ranch: Take a step back in time and explore the history of Joshua Tree National Park with a visit to Keys Ranch. This historic homestead offers guided tours that provide insight into the lives of the early settlers who called this area home. The tour takes you through the various structures and gives a glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of desert living.
  4. Ryan Ranch: Situated on the Ryan Mountain Trail, Ryan Ranch is an uninhabited homestead that offers a glimpse into the past. Explore the remnants of the ranch, including a windmill, water tank, and corrals, amidst the picturesque desert landscape.
  5. Barker Dam: While not a hidden gem per se, Barker Dam is often overlooked by visitors. This historic dam was built by early settlers to provide water for their cattle. The short trail to the dam offers beautiful views and a chance to see Native American petroglyphs etched into the rocks.
  6. Samuelson’s Rocks: Located near the southern entrance of the park, Samuelson’s Rocks is an interesting collection of boulders with Native American petroglyphs carved into the surfaces. Take your time to explore the area and appreciate the ancient artistry.
  7. Lost Horse Mine: Hike the Lost Horse Mine Trail to discover the remnants of an old gold mine. This moderately challenging trail offers stunning desert views and a glimpse into the region’s mining history.

These hidden gems in Joshua Tree National Park provide a chance to explore lesser-known areas and add an extra layer of discovery to your visit. Remember to treat these sites with respect and leave no trace, ensuring that future visitors can also enjoy their beauty. So, venture off the beaten path and uncover the hidden treasures that await you in the enchanting landscape of Joshua Tree.


Important Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

When planning a visit to Joshua Tree National Park, it’s important to be prepared and informed to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  1. Check the weather: Joshua Tree experiences extreme temperatures, with hot summers and sometimes chilly winters. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly, bringing appropriate clothing and gear to protect yourself from the elements.
  2. Stay hydrated: The desert environment can quickly dehydrate you, so it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout your visit. Carry enough water for each person in your group, especially when hiking or spending time outdoors.
  3. Protect yourself from the sun: The desert sun can be intense, even in cooler months. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from harmful UV rays. Consider long-sleeved shirts and lightweight, breathable clothing to minimize sun exposure.
  4. Stay on designated trails: It’s important to respect the park’s fragile desert ecosystem and stay on established trails. Straying off-trail can damage vegetation and disturb wildlife habitats. Additionally, be cautious of cacti and other desert plants, as some are spiky and can cause injury if not approached with care.
  5. Plan for limited facilities: Facilities within the park are limited, especially in campgrounds. There are no gas stations or restaurants, so be sure to bring enough food, water, and supplies for your visit. Fill up your gas tank before entering the park, and dispose of trash properly to help keep the park clean.
  6. Be mindful of wildlife: Joshua Tree is home to a variety of wildlife, and encounters are possible. Respect wildlife by observing from a safe distance and never feeding or approaching them. Remember, you are a visitor in their natural habitat.
  7. Practice Leave No Trace: Help preserve the natural beauty of Joshua Tree by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Pack out what you bring in, including trash, and leave the park as you found it. Respect cultural and historic sites, and do not collect or disturb any natural or cultural artifacts.
  8. Respect park regulations: Familiarize yourself with park regulations and abide by them. Follow any posted signs and closures, particularly during nesting seasons or periods of high fire danger. Stay updated with park alerts and closures on the official park website or by visiting the visitor center.

By following these important tips, you can make the most of your visit to Joshua Tree National Park while ensuring the preservation and protection of its unique environment. Remember to stay safe, respect the natural beauty, and enjoy the stunning landscapes that the park has to offer.



Joshua Tree National Park is a breathtaking destination that offers a myriad of experiences for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventure seekers. From the iconic Joshua Tree forests to the mesmerizing rock formations, the park’s stunning landscapes never fail to captivate visitors. Whether you’re hiking through picturesque trails, climbing towering rock faces, stargazing under the vast night sky, or simply basking in the tranquility of the desert, Joshua Tree provides an escape like no other.


While exploring Joshua Tree, it’s important to prioritize safety and conservation. Stay prepared with proper gear, stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun, and be mindful of the delicate desert ecosystem. Practice Leave No Trace principles, respect wildlife, and follow park regulations to ensure its preservation for future generations.


However, beyond the iconic attractions, Joshua Tree National Park also holds hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These lesser-known spots add an element of exploration and surprise to your visit, allowing you to connect with the park on a more intimate level. Whether it’s stumbling upon a secluded oasis, marveling at ancient petroglyphs, or wandering through abandoned homesteads, these hidden gems provide a sense of wonder and a chance to forge your own unique experiences.


Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned explorer, Joshua Tree National Park continues to inspire awe and ignite a sense of adventure. The immense beauty and tranquility of this desert oasis make it a magical place to escape the noise of everyday life. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and let Joshua Tree National Park envelop you in its natural wonders and unforgettable experiences that will stay with you long after you’ve bid farewell to this captivating desert paradise.