How one can See the Highlights of Joshua Tree Nationwide Park in One Day

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In an ideal world, you’ll all the time have days – or weeks! – to dedicate to each nationwide park you would possibly go to. In some circumstances, a number of days in a park are just about important with the intention to see all of the highlights.

However, in different circumstances, you actually can see one of the best of a nationwide park in a single well-planned day.

And Joshua Tree Nationwide Park in California is a type of parks.

Joshua trees and boulders at Joshua Tree National Park

An intro to Joshua Tree Nationwide Park

Positioned in southern California, Joshua Tree is a highly regarded day journey from close by cities like Palm Springs, and a simple in a single day journey from bigger cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, and even Las Vegas.

The park covers roughly 800,000 acres, and is tremendous distinctive in that it straddles two distinct desert environments: the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. And it is within the cooler, higher-altitude Mojave Desert that the well-known Joshua timber develop.

Amanda doing a tree pose in front of a large Joshua tree
You will not discover Joshua Bushes anyplace on this planet outdoors the Mojave Desert!

Regardless of its harsh desert-ness, Joshua Tree Nationwide Park has been inhabited by people for roughly 5,000 years, first by individuals from the Pinto Tradition, after which by Indigenous teams just like the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla peoples. They principally settled round scarce water sources/oases round present-day Twentynine Palms and the Oasis of Mara.

White settlers started shifting in within the mid-1800s to dig mines, herd livestock, and ultimately construct homesteads. A few of the Indigenous peoples had already moved out of the realm by that time, however the remaining have been probably pressured out by settlers (historic accounts do not all agree, nevertheless it’s simply the best way US historical past goes most often).

Boulders in Joshua Tree National Park
Onerous to think about carving out a life right here, although!

It was due to a type of early settlers, although, that Joshua Tree would ultimately be protected. Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, a transplant herself from Mississippi, fell in love with the California desert, and devoted her life to defending desert landscapes. It was principally due to her efforts that Joshua Tree Nationwide Monument was established by President Roosevelt in 1936.

Joshua Tree can be elevated to nationwide park standing in 1994, after Congress handed the California Desert Safety Act.

At some point in Joshua Tree Nationwide Park

Okay, okay, sufficient historical past lesson – let’s get to all the things you’ll be able to see and do in Joshua Tree in simply sooner or later!

Word: I am recommending some hikes right here, however know that the majority hikes inside Joshua Tree Nationwide Park supply up little shade, and the park is commonly highly regarded and dry. Mountaineering all through the day is de facto solely really useful within the late fall, winter, and early spring months (suppose: late October-early April); if you happen to’re visiting throughout one other time of 12 months, plan to start out your hikes very early within the morning, and pack extra water than you suppose you want.

1. Dawn at Cholla Cactus Backyard

Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
No, this is not Photoshopped; the teddy bear cholla actually seems to be like this!

I do know dawn could be too early for a lot of park guests, however if you happen to’re keen to do it for simply this sooner or later, I promise it will be price it! Not solely will you see a extremely particular sight, however you will additionally beat the crowds to lots of the mountain climbing trails and high factors of curiosity afterwards.

The Cholla Cactus Backyard is positioned about 12 miles from Joshua Tree’s north entrance, inside the Pinto Basin the place the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet. The “backyard” is stuffed with close-growing teddy bear cholla cacti.

It is a panorama in contrast to some other in Joshua Tree Nationwide Park, and is particularly placing because the solar rises over the close by mountains to light up the semi-translucent yellow spines on the teddy bear cholla.

Pre-sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Dawn begins
Cholla Cactus Garden right after sunrise
Sure, they seem like they glow with the solar behind them!

There is a .25-mile nature path by way of the cacti to stroll, providing up loads of vantage factors for excellent dawn pictures.

Simply BEWARE that the teddy bear cholla solely look gentle and fluffy. They’re really coated in tiny barbs that may latch onto your clothes or pores and skin on the merest brush, and they are often very painful to take away. They’re so delicate that they’ve the nickname of “leaping cholla,” so make sure you preserve your distance!

Amanda at Cholla Cactus Garden
I used to be additional away from these than I seem!

Time spent: 1 hour for watching dawn/mountain climbing the quick path right here.

2. Arch Rock Nature Path

Your subsequent cease needs to be at Arch Rock, which is positioned just a little north of the Cholla Backyard alongside Pinto Basin Street. The parking zone for the trailhead is marked as Twin Tanks Parking, and you may additionally see indicators for the Arch Rock Trailhead.

This 1.4-mile path takes you thru a little bit of desert, after which by way of some actually cool rock formations. Arch Rock itself is positioned about midway by way of the hike, alongside a .2-mile loop that connects to the principle path.

Amanda inside Arch Rock in Joshua Tree
Me at Arch Rock
Rock formations along Arch Rock Nature Trail
Cool rock formations close to Arch Rock

This hike is pretty fast and straightforward, and is unquestionably price doing!

Time spent: Round 1 hour

3. Cranium Rock cease

Subsequent, you will flip left off of Pinto Basin Street again onto Park Boulevard to go into the guts of Joshua Tree Nationwide Park.

I like to recommend making a fast picture cease at Cranium Rock in your manner west, as it will likely be quiet at the moment of the day.

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park
Cranium Rock in morning gentle

There are a couple of parking areas on the facet of the highway proper in entrance of Cranium Rock, which can be the place you will discover a trailhead for a number of trails, together with the Discovery Path (good for teenagers), the Cranium Rock/Jumbo Rocks Path, and the Break up Rock Loop (rated reasonable).

I personally did not do any of those hikes as a result of I had different trails on my wishlist, however you would possibly need to attempt one!

Time spent: 10 minutes for Cranium Rock pictures

4. Barker Dam

Subsequent, you will comply with Park Boulevard by way of the guts of the park – be aware that you will begin to see these well-known Joshua Bushes (Yucca brevifolia) now, as you are formally within the Mojave Desert. The Mojave Desert, between 2,000 and 6,000 toes elevation, is the one place on this planet the place Joshua timber develop naturally.

Amanda hiking near Joshua trees
Barker Dam path

Make a proper onto Barker Dam Street, which dead-ends within the parking zone for one more quick (1.1 miles) and straightforward loop hike. The Barker Dam hike has just a little little bit of all the things: huge monzogranite boulders and rock formations, loads of Joshua timber, and just a little space historical past.

About midway by way of the hike, you will attain Barker Dam itself, which is a water tank constructed by early cattle ranchers. You would possibly get fortunate sufficient to go to when it has water in it, which is a fairly cool sight to see in such a dry desert panorama.

Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park
There wasn’t a lot water in Barker Dam once I visited, however you’ll be able to see earlier water ranges on the rocks.

Look out for bighorn sheep on this hike, in addition to views of San Gorgonio Mountain.

A snow-covered San Gorgonio Mountain in the distance
San Gorgonio Mountain
Joshua tree branch framing San Gorgonio Mountain
Positively a cool and scenic hike!

Time spent: Permit about an hour; the path is flat, so that you would possibly really end sooner!

5. Hidden Valley hike

From Barker Dam, head throughout Park Boulevard to the Hidden Valley path. That is most likely the most well-liked hike within the park, so that you would possibly discover it just a little busier than the others you’ve got completed up to now.

This 1-mile loop path requires a little bit of uphill climbing on the very starting and finish – however solely about 100 toes or so of elevation achieve. When you get into the valley itself, you will perceive the way it received its identify!

The legend goes that this “hidden valley” was utilized by cattle rustlers to cover stolen livestock. At this time, the hike right here takes you previous towering rock formations.

Hidden Valley hike
The rocks seem like they have been stacked by hand!
A hiker in Hidden Valley
My buddy Kat mountain climbing in Hidden Valley

Time spent: Permit about an hour, although if you happen to do not cease an excessive amount of you would simply do it in much less time.

It won’t even be 11 a.m. but relying on what time dawn was, nevertheless it’s probably you will be prepared for lunch anyway after placing a couple of miles beneath your belt. If that is the case, there is a good picnic space throughout the parking space from the Hidden Valley trailhead. I like to recommend packing a picnic lunch for the day, and having fun with it right here!

Word: Particularly if you happen to’re bringing meals/drinks into the park, you must positively pledge to comply with Depart No Hint ideas, which embrace eradicating any trash/waste you usher in or create, not harming any plant/animal life, and usually leaving the park in the identical situation as if you entered it. Be type to our public lands!

6. Cap Rock Nature Path

Cap Rock Nature Trail
And there is Cap Rock!

Hit the Park Boulevard once more again the best way you got here earlier within the day, this time detouring to Keys View Street.

Not far previous this turn-off, you’ll be able to cease on the Cap Rock Nature Path, which is a brief (0.4-mile) loop path with some glorious views and fascinating information boards alongside the path telling you all concerning the native desert wildlife.

Time spent: half-hour if you happen to cease to learn the information boards

7. Drive to Keys View

From Cap Rock, comply with Keys View Street to the tip (about 5.5 miles), the place you will end up at Keys View itself.

This lookout level at 5,185 toes provides up unimaginable views out over the Coachella Valley, which the San Andreas Fault runs by way of.

Beware that it may be extremely windy and COLD up right here, particularly outdoors of the summer season months. So make sure you throw on a jacket earlier than you get out of the automotive to soak up the view.

Time spent: 45 minutes-1 hour (together with the drive)

8. Corridor of Horrors

Yet another place price stopping alongside Park Boulevard is on the “Corridor of Horrors” space. (Sure, I will admit we stopped just because I used to be curious concerning the identify!)

There are some actually tall Joshua timber right here which can be nice for pictures, and a brief path leads by way of them and round some clusters of big boulders.

Joshua trees at Hall of Horrors
So many huge Joshua timber!

The extra adventurous may also do some rock scrambling right here, and even discover some small slot canyons! (Extra on how one can discover the slot canyons right here.)

9. Oasis of Mara

Assuming you entered and can exit the park by way of the North Entrance (the closest to the city of Twentynine Palms), then I additionally suggest stopping on the Oasis of Mara in your manner out.

This pure oasis is surrounded by tall palm timber, and was one of many principal locations round which native Indigenous individuals would have arrange their camps and settlements centuries in the past.

Palm trees growing at the Oasis of Mara
Palm timber rising on the Oasis of Mara

This additionally was the location of certainly one of Joshua Tree’s customer facilities, however the Oasis Customer Middle closed in 2022. The brand new Joshua Tree Cultural Middle is now open as a replacement in Twentynine Palms at 6533 Freedom Approach.

You probably have extra time…

The above itinerary will take you thru mid-afternoon in Joshua Tree Nationwide Park, which truthfully might be sufficient for most individuals, particularly if you happen to begin your day earlier than dawn. (Personally, the panorama began to look a bit same-y to me after some time!)

However if you happen to do have extra time, another belongings you would possibly need to do in Joshua Tree embrace:

  1. Keys Ranch – You’ll be able to tour this previous ranch/homestead inside the park to study what it was like for the Keys household residing right here. Excursions are normally supplied October-Might, price $10 per particular person, and should be reserved upfront right here.
  2. Cottonwood Spring Oasis – Close to the southern entrance of the park (and close to one other customer heart and campground), a brief path leads you to an oasis the place fan palms and cottonwood timber develop.
  3. Forty 9 Palms Oasis hike – In the event you’re searching for a harder and longer hike inside Joshua Tree, the 3-mile Forty 9 Palms hike could be for you. It has a 300-foot elevation achieve in each instructions, and ends at a fan palm oasis in a rocky canyon.
Lone Joshua Tree at Keys View
One lone Joshua Tree at Keys View

The place to remain close to Joshua Tree Nationwide Park

Even if you happen to’re solely spending sooner or later in Joshua Tree, likelihood is you could be within the space for an evening or two. I visited this park as half of a bigger California desert highway journey, and we spent two nights in Joshua Tree.

Until you are visiting Joshua Tree as a day journey from someplace like Palm Springs, one of the best locations to remain in shut proximity to the park are:

  • Twentynine Palms – This small city sits close to the northern entrance of Joshua Tree Nationwide Park, and has some eating places and fairly a couple of accommodations/motels to select from.
  • Joshua Tree – The city of Joshua Tree is nearer to the western entrance to Joshua Tree, however has extra trip leases.
  • Campgrounds within the park – There are 9 campgrounds inside the nationwide park. Some require superior reservations, whereas a couple of are first-come, first-served. Costs vary from $20-$50 per night time. Extra information right here.

There are resort/motel choices round Joshua Tree, however there are additionally a TON of actually cute, design-forward trip leases within the space. My buddy and I rented an lovable 2-bedroom Airbnb in Joshua Tree city for a fairly truthful fee that got here full with non-public sizzling tub! (It was this one, particularly.)

Joshua Tree Airbnb bedroom
Typical Joshua Tree design vibes
Amanda and Kat drinking wine in a hot tub
We took full benefit of this sizzling tub!

Seek for Joshua Tree trip leases right here.

And if you happen to keep in Joshua Tree city, I can extremely suggest stopping for espresso at Joshua Tree Espresso Firm, and having a meal on the Joshua Tree Saloon.

Take a look at these different 1-day nationwide park guides:

Have you ever been to Joshua Tree Nationwide Park? If not, what issues would you most love to do/see there in sooner or later?


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