National Park Guide:

Joshua Tree National Park

National Park Guide:

Joshua Tree National Park

Destinations  »  North America  »  USA  »  California

Destination: Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Length of Stay: 3 Nights (September 2018)

Lodging: Joshua Tree Lake Campground ($35/night)

National Park Service Fee:  7 day pass - $30 per vehicle | Annual NPS pass $80

Out of all the U.S. National Parks we went to, Joshua Tree was our favorite. The desert landscape is like nothing we'd ever seen before. Scorching temperatures, 100+ ºF during the day, and then dropping to cool temperatures at night (cold enough to warrant a sweatshirt). The sun paints the sky pink, baby blue, orange and yellow each morning with the sunrise. At night the sun starts to settle behind the horizon, painting the sky magnificent fiery colors once again. With little to no light pollution, you can see the entirety of the milky way on a clear night, lighting up the whole night sky with stars from horizon to horizon.

Destination: Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Length of Stay: 3 Nights (September 2018)

Lodging: Joshua Tree Lake Campground ($35/night)

National Park Service Fee:  7 day pass - $30 per vehicle | Annual NPS pass $80

Out of all the U.S. National Parks we went to, Joshua Tree was our favorite. The desert landscape is like nothing we'd ever seen before. Scorching temperatures, 100+ ºF during the day, and then dropping to cool temperatures at night (cold enough to warrant a sweatshirt). The sun paints the sky pink, baby blue, orange and yellow each morning with the sunrise. At night the sun starts to settle behind the horizon, painting the sky magnificent fiery colors once again. With little to no light pollution, you can see the entirety of the milky way on a clear night, lighting up the whole night sky with stars from horizon to horizon.

Joshua Tree Lake Campground

When we checked into Joshua Tree Lake Campground, we were greeted by an adorable old couple that had been living there for a better part of the year. Our campsite was right next to theirs, and their RV was lit up with Christmas lights. The campground itself was really cool - we'd recommend waking up early one morning during your stay like we did and just taking some time to explore the grounds. The Joshua Tree Musical Festival is held there annually as well as the occasional star gazing party. There's more than just campsites and bathrooms, there are old hollowed out vehicles, little yurt like structures made of leather and remnants of what seemed to be old fair grounds. Little ducks waddle around and you are welcome to feed them. Benches offer a place to relax and sit by the pond, allowing you to gaze out into the desert and take in the beautiful scenery.

After leaving the campground, it took us about 20 minutes to reach the park entrance. Even before we entered the park, there were Joshua Trees as far as the eye could see. Legend has it, Mormons originally found these odd shaped trees while crossing the Mojave desert and believed the unique shape of the trees reminded them of when Joshua reached his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Joshua Tree Lake Campground

When we checked into Joshua Tree Lake Campground, we were greeted by an adorable old couple that had been living there for a better part of the year. Our campsite was right next to theirs, and their RV was lit up with Christmas lights. The campground itself was really cool - we'd recommend waking up early one morning during your stay like we did and just taking some time to explore the grounds. The Joshua Tree Musical Festival is held there annually as well as the occasional star gazing party. There's more than just campsites and bathrooms, there are old hollowed out vehicles, little yurt like structures made of leather and remnants of what seemed to be old fair grounds. Little ducks waddle around and you are welcome to feed them. Benches offer a place to relax and sit by the pond, allowing you to gaze out into the desert and take in the beautiful scenery.

IMG_1941 - 720 4x5
IMG_18681 - 720 4x5

After leaving the campground, it took us about 20 minutes to reach the park entrance. Even before we entered the park, there were Joshua Trees as far as the eye could see. Legend has it, Mormons originally found these odd shaped trees while crossing the Mojave desert and believed the unique shape of the trees reminded them of when Joshua reached his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Hiking the High Desert

Hidden Valley Trail

Hidden Valley was our first hike we did in Joshua Tree. The trailhead for this hike was created by a man-made blast in order to create more room for cattle grazing. Back when it was created, there was plenty of vegetation for the cattle to graze on. There were heaps of signs along the way pointing out the high desert flora to be seen along the trail. One of the plants pictured looked like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Although the trail was only about a mile long, it was a great first hike to get us acclimated to the desert climate. Make sure you bring lots of water, each of us drank about 1 Gallon (4 liters) per day!

Barker Dam Trail

Next was the Barker Dam Nature Trail. It was around 105 ºF. We lathered up with sunscreen, ensured we were each carrying about 2 liters of water, put our hats and sunglasses on, and off we went. We were the only two people on the trail for the first part of the hike, until we heard the clicking of hooves nearby. We looked up and a male and two female big horned sheep we're just meters away from us on the rocks. Backing away slowly and snapping a few shots, the male started to approach us! Luckily, another couple caught up to us on the trail. We pointed to the sheep and perhaps because there was now four of us instead of two, the male started to back away and join his kin. When all four of us hikers reached Barker Dam, there were a half dozen of big horned sheep all gathered around the water which was an amazing site to see (from a safe distance). The loop back from the watering hole was amazing with hundreds of Joshua Trees; we highly recommended if you enjoy hiking and are looking for a chance to see some desert wildlife.

Skull Rock

After lunch, we headed to see Skull Rock and Elephant Rock as they came highly recommended. Skull Rock was nearly off the side of the road and easy to find. Elephant Rock, on the other hand, proved to be a little more complicated to get to. We're not entirely sure if we in fact found it or not. Nonetheless, the Skull Rock Nature Trail was still a beautifully scenic walk that let us see some cool fault lines in the rock formations, and it was just under 2 miles long.

Cholla Cactus Garden

By this time, it was getting a little late in the day and we'd planned to visit Cholla Cactus Garden at sunset because a park ranger told us this was the best time of day to go, and right he was! The sun's yellow glow amplified the beauty of the garden. There are Joshua Trees scattered freely all over the park, but for some reason, this species of cacti only grows in this one little spot in the park. We drove for miles and miles of desert to get to it and when you arrive at sunset it's magic is unmatchable. We don't think going at any other time of day but sunset would offer the same experience.

49 Palms Oasis

The next morning, our final day in the park, we headed with some PB&J's to the 49 Palms Oasis trail. It was exactly 100 ºF when we started, but to avoid getting sunburned, we wore hats, t-shirts, lathered up in sunscreen, and ensured we had more than enough water once again. Hiking up the hill, this trail offers an almost bird eyes view of Twentynine Palms city. Venturing just over a mile in, you can start to see the tips of the palm trees. We ran into two brothers that grew up in Joshua Tree and told them about our experience with the big horned sheep - they were shocked and said they'd lived here their whole lives and never seen a sheep. I guess we got lucky! When we got to the palm trees, it truly was a little oasis in the middle of the desert. We took shade under one and enjoyed our lunch before enduring the hot hike back. It is definitely a fun hike if you're looking to get a good view of the valley and find your own little oasis of palm trees in the heart of the desert.

Hiking the High Desert

IMG_1774 - 720 4x5_nograin
GOPR1004 - 720 4x5_nograin
GOPR0979 - 720 4x5_nograin

Hidden Valley Trail

Hidden Valley was our first hike we did in Joshua Tree. The trailhead for this hike was created by a man-made blast in order to create more room for cattle grazing. Back when it was created, there was plenty of vegetation for the cattle to graze on. There were heaps of signs along the way pointing out the high desert flora to be seen along the trail. One of the plants pictured looked like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Although the trail was only about a mile long, it was a great first hike to get us acclimated to the desert climate. Make sure you bring lots of water, each of us drank about 1 Gallon (4 liters) per day!

Barker Dam Trail

Next was the Barker Dam Nature Trail. It was around 105 ºF. We lathered up with sunscreen, ensured we were each carrying about 2 liters of water, put our hats and sunglasses on, and off we went. We were the only two people on the trail for the first part of the hike, until we heard the clicking of hooves nearby. We looked up and a male and two female big horned sheep we're just meters away from us on the rocks. Backing away slowly and snapping a few shots, the male started to approach us! Luckily, another couple caught up to us on the trail. We pointed to the sheep and perhaps because there was now four of us instead of two, the male started to back away and join his kin. When all four of us hikers reached Barker Dam, there were a half dozen of big horned sheep all gathered around the water which was an amazing site to see (from a safe distance). The loop back from the watering hole was amazing with hundreds of Joshua Trees; we highly recommended if you enjoy hiking and are looking for a chance to see some desert wildlife.

Skull Rock

After lunch, we headed to see Skull Rock and Elephant Rock as they came highly recommended. Skull Rock was nearly off the side of the road and easy to find. Elephant Rock, on the other hand, proved to be a little more complicated to get to. We're not entirely sure if we in fact found it or not. Nonetheless, the Skull Rock Nature Trail was still a beautifully scenic walk that let us see some cool fault lines in the rock formations, and it was just under 2 miles long.

Cholla Cactus Garden

By this time, it was getting a little late in the day and we'd planned to visit Cholla Cactus Garden at sunset because a park ranger told us this was the best time of day to go, and right he was! The sun's yellow glow amplified the beauty of the garden. There are Joshua Trees scattered freely all over the park, but for some reason, this species of cacti only grows in this one little spot in the park. We drove for miles and miles of desert to get to it and when you arrive at sunset it's magic is unmatchable. We don't think going at any other time of day but sunset would offer the same experience.

49 Palms Oasis

The next morning, our final day in the park, we headed with some PB&J's to the 49 Palms Oasis trail. It was exactly 100 ºF when we started, but to avoid getting sunburned, we wore hats, t-shirts, lathered up in sunscreen, and ensured we had more than enough water once again. Hiking up the hill, this trail offers an almost bird eyes view of Twentynine Palms city. Venturing just over a mile in, you can start to see the tips of the palm trees. We ran into two brothers that grew up in Joshua Tree and told them about our experience with the big horned sheep - they were shocked and said they'd lived here their whole lives and never seen a sheep. I guess we got lucky! When we got to the palm trees, it truly was a little oasis in the middle of the desert. We took shade under one and enjoyed our lunch before enduring the hot hike back. It is definitely a fun hike if you're looking to get a good view of the valley and find your own little oasis of palm trees in the heart of the desert.

See how this fits into the best road trips in America

Back to USA >>

San Diego, CA

August 20, 2018

National Park Guide: Day Trip to Torres del Paine

November 18, 2018

Zion National Park, UT

September 5, 2018

Monument Valley, UT

September 13, 2018

Newport, RI

May 2, 2018

Self Guided Tour of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

March 19, 2019

California

August 2, 2018

Ontario

May 14, 2018

Banff National Park, AB

May 25, 2018

Salvation Mountain, CA

August 29, 2018

Santa Barbara, CA

August 11, 2018

Alaska

June 4, 2018

Utah

September 2, 2018

Los Angeles, CA

August 15, 2018

Portland, OR

July 31, 2018

Yellowstone National Park, WY

June 16, 2018

Horseshoe Bend, AZ

July 24, 2017

San Francisco, CA

August 6, 2018

Mt. Rushmore, SD

June 22, 2018

Tijuana, MX

August 28, 2018

Arches National Park, UT

September 15, 2018

Acadia National Park, ME

May 5, 2018

Montréal, QC

May 11, 2018

Glacier National Park, MT

June 13, 2018

Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park, UT

September 10, 2018

Victoria, BC

July 27, 2018

Avenue of the Giants, CA

August 2, 2018

Joshua Tree Nat’l Park, CA

September 1, 2018

Day Trip Guide to Killarney National Park

April 17, 2019

Confusion Hill vs. Mystery Spot

August 8, 2018

Big Sur, CA

August 10, 2018

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

September 7, 2018

Olympic National Park, WA

July 26, 2018

North America: Best Road Trips in USA and Canada

October 2, 2018

Big Sur, CA

August 10, 2018

Olympic National Park, WA

July 26, 2018

San Francisco, CA

August 6, 2018

Montréal, QC

May 11, 2018

Glacier National Park, MT

June 13, 2018

Victoria, BC

July 27, 2018

Arches National Park, UT

September 15, 2018

Ontario

May 14, 2018

Banff National Park, AB

May 25, 2018

Newport, RI

May 2, 2018

Monument Valley, UT

September 13, 2018

Alaska

June 4, 2018

National Park Guide: Day Trip to Torres del Paine

November 18, 2018

Mt. Rushmore, SD

June 22, 2018

Horseshoe Bend, AZ

July 24, 2017

Day Trip Guide to Killarney National Park

April 17, 2019

Avenue of the Giants, CA

August 2, 2018

North America: Best Road Trips in USA and Canada

October 2, 2018

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

September 7, 2018

California

August 2, 2018

Acadia National Park, ME

May 5, 2018

Los Angeles, CA

August 15, 2018

Confusion Hill vs. Mystery Spot

August 8, 2018

Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park, UT

September 10, 2018

San Diego, CA

August 20, 2018

Zion National Park, UT

September 5, 2018

Santa Barbara, CA

August 11, 2018

Self Guided Tour of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

March 19, 2019

Yellowstone National Park, WY

June 16, 2018

Salvation Mountain, CA

August 29, 2018

Utah

September 2, 2018

Joshua Tree Nat’l Park, CA

September 1, 2018

Portland, OR

July 31, 2018

Tijuana, MX

August 28, 2018
By |2019-10-14T20:15:26-04:00September 1st, 2018|California, Destinations, National Park|0 Comments

Leave A Comment