I’ve always wanted to see those unmistakable, super unique Joshua Trees in person. Thanks, U2 🙂
We traveled the 3.5 hours from Vegas through the desolate and eerily fascinating Mojave desert where you will indeed get a taste of what lies ahead. I’m not sure if you’re not a die-hard National Park geek that it’s completely worth the drive from there, but if you’re planning to visit surrounding areas (Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Coachella, Yucca Valley, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Slab City), I would absolutely say it should be added to your itinerary.
Temps were still in the hundreds as we approached the park so we decided to motel it the night prior versus camping to ensure a good night’s sleep for the next busy day. Apparently, it’s pretty easy to acquire a camping spot, even last minute which is somewhat rare in most National Parks. Black Rock Campground, Indian Cove Campground, and Cottonwood Campground are all pay campgrounds with flush toilets and running water. There’s also back-country, primitive, fee-free camping.
Twenty Nine Palms is where it was easy to book a room in a pinch, and is the last city before entering the park. It’s only about 20 minutes above the north entrance of the park and the last taste of civilization you’ll see for a while. Fill up with gas and make sure you have tons of ice water for your journey into Joshua Tree.
An obligatory pic with the entrance sign is then what all tourists do. It’s then $15 to enter or free if you have the annual park pass like we do which will cost you $80 annually and will definitely pay for itself over and over again if you’re an avid park hopper like we are. We always stop at the visitor centers which is just a couple of yards past the entrance kiosk for park maps, a restroom stop, and for any current dangers which will always be posted.
This park is so quiet and very freeing. We didn’t encounter many others during the visit which can be amazing, but also a bit nerve-wracking. Perhaps that last thought was in my mind because just a few days before our trip here a young couple went missing in the park and their situation was weighing heavily on our minds. To this day, over a month later, they still haven’t been found. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it….National Parks are NO JOKE!! Real life-threatening situations occur in them. Each park poses its own unique dangers. For this park, it’s heat exhaustion, dehydration, flash flooding on the roads, and unfortunately for some reason in this particular park, disappearance. I’m not writing to scared, rather warn. I’ve done a bit of research and many, even experienced hikers have gone missing here over the years and have never been found. Let others know where you’re going and don’t go alone!
Our personal experience, however, was a really great one! The trees were as awesome as I imagined, but what I didn’t expect to love was so many cool rocks for climbing! This park is a hot spot for anyone who enjoys amateur or professional bouldering. The whole fam had such an amazing time boulder jumping and hiding under them! We particularly LOVED skull rock! Don’t come without seeing it! So creepy cool!
Many different trails from 1/2 mile hikes to trekking up Ryan’s Mountain trail which rises to 5756 ft in elevation or Quail Mountain which is the highest peak in all of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. It’s a very vast park, equal to the size of the entire state of Rhode Island! To me, I felt like one good, full day of exploration was adequate with perhaps adding a night of camping under the stars. JT is known for its dark skies and ranks a 3-4 out of 5 ratings on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas in the road, big horned sheep, and mountain lions are the animals you’re going to be looking for. Swarms of bees by the cholla gardens too.
Joshua Tree is pretty easily accessible from many points-
About 2.5 hrs from LA
About 2 hrs 40 mins from San Diego
About 50 minutes from Palm Springs.
About an hour from Salton Sea
Joshua Tree without a doubt has a mystery to it. It’s where many come to just get lost, and where many who don’t mean to often do. We are glad we came, saw, and conquered JT. It will always hold a special place in my heart as it’s the first National Park my husband visited with us.
Keep roaming! XOX, Sar