Joshua Tree National Park, California, is the only park that makes it relatively easy for you to hike two deserts in a single day. This unique setting allows you to explore both the Mojave desert and the Colorado desert, showcasing the richness of two entirely different ecosystems. The park’s name is also an indicator of its most easily recognizable feature, the Joshua trees that seem to be everywhere, with branches raised to the sky like Joshua in prayer. The trees were named by early Mormons, who compared them to the Biblical character.
Enjoyed by families from almost every nation, this natural beauty opens its arms to many individuals who want to rest and reflect. Whether you arrive in the daytime or at night, you can start enjoying the park immediately. Time your visit so that you can watch the beautiful sunset from one of the many viewing points in the area.
Explore the Park
Joshua Tree National Park attractions are available to suit visitors of every age. Individuals can take the time to relax and learn something novel about themselves through a new activity. Children will be just as entertained as their parents, while couples in their senior years can deepen their connection even more.
Enjoying Attractions as a Special Needs Visitor
If you’re differently abled, several of the attractions at the park will be accessible. Service animals are permitted at the park, and should be kept on a leash. The Oasis of Mara trail is accessible. The Oasis and Joshua Tree visitor centers have low-profile exhibits which are accessible.
The Lower Keys View Overlook is accessible, and there are accessible parking areas close by. Jumbo Rock campground and Black Rock both have an accessible campsite, which you can ask for specifically, and book ahead of time. Each of these campgrounds does not have electricity, but Black Rock has access to water.
You can obtain information on the attractions at the accessible information desks within the visitor centers. If you want to participate in a Ranger-led activity and you’re hearing impaired, contact them at least three weeks ahead and let them know if you’ll need an ASL interpreter, or oral interpretation. Assistive listening devices and tactile interpreters are available for hearing impaired visitors when these are requested several days prior to your trip.
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Nature Trails in Joshua Tree National Park
The Oasis of Mara is one of the attractions that can be enjoyed with your dog or another companion animal. This is one of the five oases in the park, and is rare in North America. The collection of fan palms contains mature trees, and many of them live for 150 years.
The trail there is 0.5 miles long, and allows you to examine the trees at close range. While touring the area with your pet, stay alert. Remember that birds and other animals that are larger than they are may see them as prey. Ensure that they are kept on leash.
After the oasis, some visitors go to the Cap Rock Nature Trail. Children in your family will enjoy this trail because at just 0.4 miles, it’s really short, and takes them near to interesting rock formations. The loop trail also takes you close to plants that thrive in the desert ecosystem of the park, such as desert almond and Mojave yucca.
Cholla Cactus Garden is probably one of the few attractions in the park that don’t tempt you to touch them. Ensure that young children are closely supervised in this area, which showcases the strength and resilience of these prickly plants. Nicknamed the teddy bear cacti, they seem soft and cuddly, but they should be treated with caution.
Enjoy the Scenic Views
The attractive scenery draws visitors from all over North America to the park. Several lookout points are on the itinerary of teenagers, and adults of all ages, many of whom as equipped with cameras that capture every detail of the vista. Key’s View is one of these, and its juniper and pinyon trees form a remarkable contrast with the desert sky. You can view the Salton Sea and Palm Desert, from its elevation of 5,180 feet.
Birdwatching in Joshua Tree National Park
A lot of birds make their nests in Joshua Tree, and you can spot species such as red-tailed hawk, loggerhead shrike, and western screech oil. Many bird lovers enjoy watching all animals, and there are hundreds of desert big horn sheep in the area. Carry your binoculars, and remember not to feed any animals you see. Keep wild animals wild.
Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in Summer
Summer brings the energy of young children and teenagers released from the rigidity of their regular school days. Set free like butterflies, they stop for moments to explore one feature of the park, before moving rapidly to another. Many teens and older adults like to hike in this sanctuary, and there are several hiking trails that will challenge hikers who have a lot of experience.
Summer is the ideal time to explore the park if you don’t like the cold and prefer warm weather. Many hiking trails will meet the needs of intermediate hikers who have recently taken up the hobby. You can hike with friends, members of your family, or even solo. The challenge allows time for you to put things in perspective, as you reflect on the vastness of the desert, and signs of how life always pushes forward.
Arch Rock trail will take you around gigantic boulders. This trail is only 0.5 miles long, making it a good choice for people who don’t want to exert themselves too much in a single activity. If you’re trying to pack a lot of activities into one day, you can enjoy this, and move on to bouldering, or even shopping nearby.
Arch Rock is near the White Tank campground, and even if you aren’t an experienced climber, you’ll be able to scramble through the rocks. There’s even an arch where you can easily climb up and enjoy a picnic in the shade, while enjoying a great view of the park. This trail offers a challenge in terms of your outdoors skills, and if you go for a scramble, the lichen growing in the rocks can be used to help you find your way back to the main trail.
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Benefits of Visiting Joshua Tree National Park in Winter
The park receives most of its visitors during the summer and winter months. While its foundation remains unchanged, the sights, sounds, and smells of the area are transformed dramatically as the seasons change. The austere beauty of winter in Joshua Tree National Park, California offers a sense of tranquility, which is almost a relief after hectic months spent meeting deadlines, and juggling the many responsibilities of life.
If you enjoy the relative quiet that comes to the park in winter, this may be the best time for you to visit. There’s still a lot to do, whether you prefer physically taxing activities, or learning about your environment at a more relaxing pace. Since it’s quieter than summer, this can be a good time to write, or reflect in your life, while planning for the year ahead.
Many of the people who visit the park in December through to February are rock climbers. They seek the challenge of the steep ascents found all around them. Several prefer this to Yosemite during the colder months, when the latter is covered in slippery snow. There are 400 granite formations in the park. All of these opportunities attract international climbers of all ages.
Indian Cove is popular among rock climbers for its gigantic boulder formations. This crag lets you stay close to the best climbing routes in the park. If you’ve never tried rock climbing or bouldering, the park is a great place to learn. Several professionals offer lessons there, and you can even rent gear for your vacation. Rock climbing is not the only activity to enjoy in winter, and the cool weather is ideal for exploring nature trails in comfort.
Enjoy Exhibits at Joshua Tree National Park
Winter is a good time to learn more about the history of human beings in Joshua Tree, and the Oasis Visitor Center has a range of exhibits which cover more than 7,500 years. Children and adults will learn about natural subjects and ancient cultures.
Children have the rare opportunity to connect what they learn in school about culture, biology, and geology, with what they encounter in the desert. This makes learning come alive in a real way. Each exhibit invites questions, and this can prod teenagers to think more deeply about the world they live in.
Live Music at the Park
Fans of live music can relax at Pappy and Harriet’s. This bar and grill features classic American cuisine. The food, music, and the rustic ambience created by the decor, are enough to make you drift to another time and place. Artistes like KT Tunstall, and the Shadow Mountain Band with Jim Lauderdale, are just a few of those who have appeared there.
Foodies will travel long distances to have their favorite fare, and the fans of Pappy and Harriet’s are no different. Several who come to the park ensure that they take a delicious meal with them. There are specific choices designed for kids, so everyone feels included in a family meal. You can take your time and maximize the daylight hours in the park, since dinner is served until 9:30 p.m.
Joshua Tree National Park Camping Options
Whether you enjoy sleeping in a tent, or like all the modern conveniences provided in your RV, Joshua Tree National Park has a variety of camping options for you. There are nine campgrounds within the park, and several more outside. While the campgrounds are typically open from May to September, a few may close for a short time during the summer. If you prefer a specific area, call ahead to check on its availability during the time you plan to visit.
If you’re an individual or group with pets, you may consider the amenities at the campgrounds that you like, but your pets must be kept on leash at all times. Pets cannot go inside buildings, or on hiking trails, but they can enjoy the Oasis of Mara with you. Dogs leave behind odors that can discourage or deter native species, and animals that have made the park their home have priority.
Your chances of being able to pick any camping area that you want are higher during the off-peak season, so weekdays from September to May are ideal if you prefer a more quiet setting. Weekends are packed during this time, and when a number of outdoor enthusiasts take their vacation during the summer, all of the open campsites are packed right through the week. It’s first come, first served at that time, and you may find it difficult to make reservations anywhere.
To enjoy a vacation in the park from September to May, you can book a campsite up to six months before your planned holiday. Campers have 500 spots to choose from, and you’re better off booking a campsite ahead of time in spring. Campgrounds are generally equipped with dump stations for your convenience.
Each campground is unique in its appeal, and offers different features. For example, with an elevation of 4,000 feet, Black Rock offers scenic views that will pull tension from your mind and body. This campground has 99 campsites, with access to water, flush toilets, and fire grates, making it easy for you to enjoy a relaxing meal with other campers in quiet evenings.
Indian Cove, with an elevation of 3,200 feet, also offers lots of photography opportunities, but it doesn’t have access to water. Tables, fire grates, and pit toilets serve the 101 campsites there. Campgrounds with water usually cost a little more per night than those without. Each camper can only stay for 30 days per year.
Sometimes campers feel like visiting the park on a whim, and when they arrive, all the campgrounds are full. If you feel the need to get away from city life, don’t let the lack of a booking deter you. You can camp outside the park, on land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. You can also stay at inns and other lodgings a short drive away.
Private campgrounds are around the area, and you’ll have conveniences that make your stay relaxing. You’re not allowed to pull off along the side of the road to sleep in your vehicle. It’s not the safest thing to do, and you could receive a citation if you do it.
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Camping with your Church, School, or other Communities
Members of community organizations and other groups sometimes want to camp together. It’s easier to plan a hike, cookout, picnic, and other activities if you are camped close to each other. This helps to build bonds in communities, and is facilitated at campgrounds such as Sheep Pass, Indian Cove, and Cottonwood.
These campgrounds at Joshua Tree can accommodate groups of 10 to 60 people. Some areas are only designed for tents, while others can accommodate RVs. The total length of trailers, and small RVs in your group that can be accommodated, is 25 feet. If your RV is longer than that, several other options are available at campsites meant for individual use.
If you’re part of an equestrian group, there aren’t campgrounds for communities with horses. Individuals and families can camp comfortably at Ryan and Black Rock, which both have facilities for people who want to go horseback riding at the park. The regulations state that up to six people, with three tents , can occupy a campsite designed for individuals, if the space is adequate.
Relaxing RV Campgrounds
Almost all of the camping options in and around Joshua Tree are suitable for visitors who have their RV. If the park is full, you can camp at private campgrounds, like Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground. This offers a panoramic view of the area, and you can spend an entire day fishing. Water and electricity are provided, along with hot showers, wireless Internet, and a picnic area.
Several highlights of the park are close to the RV campsites which are close to Lark Boulevard. Most of the hiking trails and activities lead off Park Boulevard, which is the main route through the park. Many visitors want to get a campsite in this area, because it provides easy access to everything they want.
Featuring attractive rock fornations and aged Joshua trees, the landscape of Hidden Valley campground makes it suitable for both RVs and tents. If you like to climb, this location is ideal, since many of the best rock climbing opportunities are close by. If you want to be as close as possible to the most relaxing scenery, you’ll be happy to know this is the closest campground to the gorgeous West Entrance Station.
White Tank is a campground that’s a lot smaller than Hidden Valley, but the campsites are spaced apart enough for you to feel relaxed. There are only 15 campsites there, and you can park your RV, as long as it’s 25 feet or less. If your RV is bigger, you can aim to spend your vacation at Jumbo Rocks, which can take RVs of up to 32 feet.
Good Sleeping Options Around Joshua Tree National Park
Best Western Joshua Tree Hotel and Suites is close enough to the park, to make it easy to enjoy all of its attractions. Your stay at the hotel can be a relaxing end to a day of heart-pounding activity. Book your stay ahead of time, and then let tired muscles be soothed in their hot tub, or the pool.
This laid-back hotel is a suitable complement to the wild beauty of the park. Breakfast is included, and their parking is free. The bedrooms are comfortable and clean, and their hardworking staff will welcome you. To ensure that you can get the room you want, book far ahead of the busy season.
Homesteader cabins provide a sense of comfort that makes a relaxing family vacation even better. Cabins are usually available through agents who specialize in vacation rentals. Start looking at options early, and plan to enjoy a month in a setting that is new, but will seem familiar at times. Airbnb has cabins in the area, and you can quickly learn more about the ones that you like.
A cabin hosted by Stephanie and Jay, who are superhosts on Airbnb, gives you the autonomy you desire. You’ll have the whole house to yourself, and the location is good. You can check in quickly after a long journey. The cabin has one bedroom and one bathroom, and was featured in the New York Times.
The Safari Motor Inn provides budget-friendly accommodations for visitors to the Joshua Tree National park. You can go swimming in their seasonal outdoor pool, and then upload pictures of your trip on social media by using their Wi-Fi. It’s just a block from the park’s West Entrance, and all the rooms have a simple, yet modern design
Many visitors to the park regularly stay at this location, enjoying the convenience of its position, and the beautiful landscape. The building is all on one story, and no smoking is allowed. Several local restaurants are within a few blocks, and free cable television, is provided. Unfortunately, they do not facilitate wheelchair access.
The Desert Lily B&B
This bed and breakfast is decorated in bright colors that will energize you. The adobe-style accommodations are ideal for people who prefer casual rooms. Snacks are provided right throughout the day, to help keep your energy levels up for hiking or rock climbing. While the rooms are on the smaller side, you’ll sleep comfortably, and the snacks are complimentary.
You can see the mountains and the desert valley right from there. It’s clean, and the host is hospitable. The beautiful setting also makes it ideal for hosting small celebrations. The healthy breakfast will fill you up with enough calories for all the activities you hope to enjoy, and if you have special dietary needs, they will prepare something balanced just for you.