“800,000 breathtaking acres of desert”
Joshua Tree National Park is immense, nearly 800,000 acres, and infinitely variable. It can seem unwelcoming, even brutal during the heat of summer when, in fact, it is delicate and extremely fragile. This is a land shaped by strong winds, sudden torrents of rain, and climatic extremes. Rainfall is sparse and unpredictable. Streambeds are usually dry and waterholes are few. Viewed in summer, this land may appear defeated and dead, but within this parched environment are intricate living systems waiting for the opportune moment to reproduce. The individuals, both plant and animal, that inhabit the park are not individualists. They depend on their entire ecosystem for survival.
Two deserts, two large ecosystems primarily determined by elevation, come together in the park. Few areas more vividly illustrate the contrast between “high” and “low” desert. Below 3,000 feet (910 m), the Colorado Desert (part of the Sonoran Desert), occupying the eastern half of the park, is dominated by the abundant creosote bush. Adding interest to this arid land are small stands of spidery ocotillo and cholla cactus.The higher, slightly cooler, and wetter Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the undisciplined Joshua tree, extensive stands of which occur throughout the western half of the park. According to legend, Mormon pioneers considered the limbs of the Joshua trees to resemble the upstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. Others were not as visionary. Early explorer John Fremont described them as “…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom.”
If you only have a day, hit up the visitors center before you head out and they’ll help you make the most out of your day. However, if you get the chance to stay for a few days, prepare to be amazed by the night sky; you’ll hardly be able to believe the stars.
The yucca trees (which are from the lily family) are amazing to see, and though some have unfortunately been vandalized, they look alien next to the craggy rock formations. Make sure to keep an eye our for tarantulas and scorpions while there!
Astrophotography here is truly stunning! Highly recommending getting away from the popular spots and just taking one of the dirt roads off into the middle of nowhere for a truly authentic experience!
Absolutely magical! Be aware that it costs $20 to enter the park PLUS $15-$20 to camp. However, the payment for camping is for the week. I stayed in the Hidden Valley campground which was secluded, shaded and had spectacular views and rocks to climb!
Awesome place for astrophotography since it's so far from light pollution. Great trails as well and camping!
Joshua Tree was a really fun day trip. We drove out from Palm Springs around noon and got to park at about 2. We pretty much drove straight through the park stopping at a couple of the scenic overlooks and at one of the cactus gardens. The views of the mountains are absolutely breathtaking and some of the plant life makes you feel like you have been transported back into prehistoric times. Seriously some of the foliage is some of the oddest and coolest anywhere.
We were able to pass through the whole park in about 3 hours, and even with traffic on I-10 we got back to LA by 8. I would highly recommend visiting Joshua Tree on your road trip.
Absolutely amazing! We stopped here for an afternoon and camped during a 10-day road trip through the West, and this was definitely one of the highlights.
I'd recommend staying at Jumbo Rocks campground - the name says it all. There's tons of large rocks that create small alcoves for each campsite, so it feels pretty private. Plus, you can go climb around on all the rocks for a few different views. We explored a few trails during the afternoon and each sight was cooler than the last - you'll definitely feel like you're in another world. The yucca trees against the rocks and the sparse desert landscape are unreal.
But the best part is easily the night sky - I have never seen anything so spectacular. You feel as if you could reach out an touch the milky way as it appears so close and bright. And as a woman at the local grocery store told us, make sure to keep an out for those UFOs!
It's a great national park, and I can't wait to come back a spend some more time there!
Geologically, the park is a natural wonderland of boulders, stone hills and features such as Horror Rock. It’s basically a rock climber’s paradise. There are like thousands of named climbing routes throughout the park. I drove through here in August 2014 and it was incredible. Virtually every part of the park is picture-worthy. Bring water! It can be terribly hot in the summer.
Meh it was pretty and the sunset lighting up the cacti was beautiful, but the Joshua trees were better (although smaller) in Death Valley.
Awesome Rock formations and the moonrise is spectacular, go back after dark and see more stars than you have ever seen!
A good stopping point on the way to thw Grand Canyon. Visited the Oasis visitor center, there were interesting displays and the park rangers were very nice. It was super hot so we opted for pool time at the hotel and night star gazing .... it was amazing.
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Joshua Tree National Park
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 12:00 am
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