13 Top Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park | Vestasoft

Written by Lana Law
Jun 8, 2020

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With its Dr. Seuss-like Joshua unique trees and almost lunar landscape of giant granite boulders and rolling mountains, Joshua Tree National Park is like something out of a children’s storybook. unique things to do in joshua tree

It’s not uncommon to hear people using terms like unique magical or spiritual to describe how they feel about this park.  things to do

The most popular things to do here are tree walking or hiking among the trees, climbing the towering rock walls, camping tree under the stars, capturing the beauty in photographs, activities or simply soaking tree up the tranquility of the desert.things to do

Set where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet, unique the park has a complex landscape, with profoundly different appearances tree and vegetation depending on the elevation. things to do

Some areas are covered with mature Joshua trees tree as far as the eye can see, and others are completely devoid of these trees but still offer their own unique beauty.things to do

Sunset in Joshua Tree National Park | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Well positioned nature paths, hiking trails, unique and vehicle pullouts are spread throughout the park, providing easy access to this stunning landscape. unique things

Although the park joshua encompasses some 800,000 acres, joshua most of it is not accessible by road. Two main roads run through the park: Park Boulevard, which runs west to east from Twentynine Palms and tree the North Entrance to the West tree Entrance and the national town of Joshua Tree; and Pinto Basin Road, which joins up with Park Boulevard and runs south to north tree from Interstate 10 and the Cottonwood Visitor Center to the  tree  North Entrance and the town of Twentynine Palms.joshua tree attractions 

Park Boulevard is the main tree section of the park that is of interest to most visitors, but other places of interest are found along the north half of Pinto Basin Road. things to do in joshua tree

Note that pets are tree not allowed on trails in the park; the only exception tree is the Oasis of Mara paved trail. Pets are allowed on-leash on the unpaved roads and on the roads within the campgrounds and picnic areas.things to do in joshua tree

To help plan your visit, see our list of things to do in Joshua Tree National Park.things to do in joshua tree

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Hidden Valley Nature Trail & Day Use Area  joshua tree 

Hidden Valley Nature Trail and Day Use Area
Hidden Valley Nature Trail and Day Use Area | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The Hidden Valley area of joshua Joshua is one of the most beautiful and easily accessible areas of the park. things to do in joshua tree

It’s tree  perfect if you are looking to do a short hike or simply tree wander among the trees and rock formations.things to do in joshua tree

The Hidden Valley Nature Trail is joshua  an enjoyable one-mile loop trail that enters through an opening into a large bowl surrounded by rock walls. It’s thought joshua that due to the geography, Hidden tree  Valley was once used by cattle rustlers, who would herd the cattle into this area to conceal them.things to do in joshua tree

This is a relatively easy and scenic trail, joshua making it one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. It does not have many Joshua trees. Of note on this trail is the giant national monolith known as the Great Burrito, tree a popular climbing area in the park.things to do in joshua tree

Hidden Valley area
Hidden Valley area | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The Hidden Valley picnic area, on the opposite joshua side of the parking lot from the trailhead, is much more scenic, national with an abundance of large Joshua trees scattered around tree huge boulders and rock piles. things to do in joshua tree

This is a wonderful place to tree enjoy a picnic and meander around.things to do in joshua tree

From the last picnic area at the west end, a very short tree rudimentary trail leads out and around to the back side of the stand of national boulders, opening up into a wonderland of rocks and trees, tree perfect for photography.

2. Keys View joshua tree 

Keys View
Keys View | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

It is well worth the drive up to Keys View, joshua  a lookout point at an elevation of national more than 5,000 feet, with sweeping views extending out over the Coachella Valley. In the distance, tree you can see the San Andreas fault line, Palm Springs, joshua  the Salton Sea, and on a clear day, tree beyond to Mexico. If the air is clear, the view is spectacular and tree this is a great way to get oriented with the surrounding geography.

As you drive up here, the elevation changes, joshua the temperature is noticeably cooler, and the landscape takes on a whole different character.

3. Barker national Dam Nature Trail joshua tree 

Barker Dam Nature Trail
Barker Dam Nature Trail

Another short walking path, tree Barker Dam is a 1.3-mile loop trail. If you are only looking to do one short trail in Joshua Tree, this is your best bet, tree with huge Joshua trees, rocks, and an area of water that often attracts birds.attractions in joshua tree

At the far end of the loop are the tree remnants of a water tank left by cattle ranchers tree who once lived in the area. do in joshua tree

Many people walk in national to this point and turn around, leaving by the same route, but this is a mistake.do in joshua tree

While tree this might be slightly shorter, it is well tree worth continuing on, national with much of the best scenery and largest trees on the loop beyond the dam. twentynine palms highway

4. Camping national

Belle Campground
Belle Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

For campers, Joshua Tree is a real treat. Camping national among the Joshua trees, surrounded by bizarre rock formations, the experience here is different than your amazing standard camping trip.europe north america

Several of Joshua Tree’s amazing stunning campgrounds are set in convenient locations for exploring the park. Each of these has its own look and feel, joshua but all of them are worth spending a amazing night or two under a star-filled sky.joshua tree joshua

The ideal time tree to camp here is in spring and fall: tree March, April, October, and November. Nights are cool, but days tend to be sunny and warm.visit joshua tree

This is not jumbo RV camping: the tree campgrounds are relatively small and primarily intended for tent camping, RVs under 25 feet, or smaller pop-up-style camp trailers. park joshua tree 

One of the best campgrounds is Hidden Valley Campground, joshua but it is a first-come, first-served area. If you want the security of having a tree reservation before you arrive, the best option is Jumbo Rocks. Both of these are close to all the main things to see and do. tree joshua tree

5. Cholla park Cactus Garden joshua tree 

Cholla Cactus Garden
Cholla Cactus Garden | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

For nature lovers, the Cholla Cactus Garden is joshua arguably one of the most awesome sites in the park, with more than a thousand tree densely packed chollas stretching out across the desert floor. While chollas are often sprinkled among other vegetation in the desert, here tree they are the only cactuses in this natural garden. min view post

In the early morning light or late afternoon sun, joshua the backlit needles almost glow, and the mountains in the distance provide the perfect backdrop. An easy, level walking trail takes you through this magical place. joshua tree area

The Cholla Cactus Garden is on the road to Cottonwood Spring, beyond Belle and White Tank campgrounds. national park

Farther along this road, heading towards Cottonwood, is the Ocotillo Patch, but there are only a small number of these plants at tree this pullout location. national park

If you plan on leaving the park on this road, there is no need to stop here because there are plenty more tree Ocotillos further on, beyond Cottonwood, on the way to Interstate 10.national park

6. Skull park Rock joshua tree 

Skull Rock
Skull Rock | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Perhaps nowhere else in the park is the almost comic book landscape more finely illustrated than at Skull Rock. You may see faces and images in the rock tree formations that dominate the park, but at Skull Rock it takes joshua  very little imagination to see the skull shape peering out of the boulder-strewn rubble.attractions

This huge, naturally sculpted rock is located right beside the road, and it always draws a crowd.interesting

The whole area tree around this roadside stop is joshua  interesting, with an expanse of rolling rock piles, great for walking or light scrambling. Remnants of trails run through the area, but many people just wander about, joshua finding high points for lookouts, sunning themselves  joshua  on the slabs of rock, or simply taking a break. joshua trees 

Across the street is a 1.7-mile hiking trail amazing through rocks and shrubby vegetation with a few Joshua trees scattered around.joshua trees 

7. Rock tree Climbing  tree and Bouldering unique

Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Rock Climbing and Bouldering | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Climbing and bouldering are some of the joshua  most popular recreational activities in the park, and one look at the landscape will tell you why. joshua tree

Joshua Tree has somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 climbing routes and hundreds of joshua  climbing formations. Information pamphlets and maps are available at the visitor centers. joshua tree

Climbers frequent Joshua Tree National Park, particularly during the winter months when the great climbing tree destinations further north, tree like Yosemite, are out of season. joshua tree

Climbers tends post to congregate in several sections, but the Hidden Valley area and other nearby sites at the west end of the park are the main hot spots.joshua tree

As a result, campgrounds at this end of the park tend post to be full on a regular basis throughout the winter, particularly in February and March, when climbers and recreational campers are vying for spots.

8. Ryan tree Mountain Hike unique things 

Ryan Mountain Hike
Ryan Mountain Hike

From Park Boulevard,joshua the hike up Ryan Mountain looks a bit daunting and relatively unspectacular, but this hike is all post about the reward from the top, joshua where the views extend 360 degrees out over the park. This is a relatively strenuous, three-mile up-and-down hike, with 1,000 feet of elevation gain.joshua tree

The exposed trail offers little to no shade and is less joshua than exciting as it follows a barren hillside up to the top, but from the summit, post at 5,457 feet, the view is fantastic, making the effort worthwhile.joshua tree

9. Keys tree Ranch (Guided Tour) visit joshua tree

Keys Ranch
Keys Ranch

In an area that few people would describe joshua as hospitable are the remains of Keys Ranch, the former homestead and ranch of William F. Keys, who settled in this area in the 1910s.joshua tree

The property, which includes the house, joshua schoolhouse, store, and workshop, is a National Historic Register Site and can only be visited on ranger-led guided tours. joshua tree

These tours run seasonally throughout the winter and into spring.joshua tree

The tours are very informative and joshua provide insight into Keys, who was quite a character, and the challenges park  faced by the family and ingenuity required to live out here. joshua tree

See the park park website for information on tour dates and times.joshua tree

Reservations are joshua required and can be made up to 60 days in advance. joshua tree

The 90-minute tours are offered at a fee and involve a half-mile of walking.joshua tree

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/ranchtour.htm joshua tree

10. Cottonwood tree  Spring Oasis joshua trees 

Cottonwood Spring
Cottonwood Spring

The Cottonwood Spring Oasis is a permanent spring, park a rarity in the desert. joshua tree

The flow varies but currently it’s around 500 gallons per day.joshua tree

The spring came to life many years park ago due to an earthquake and since then has been used by the native Cahuilla Indians, miners, and prospectors over the years. joshua tree

You can still park see the remains of old gold processing equipment and some concrete ruins.joshua tree

Cottonwood Spring is one of the joshua best areas in the park for birding. joshua tree

The reliable source of water, shade, and trees draws birds and other wildlife to the area. joshua tree

Keep a sharp eye out for the following: Gambel’s Quail, hummingbirds, bushtits, and the park titmouse with its pointy crown.joshua tree

11. Wildflowers in Spring attractions

Wildflowers in Spring
Wildflowers in Spring | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Spring is an amazing time in the desert, joshua and Joshua Tree National Park is no exception. joshua tree

The Joshua’s themselves bloom, but many other plants, shrubs, park and cactus come into bloom in the park as well.joshua tree

The best place to see park wildflowers may depend on the week you are visiting, park but as a general rule, the area of the park near Cottonwood Spring and the road that leads out to Interstate 10 has a fantastic variety of spring wildflowers that bloom in large concentrations.joshua tree

Not far from the Cottonwood Visitor joshua Center, thousands of small Joshua trees dot the landscape, scattered park as far as the eye can see in some areas. The spring bloom here is spectacular, park even more so than the larger Joshua trees park because the blooms are lower to the ground and close to eye level, making them easier to see.joshua tree

From Cottonwood Spring to Interstate 10 there can be a kaleidoscope of colors, ranging from yellow, orange, and red, to pink, purple, and blue.joshua tree

Bloom times vary depending on the elevation and the weather conditions throughout the winter. Lower elevations generally begin  trips  blooming in February, and higher elevations can bloom as late as June.online 

March and April are always a safe bet for seeing wildflowers.joshua treeonline 

12. Bird-Watching joshua joshua

Cactus wren in Joshua Tree NP
Cactus wren in Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree National Park’s location, at the junction of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, combined with a few permanent waterholes, draws birds from far and wide.

The park is a wintering ground for white-crowned sparrows, cedar waxwings, juncos, and many others. Some of the resident birds include the greater roadrunner, colorful hummingbirds, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and cactus wrens. Be sure to keep an ear and eye out for the always entertaining Gambel’s quail and roadrunners.

The best spots to find birds are Barker Dam, Lost Palm Oasis, Cottonwood Spring, and the Oasis of Mara.

13. Horseback Riding joshua joshua

A majority of the park is pure wilderness and ideal for horseback riding. About 250 miles of equestrian trails run through the park, most of which are well marked and easy to follow. Most horseback riders tend to favor the trails in the Black Rock Canyon area along with those near the western entrance to the park.

Trails are across open desert, along canyon floors, and up and over small passes. Note that water is not available anywhere along any trails.

The park has two campgrounds, Ryan and Black Rock, with areas set aside for horses and stock animals. At Black Rock is a special horse camp, which can be reserved in advance. Ryan is first come, first served.

Where to Stay at Joshua Tree National Park joshua joshua

The best options for accommodation close to Joshua Tree National Park are in the nearby town of Twentynine Palms, just minutes from the North Entrance. You can find a variety of good hotel options. You can find some excellent resorts and hotels in Palm Springs, a little over an hour away. Hotels listed here are in Twentynine Palms.

  • Mid-Range Hotels: One of the top picks for hotels in Twentynine Palms is the Fairfield Inn & Suites, with spacious suites. Also of note are the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites and the SureStay Plus by BEST WESTERN Hotel. All of these hotels have pools, provide a complimentary breakfast, and are just a few minutes by car from the park.
  • Budget Hotels: Budget hotels can still be relatively pricey during the high season. Some good-value hotels to consider are the motel-style 9 Palms Inn, and the Rodeway Inn & Suites, with an outdoor heated pool and hot tub and a complimentary breakfast. If you are looking for pet-friendly properties, the recently renovated Motel 6 is a good choice, with an outdoor heated pool and hot tub. All of these are well positioned for easy access to the park.

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