Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

According to, Joshua Tree National Park is a desert park about three hours from Los Angeles, both located in the beautiful state of California. While a desert might seem like a ‘boring’ idea at first glance, Joshua Tree is definitely not! The special thing about this park is that it consists of two completely different ecosystems. The Colorado Desert, also called the “Low Desert”, lies at a depth of about 900 meters, while the Mojave Desert, the “High Desert”, is much higher. Where the Colorado Desert resembles a lunar landscape, there are more forests and high rocks in the Mojave Desert. Below you can read about what to do in Joshua Tree National Park, along with some must-see attractions. You can also visit Joshua Tree National Park with the Western Experience car tour, Taste The West Deluxe car tour, Western Impressions car tour, California and Hawaii car tour or view an overview of all tours through Western America.

6 things to do in Joshua Tree National Park

You can visit Joshua Tree National Park in a number of ways. You can explore one of the many trails while hiking, but the park also has beautiful routes to drive by car. In addition, horseback riding is a popular and unusual way to look for the most beautiful places. The park is also popular with mountaineers, because of the many rocks that the park has. It is even possible to camp in Joshua Tree!

1. Hidden Valley Nature Trail

In Joshua Tree National Park there are a lot of hiking trails, but one of the most famous is Hidden Valley. Hidden Valley Trail is a relatively short route of about 1.5 kilometers. In general, the route is fairly flat, but very sandy. The name already reveals where you are heading: according to legend, cattle thieves used to hide in this ‘hidden valley’. During your walk you walk along the high rocks, with signs along the route telling you about the nature you encounter. Because of the steep rocks, this route is also very popular among climbers. At the end of the walk you will come to a picnic area where you can enjoy the shade for a while.

2.Barker Dam

The Barker Dam Trail is a hiking trail that leads to, the name says it all; the Barker Dam. The Barker Dam was built around 1900 to store water for miners and livestock. First you walk between the high rocks, which suddenly disappear to make way for this reservoir. This lake is a good place to rest while you can spot birds and other animals. If you walk left along the lake, you will come to the actual dam. On the way back you will pass a piece of desert filled with the famous Joshua Trees, so don’t forget to bring a camera! You can also use that camera near the end of the walk, when you pass a piece of rock with ancient petroglyphs engraved in it.

3. Key View

At Keys View you imagine yourself in Mexico. Literally, because if you’re lucky, on a clear day you can see Signal Mountain in Mexico from this vantage point on the Little San Bernardino Mountains! So visiting Keys View is indispensable when visiting Joshua Tree, as it offers a nice photo opportunity with its panoramic views. But it is also well worth bringing binoculars to this viewpoint. There are plenty of other landmarks to discover. You can see the famous San Andreas Fault from here, stretching below you in the Coachella Valley to the Salton Sea. In the distance you can also see San Gorgino Mountain, maybe even with a snowy top! If you look closely, you can also see the city of Palm Springs in the distance.

4. Cholla Cactus Garden

The Cholla Cactus Garden is a must-visit in the park. Although this is a relatively small piece of park, it is definitely worth stopping here. In this garden, a platform of about a kilometer runs through all kinds of different flowers and plants, including the famous “Teddybear Cholla Cactus”, recognizable by small yellow twigs and a dark trunk. While the name may sound sweet, the plant isn’t! The National Park Service therefore strongly advises not to touch the plant. The spines of this cactus stick to your skin at the slightest touch and it hurts a lot to remove them.

5.Cottonwood Spring Oasis

Cottonwood Spring Oasis is a hidden gem in the middle of the desert, about seven miles from the south entrance. As the name gives away, this is an oasis. What makes Cottonwood Springs so special is the sudden change of scenery. The parched desert gives way to a vegetated clearing. This water source used to be used by the Cahuilla Indians. Later the water was used by miners for their gold mills. While the oasis is the starting point for several hikes of varying difficulty, it is also one of the park’s best places for bird watching. It is a wonderful place to rest and enjoy all the gold and brown colors of the palm trees that surround the oasis.

6.Skull Rock

While visiting Joshua Tree National Park, make time for a quick stop at Skull Rock, located on Park Boulevard, the park’s main thoroughfare. Due to erosion over the years, this large stone has become increasingly worn, with the result that the stone now has two large holes at the bottom. This makes the stone look just like a skull! If you’re up for a longer hike, Skull Rock also has a short hiking trail of about two miles.

Joshua Tree National Park camping

Many people also spend one or more nights in the park on one of the camping fields, often in combination with a longer walk. This is a wonderful experience to fully enjoy the park. In total, the park has eight camping fields, spread throughout the park. The price to stay the night depends on the number of facilities and places on the field, but the maximum amount per night is $25. The camping fields are busiest from the end of September to the end of May.

Frequently Asked Questions about Joshua Tree National Park

What is so special about Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park is best known for the unique flora and fauna that can be found here, in particular, of course, the ‘yucca brevifolia’ or the Joshua Tree. This unusual tree could very well belong in a story by Dr. Seuss. In addition, the two completely different desert landscapes make experiencing the environment in Joshua Tree National Park a unique experience.

Is it dangerous in Joshua Tree National Park?

No, it is not dangerous in Joshua Tree National Park. There are a few things you should take into account: It is a park in the middle of the desert, so the temperatures can rise considerably. It is therefore important to always have enough water with you, because there are only a limited number of places in the park itself to get water. In addition, you must protect yourself well against the sun by wearing suitable clothes and using sunscreen. You will also notice that there is little or no mobile coverage in the park, so keep this in mind! While the National Park Service does their best to ensure the safety of visitors, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety. So don’t overestimate yourself!

How long will it take me to see everything in Joshua Tree National Park?

Depends entirely on what you want to do. If you also want to do a few walks, we would definitely recommend a night. (so full day there)
If you only want to do the viewpoints by car, half a day is enough time.

Can I hike in Joshua Tree National Park?

Yes, of course! There are plenty of hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park, ranging from easier trails (like Hidden Valley Trail and Barker Dam Trail) to more advanced trails (like Boy Scout Trail and California Riding and Hiking Trail).

Can I camp in Joshua Tree National Park?

There are plenty of camping options in Joshua Tree National Park. There are a total of eight different camping fields spread throughout the park. At Cottonwood Springs and Black Rock, for example, there are camping fields with between fifty and a hundred places. These camping fields are very popular, so it is important to book on time! If you’d rather not be tied down, there are also three campsites that operate on a first come, first serve basis. Keep in mind that these campsites are also extremely popular between September and May. It is recommended to come as early as possible in the week to guarantee a seat.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

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