Looking for a beautiful place to drive through, or maybe do some hiking, cycling or rock climbing? Why not give Joshua Tree National Park a try.
Located about 140 miles east of Los Angeles in the desert near the cities of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in the world. More than 400 climbing formations and 8,000 climbing routes offering a wide range of difficulty are concentrated within the park. If you are not familiar with the different climbing routes in the park you can purchase a climbing guide at the park visitor centers to help get you going, or you can check out the park’s rock climbing website page.
If rock climbing isn’t your thing Joshua Tree National Park also offers many hiking trails of varying difficulties including the 49 Palms Oasis, Lost Horse Mine/Mountain, Lost Palms Oasis, Mastodon Peak and Ryan Mountain hikes.
While I haven’t hiked all the trails in the park, I can recommend the 49 Palms Oasis, Mastodon Peak and Ryan Mountain hikes. Both of those trails offered fantastic views of the surrounding desert area, as well as providing hikers with up-close interaction with the different plants and animals that call Joshua Tree National Park their home.
Most of these hikes would be in the moderate to strenuous range, and anyone hiking on them needs to be prepared with proper clothing, footwear, equipment and of course plenty of water.
For those who are short on time, or that don’t want to tackle a long hike, Joshua Tree National Park also offers many nature trails that will introduce you to the beauty of the two distinct desert areas that makeup the park. These two ecosystems are the higher Colorado Desert which is located in the eastern section of the park and is below 3,000 feet in elevation, and the higher, wetter and somewhat cooler Mojave Desert. Each of these two areas has different types of plants and animals for you to view, and the Mojave Desert is home to the Joshua tree which gives the park its name.
The vast Joshua Tree National park also offers fantastic camping, mountain biking, birding, wildflower viewing, stargazing and many other outdoor activities. For more information on the different activities the park offers, and to view a nice printable map of the area be sure check out their website before your visit.
If you just want to take a drive through some beautiful desert landscape you can just enter from the west or south entrances and explore the park at your leisure. Keep in mind the north entrance from Twentynine Palms does not provide a way to enter the main section of the park by car.
When we decide to just take a drive through the park we usually enter from the south of the park near Cottonwood Springs and take the main road all the way to the west entrance in Joshua Tree.
A nice side trip while driving through the park is to visit Keys View, which provides you with panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, the San Andreas Fault, and on very rare clear days you might be able to see Signal Mountain in Mexico. However because of deteriorating air quality the past ten years or so it is rare to be able to view Signal Mountain, and even the Salton Sea on some days.
From the vista point at Keys View you can also view San Jacinto Peak that is to the west of Palm Springs, and the peak of San Gorgonio Mountain.
To get to Keys View just follow Park Boulevard to Keys View Road and drive south to the vista point area.
Keep in mind when visiting Joshua Tree National park that it is an unpopulated desert area, and you should always have plenty of food and water with you at all times in case of car trouble, or if someone in your party is injured. While cell phone reception can be spotty in the park, you should always have your phone when visiting, and make sure to have a car charger for your phone as well.
Whenever you walk or hike in the area it is also wise to follow these hiking safety tips.
Directions to Joshua Tree National Park: Joshua Tree National Park lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles, and there are three park entrances. You can enter the park from the west via Interstate 10 and Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway) by going to the city of Joshua tree and turning onto Park Boulevard in the city of Joshua Tree and following that road about five miles. The north entrance to the park is located in Twentynine Palms and can be accessed three miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Utah Trail (please remember this entrance does not provide a way to enter the main section of the park by car). The south entrance at Cottonwood Springs, which lies 25 miles east of Indio, can be approached from the east or west by the Cottonwood Springs Road turnoff from Interstate 10.