10 Epic Things to do in Joshua Tree with Kids in 2024

Pinto Basin Road Joshua tree national park

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Joshua Tree with kids, you’ve come to the right place!

In this blog post, I’ll share some of the best family friendly activities in Joshua Tree, from easy hikes and stargazing to wildlife spotting and cool things to do with your little ones. 

So, here’s everything you need to know about visiting Joshua Tree with kids and having an unforgettable family adventure!

Cholla Cactus garden in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, located in Southern California, as part of the Colorado desert and Mojave desert, is a unique natural destination with fun things to do for parents and kids of all ages

Filled with unique rock formations, diverse wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes, there’s no shortage of things to do in Joshua Tree for kids. 

If you want to explore all that this amazing destination has to offer with your children and your furry best friend, Emily, a travel and dog lover, who runs Pets Around The World, will show you some of her favorite things to do in Joshua Tree National Park with your family!

Family with kids enjoying the vista near Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park

I recently visited Joshua Tree National Park with kids for a multi-generational family trip. 

There were so many great things to do in Joshua Tree that everyone from the grandparents in their late 60’s all the way down to the 6 month old baby had a fabulous time. 

We also brought our two terrier dogs with us. There are limits on what dogs can do in the park, so if you are planning on including your fur family, you will want to take a look at this suggested one-day itinerary to enjoy Joshua Tree with dogs

Our friend joined us with her three-year-old. What she loved most during our trip to Joshua Tree was watching her daughter realize what she was capable of

child on boulder at discovery trail in Joshua Tree

The unique landscape had her daughter trying new things, climbing, jumping and learning to balance her weight.

When the preschooler was successful, she felt so proud of the rock she just climbed, and the rest of the family cheered her on. 

There is no shortage of epic adventures for families visiting this extraordinary park

Joshua Tree with Kids: Things To Do and Children Activities

Joshua Tree National Park has so many incredible vistas, hikes, rock formations and other scenery that will literally make your jaw drop. 

This list provides 10 amazing things to do with your kids. Pick the ones that work the best for your family and the age and interest of your kids. 

1. Become a Joshua Tree Junior Ranger

The Junior Ranger Program at Joshua Tree National Park is an engaging and interactive experience designed to ignite your child’s curiosity and love for the great outdoors. 

These activity booklets are usually available at the park’s visitor centers, such as the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. 

Rangers with a family with kids at the Joshua Tree NP Visitor Center

Simply ask a park ranger or staff member at one of these locations for a Junior Ranger booklet. 

After completing the Joshua Tree activities, return the booklet to a visitor center, where a park ranger will review it, administer the Junior Ranger pledge, and present your child with a Junior Ranger badge or certificate.

2. Hike a trail 4 Kids By Kids – Discovery Trail

The park ranger told me this is the best Joshua Tree kid friendly hike, so we took his advice and loved it. 

Elementary students from a nearby school collaborated with park rangers to design the .68 mile Discovery Trail. 

The student suggestions make the trail very hands-on and interactive. The following year, highschool students worked with park rangers to actually build the trail. 

Discovery Trail is one of the best Joshua Tree trails for kids. It’s a really fun way to explore the desert landscape as long as you aren’t trying to bring a stroller, but for everyone who is sturdy on their feet, this will be a highlight of your trip. 

Sign for Discover Trails 4kids by kids at the Joshua Tree National Park

The boulders have more gradual slopes making it easier for the little ones to clamber on even if they haven’t perfected their balance skills yet. 

There are also bigger boulders if your kids are older and want more of a challenge.  The trail is full of nooks, crannies and caves to explore.

The best views from Skull Rock can actually be found on this trail if you turn around when you get to the top of the first hill.

3. Clamber through some rock caves 

There are many Joshua Tree hikes with kids that your family would enjoy. 

Barker Dam is one of the best Joshua Tree hikes to try. The trail is a little over a mile. 

It would work best for kids who are able to walk the entire length of the journey themselves. 

Don’t let the distance fool you into thinking you can finish the trail in 15 to 30 minutes. There’s so much to do and explore that you can easily take you an hour or maybe even three if your kids are having a great time.

Child climbing on Barker Dam Trail one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree with kids

There are various rocks to scramble most of the way along the trail. Some rocks and boulders create cool caves to explore

There’s some great views of Joshua Tree from the dam. The dam might have water in the spring, but since the area is mostly a desert, it doesn’t rain much. 

Don’t be surprised if the water is low. That’s okay, the point of going is not only about seeing the water. There’s so many other exciting opportunities along the way. 

4. Face off with Skull Rock 

Skull Rock nature trail has an amazing rock formation that anyone of any age can pull over and appreciate. 

For groups that include people who are not able to climb such as babies or grandparents, they can still really enjoy this natural wonder.

This area doesn’t have much of a trail except just a little walking path that goes parallel to the road. 

View of Skull Rock at the Joshua Tree National Park

Aside from the incredible views, this area is perfect for older kids especially ones approaching or in their teen years. 

The formations are large and steep making a fantastic natural playground

Even though it’s a challenge, kids won’t need specialized climbing skills to enjoy it. The area was filled with rock scramblers having a blast. 

5. Eat a picnic lunch together

There are a number of picnic areas available to stop and eat lunch together as a family.  

As a reminder, there are no services, restaurants, convenience stores etc. in the park. You need to bring food and cold water for the entire day with you before leaving town.  

Cap rock picnic area at Joshua Tree national park

Take advantage of the circumstances to eat a picnic lunch together in the shadow of one of the stunning rock formations. There are many options available, but Hidden Valley and Cap Rock are two good choices

6. Take fabulous Joshua Tree family photos

You could take an incredible family photo in 100 different spots at Joshua Tree National Park. 

One of the most photographed spots at Joshua Tree National Park is the iconic Arch Rock. This natural granite arch provides a stunning backdrop for photographs and is one of the favorite places among visitors. 

Beautiful Arch Rock at Joshua National Park one of the fun things to do in Joshua Tree with kids

Arch Rock trail is one of the easier hikes in Joshua Tree National Park since you walk along a short 0.5-mile round trip trail. 

The picturesque formation, surrounded by unique giant boulders and Joshua trees, creates a captivating scene that perfectly captures the beauty and essence of the park. 

7. Avoid getting poked by a cactus

Cholla Cactus Garden is one of those places where you feel like you might have left planet earth and gone to visit some other world.  

This short easy walking trail loops around a dense natural garden of cholla cacti, also known as teddy bear cholla, which are fascinating to observe up close. 

Kids will be captivated by the cacti’s fuzzy appearance and intricate patterns, making the garden feel like a magical desert wonderland.

parent and child walking in Cholla Cactus Garden

Note: These cacti can easily poke children if they get too close or if they are running around without paying attention. 

Many children from babies to teens enjoyed these incredible plants during our visit without getting hurt. It would be a good idea to consider the personality and age of your children before deciding if it is a good choice for you. 

8. Get rock climbing lessons

Rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park is an incredibly popular activity, drawing climbers from around the world to experience the park’s unique granite formations.

There are thousands of climbing routes and bouldering opportunities. Joshua Tree has something for everyone, from beginners to seasoned climbers.

Unless climbing is something your family participates in on a regular basis, it will be a good idea to hire a guide to take some lessons

⭐ If you want to learn climbing, this 4-hour beginner-friendly rock climbing tour, complete with first-hand guidance, support, and all necessary equipment is perfect for you. With a small group size, you’ll have a personalized experience as you discover the park’s natural wonders.

child climbing rock at Joshua Tree National Park

Several local guiding companies offer climbing courses and guided trips in the park. 

These professional guides can help you develop your techniques, learn about safety practices, and introduce you to some of the best climbing spots in Joshua Tree.

I asked for recommendations from the folks at Nomad Ventures, a Climbing Store in Joshua Tree. They provided three recommendations:

9. Hang out with some Joshua Tree park rangers

The park offers a variety of ranger-led programs designed for people of all ages and interests

Join a guided walk, campfire talk, or hiking tour to learn more about Joshua Tree’s rich history, geology, and ecology. 

child and parents on Joshua Tree's discovery trail, one of the. best activities for kids

There are a variety of daily offerings created especially for kids. Parents can look at the Ranger Program schedule to see what all the members of the family will enjoy. 

10. Experience the magic of the night sky

Far from city lights, the Milky Way appears in stunning detail that you really can’t imagine if you live in an urban/suburban home. The whole family will love stargazing in Joshua Tree

The park’s vast, open expanses of desert provide an unparalleled opportunity to gaze at the stars, planets, and constellations that fill the night sky.

This is an opportunity that all kids should get to experience. However the age of your kids and their sleep habits might determine the best way to go for your family.

Milky Way over Joshua Tree national park

Cottonwood, Pinto Basin road or Keys View areas are known for their exceptionally dark skies, so if you have older kids or ones who can stay up late, the most amazing experience will be to head back into the National Park, bring blankets and something warm to drink, and you will have a blast.

While the town of Joshua Tree does have some light pollution, it is still significantly less than in a city. 

So, if you have small kids or people are tired from the long day of already being in the park, you can still enjoy the inky night sky from the comfort of your vacation rental. 

These things to do in Joshua Tree with your kids are epic, but as long as you pay attention to your own kids interest and skill level, you literally can’t go wrong in such an amazing place. 

Best time to go to Joshua Tree with kids

Choosing the best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park will make a huge difference in how much fun your family has on your trip. 

While the park is open year-round, the most popular and pleasant time to visit is during the cooler months, from October to April. 

During winter in Joshua Tree, daytime temperatures range from the 60s to the low 80s (Fahrenheit), providing comfortable conditions for hiking, climbing, and other outdoor activities. 

parent and child on discovery trail overlooking the rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park

Springtime, in particular, is an excellent time to capture the desert in bloom, with vibrant wildflowers adding a burst of color to the wild landscape. 

Summer months, from May to September, can be extremely hot, with daytime temperatures often exceeding 100°F, making outdoor activities more challenging and potentially dangerous, especially for young children and pets. 

If you choose to visit during the summer, plan your activities for the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the peak heat. 

How to get around Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is situated between the town of Joshua Tree, the  town of Twentynine Palms and Cottonwood.  

The best way to get around the park and the nearby towns is to drive yourself. There is no park shuttle available and public transportation options will be limited.  

family walking in Cholla cactus garden at Joshua Tree National Park

Some select dirt roads require 4-wheel drives, but most of the park has well-maintained roads that any vehicle can travel on. 

A family could easily spend their entire trip just at Joshua Tree

However, many people really enjoy combining the nature of Joshua Tree with the exciting mod vibes of nearby Palm Springs

Travel tips for the best Joshua Tree family vacation

When planning your family trip to Joshua Tree National Park, it’s important to keep a few essential tips in mind to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and memorable experience for everyone. 

  • There are no services or stores inside the park, so you will need to bring everything with you, even a first aid kit. 
  • Always carry lots of water with you in the car. There is not really anywhere to fill up or get more. Bring a big jug and fill up reusable water bottles. 
  • Flushing toilets are available by the park entrance. After that, well maintained outhouses can be found at the campgrounds, picnic areas with picnic tables and a few of the other main points of interest. 
  • Pay for your Joshua Tree entry fee at the visitor center in town if you want to save time. It is $30 per vehicle unless you have a pass or a 4th grader who can get the entire car in for free.
  • Dress in layers to accommodate fluctuating temperatures, and don’t forget hats and sunscreen to protect against the desert sun.
  • Plan your activities according to your children’s ages and interests, and be mindful of their energy levels when choosing hikes or other excursions. 
  • There is little to no cell service in the park. That makes it difficult for caravans to coordinate. However, it is also an advantage for parents who are always trying to get their teens to put their phones away. 
  • Practices Leave No Trace principles, leaving the park just as you found it for future generations to enjoy. 

Best Places to Stay in Joshua Tree with kids 

When deciding where to stay in Joshua Tree National Park on a family trip , you will want to consider your family’s priorities within the context of the environment. 

child climbing under a rock cave and having fun in Joshua Tree NP

The climate here can be quite harsh. In the summer it is scorching hot. During the winter months, the wind can make those 60 degrees fahrenheit quite chilly.  

The park is also made up of red desert sand which will get all over your clothes and skin if you experience the park to its fullest.

Camping in Joshua Tree with kids

Does your family want to remain in the natural environment and continue to experience the desert elements?  

Baby in a stroller looking at the rock formations on Barker Dam Trail

If so, you might enjoy staying in one of the many campgrounds that dot the National Park. These spots are popular and go quickly, so snagging a great spot will require some advanced planning. 

Variety of vacation rentals

Joshua Tree has a limited number of hotels, and they aren’t really your best bet anyway.  Instead, your family will probably enjoy one of the many types of vacation rentals that are offered.  

There are tons of options for glamping and staying in an RV on a local Joshua Tree property.

There are also numerous vacation rentals that run the gamut from the common 1960’s 2 bed 1 bath houses all the way up to adobe mansions that will fit all your extended family for one big national park reunion. 

Final Thoughts on visiting Joshua Tree National Park with Kids 

Joshua Tree National Park is a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences for families with kids. 

From exploring the enchanting Cholla Cactus Garden to climbing the impressive boulders at Barker Dam, your little adventurers will be captivated by the park’s unique beauty and charm

2 kids at Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park

As you gaze at the stars together or embark on the activities in the Junior Rangers Program, you might watch your kids in awe at how strong and brave and engaged they are with their environment.

Pack your sense of adventure and set off for an epic journey into the heart of the desert. 

Embrace the magic of Joshua Tree and watch as it captivates and inspires the imagination of your entire family, leaving you all with a profound appreciation for nature’s wonders.

Photos credit: Chris Prudhomme

FAQS Joshua Tree with Kids

  1. Is Joshua Tree good with kids?

    Yes, Joshua Tree National Park offers a variety of family-friendly activities and adventures for kids of all ages to enjoy! 

  2. What are some fun facts about Joshua Tree for kids?

    Here are some fun facts about Joshua Tree for kids: Joshua trees aren't trees, but yucca plants. The park has 250+ bird species, stargazing, bighorn sheep, and rattlesnakes!

  3. Is Joshua Tree stroller friendly?

    Some of the easier trails and locations in Joshua Tree, such as the Hidden Valley Trail and the Barker Dam Trail, are stroller accessible. However, many other areas, particularly those with rocky terrain or steep inclines, are not suitable for strollers.

  4. Are Joshua Tree hikes hard for kids? 

    Not all the Joshua Tree hikes are hard for kids. Some of the easier hikes in Joshua Tree include the Barker Dam Trail, which is a flat, 1.3-mile loop that is suitable for all ages, and the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, which is a 1-mile loop with relatively flat terrain. 

  5. What are the best Joshua Tree kid friendly hikes?

    Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, Skull Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, and Wall Street Mill are some of the best kid-friendly hikes in Joshua Tree.

  6. What are the best things to do in Joshua Tree with toddlers?

    Easy hikes like Barker Dam and Hidden Valley, exploring rocks, and stargazing are some of the best things to do in Joshua Tree with toddlers.

  7. Can you travel to Joshua Tree with baby?

    Yes, you can travel to Joshua Tree with a baby, but it requires careful planning. Bring all necessary baby gear, wear a baby carrier and choose stroller-friendly activities. 

  8. Is Joshua Tree safe for kids?

    Joshua Tree is safe for kids with proper precautions. Watch for hazards like cacti and wildlife, and stay hydrated in the desert climate.

  9. Can you take kids to Joshua Tree?

    Yes, you can take kids to Joshua Tree! It's important to research family-friendly activities and plan accordingly for the desert climate. 

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10 Epic Things to do in Joshua Tree with Kids | In this blog post, I'll share some of the best family friendly activities in Joshua Tree, from easy hikes and stargazing to wildlife spotting and cool things to do with your little ones.

Sara Rodríguez

A passionate traveler with a mission: Help you plan your next trip easily and enjoy it to the fullest.

In this travel blog you will find everything you need to get inspired and organize your next adventure. Read more about my story here.

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