If you’re looking for the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, you’ve come to the right place!
Joshua Tree National Park is a stunning desert landscape full of unique geological formations, incredible wildlife, and breathtaking views. With so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start when planning a visit.
Located in Southern California just two hours from Palm Springs and three hours from Los Angeles, this Mojave Desert park offers an incredible array of activities for all types of visitors.
As someone who has visited the park many times over the years, I can say that there are some experiences you simply cannot miss out on during your time at Joshua Tree National Park.
If you want to explore all that this amazing destination has to offer, Laura, a travel enthusiast who lives in California, spends a lot of her time enjoying California’s National Parks and runs the travel site Go Travel California, will show you some of her favorite things to do in Joshua Tree National Park!
From exploring its incredible rock formations and taking in spectacular sunsets to learning about the area’s fascinating history and spotting local flora and fauna, here’s everything you can’t miss in the park!
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- Joshua Tree National Park Travel Guide
- Interesting Facts about Joshua Tree National Park
- Best time to go to Joshua Tree
- How to Get Around Joshua Tree
- Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
- Joshua Tree Travel Tips
- 12 Best Things to Do in Joshua Tree
- 1. Hidden Valley Nature Trail
- 2. Keys View
- 3. Cholla Cactus Garden, one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree
- 4. Skull Rock
- 5. Arch Rock Nature Trail
- 6. Cottonwood Spring
- 7. Barker Dam
- 8. Ryan Mountain Trail
- 9. Lost Horse Mine
- 10. Turkey Flats
- 11. Climbing and bouldering, one of the coolest things to do in Joshua Tree
- 12. Stargazing in Joshua Tree
- Final thoughts on the top things to do in Joshua Tree National Park
- FAQ about Joshua Tree National Park
- Where is the Joshua Tree located?
- What is so special about Joshua Tree?
- What should you not miss at Joshua Tree?
- Is there anything to do in Joshua Tree?
- What is the best hike in Joshua Tree?
- What is the best time of year to go to Joshua Tree?
- What is the best month to visit Joshua Tree?
- When should you not go to Joshua Tree?
- What is the coldest month in Joshua Tree?
- Is December a good time to visit Joshua Tree National Park?
- How many days do you need in Joshua Tree?
- Can you do Joshua Tree in a day?
- How do you spend 3 days in Joshua Tree?
- Is it worth driving through Joshua Tree?
- Can you offroad in Joshua Tree?
- Can you do Joshua Tree without a car?
- Can you just drive through Joshua Tree?
- Which is the best entrance to Joshua Tree National Park?
- What time should I enter Joshua Tree?
- What should I wear in Joshua Tree?
- What should you not miss in Joshua Tree?
- Is Joshua Tree worth visiting?
- Which part of Joshua Tree is best?
- Is it safe to go to Joshua Tree right now?
- Is Joshua Tree safe at night?
- What is so special about Joshua tree?
- What is the Joshua Tree and what does it symbolize?
- How much does it cost to camp at Joshua Tree?
- Can you stay overnight at Joshua Tree National Park?
- Does Joshua Tree have cabins?
- Who owns the invisible house in Joshua Tree?
- Are there hot springs in Joshua Tree?
Joshua Tree National Park Travel Guide
If you haven’t visited Joshua Tree National Park yet, you’re in for a real treat.
Located in Southern California, this treasured national park is a haven for nature lovers, adventurers, and photographers thanks to its signature twisted Joshua trees, incredible rock formations, and varied desert wildlife.
As with many of the national parks in the United States, Joshua Tree has an otherworldly landscape that is dotted with twisted craggy trees and geologically interesting rocks.
But it has a lot more going for it than just that! It’s a picturesque destination for hiking, rock climbing and bouldering, camping, and bird watching.
If you love to hike, here are the best hiking trails in Joshua Tree to make the most of the national park.
There is no shortage of things to do in Joshua Tree, California, which you’ll soon see as you peruse our list of activities below.
With over 1,200 square miles of desert wilderness to explore, it can be difficult to choose which activities to prioritize during your trip. To help you plan your visit, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park.
Interesting Facts about Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is located in California’s Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Since two unique desert ecosystems converge here, a lot of other unique things have formed, which is one of the biggest appeals of this park for visitors.
You’ll see really cool things here, like the Cholla cactus, the Joshua Trees, the sculpted rocks, and a lot of interesting birds.
Whether this is your first-time visiting the park or you’ve been a few times already, this guide will provide you with the must-do experiences that will help you truly capture the essence of the park.
You’ll want to spend at least a few days there in order to see and do it all, especially since a lot of the activities involve hikes in varying lengths from one to eight miles.
Best time to go to Joshua Tree
The best time to visit Joshua Tree is when it’s not scorching hot outside.
As you can imagine, hiking in Joshua Tee and even driving around in the desert in the heat of summer is not very pleasant.
Joshua Tree is one of the best National Parks to visit in Spring.
You can save yourself some heat stroke by going at a more opportune time, like in early Spring or any of the milder months from September to June. During this time, temperatures peak in the 80s during the day and only down to 60s at night.
You can also visit Joshua Tree in winter as it’ i’s the perfect time to experience this nature’s gift in mild to cold weather.
How to Get Around Joshua Tree
Needless to say, you’re going to need a car to get around in Joshua Tree, but you also need one to get there, so you’ll either arrive in your own car or rent one from one of the major airports you fly into to reach the park.
- From Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is approximately a two hour and forty-minute drive.
- From San Diego, it’s about three hours.
- From Las Vegas, the park is a four-hour drive.
- From Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park, it’s about 1 hour driving.
All of these cities have major airports and car rental facilities.
Once you’ve reached the park, the best way to explore is to do a little driving.
Many of the trails and walks can be accessed from pull-outs or parking lots along the road and there is signage everywhere with maps so you know where you’re going.
PRO TIP: Before embarking on a hike, take a picture of the hiking trail map so you have a backup plan if you lose your way back.
If you want to get into the more remote areas of the park, you’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle. Most visitors avoid those areas.
For a more up-close encounter, you can rent a bike or take your own to explore.
Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
There are several lodging options near Joshua Tree National Park, including camping, hotels, and glamping. Here you have the best places to stay in Joshua Tree: Hotels, Glamping, and Camping for the ultimate experience near the park.
In my opinion, you should go all in on the outdoor experience and do some camping in one of the designated campsites within the park itself.
Some of them include:
- Ryan Campground,
- Black Rock Campground, and
- Cottonwood Campground.
If you’re looking for something a bit more comfortable and private, there are 5 main places to stay close to the park:
- Joshua Tree City,
- 29 Palms,
- Yucca Valley,
- Palm Springs, and
- Palm Desert.
Joshua Tree is well known for its glamping options. If you’re willing to give it a shot, you can try places like JTHAVN, an airstream park where each airstream has its own patio and swing bed, or stay in one of the unique rooms with views at Sacred Sands.
Joshua Tree Travel Tips
- Bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you when touring the park – days can get quite hot in Joshua Tree!
- Dress for comfort and wear sturdy shoes that are suitable for hiking over rough terrain. This will help you make the most out of your time in the park.
- Pack a picnic lunch or snacks to enjoy during your visit; there are few restaurants in the area, so it’s best to come prepared.
- Be aware of the wildlife in the area – Joshua Tree National Park is home to many species of birds, animals, and reptiles, so use caution when exploring! Finding a wild rabbit is one of the coolest things to see in Joshua Tree!
12 Best Things to Do in Joshua Tree
1. Hidden Valley Nature Trail
This easy hike one-mile loop trail goes through a stunning enclosed valley surrounded by massive boulders. Hidden Valley was once believed to be a hideout for cattle rustlers, which is pretty believable when you see it.
This is a great trail to start with because it’s easy and because it gives a great introduction to the unique flora and fauna of Joshua Tree National Park.
Children and older folks will have no problem on this trail. It’s relatively flat, and it’s one of the fun things to do in Joshua Tree with kids .
2. Keys View
Keys View is a popular lookout point with some of the most breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, and, on a clear day, even Mexico’s Signal Mountain.
It’s an awesome spot where you can see the famous San Andreas Fault, which happens to be on the south side of the park. Trust me, it’s quite a sight to see!
The view point is off the main park road.
From the entrance, you take Highway 62 West for 24 miles to Keys View Road. Turn right and the parking area for Keys View is about 5 miles down that road.
3. Cholla Cactus Garden, one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree
The Cholla Cactus, also known as “jumping cholla” or “teddy bear” cactus, is right behind the Joshua Tree in terms of unique plant life to discover in the park.
It’s one of the coolest plants you’ll ever see. And a great place to see them is in the Cholla Cactus Garden, a quarter-mile loop trail with a ton of Cholla cacti.
The Cholla Cactus Garden is in the park’s transition zone between the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Be very careful around these guys. They are spiky and can stick to your clothes and skin really easily. They’re a nuisance to remove.
4. Skull Rock
Skull Rock is one of the most fascinating rock formations in the park and definitely worth seeking out. It resembles a human skull.
The formation was created by centuries of erosion, resulting in hollowed-out “eye sockets.”
There’s a 1.7-mile nature trail that loops around Skull Rock, so you can get an up-close view of it. One of the must places to visit in Joshua Tree!
5. Arch Rock Nature Trail
The Arch Rock Trail is a short 1/2-mile hike that leads up to a really cool granite arch. The best hike is located in the White Tank Campground and it’s a pretty easy one.
Along the way there are places to stop and admire the plant life, spot some birds, or take a rest.
They have interpretive signs that show you what things are, as well. There are some pretty unique things out there, like the sculpted rocks and dikes.
6. Cottonwood Spring
There is quite a bit to see and do at Cottonwood Spring, characterized by its tall puffy trees. This location is where Indians as well as cowboys and other desert travelers camped and rested on their way through the area.
There are many trails like the Cottonwood Springs nature trail (1-mile easy round trip) that takes you right into Cottonwood Campground.
You can also do Moorten’s Mill walk (1-hour round trip), Mastodon Mine and Peak (2.4-mile loop trail) and Low Palms Oasis (7.6 miles round trip).
7. Barker Dam
Barker Dam, also known as Big Horn Dam, is a historic reservoir that was built by early cattle ranchers in the area.
There’s a 1.3-mile loop trail to the dam. During the rainy season, the dam creates a small water feature where birds and other animals like to hang out.
As with the other trails in the park, you can expect to see a lot of Joshua trees, creosote bush, and piñon pines, as well as more of those big granite rock formations.
8. Ryan Mountain Trail
If you’re wondering what to do in Joshua Tree National Park for adventure loves, go for the Ryan Mountain Trail.
For a more challenging hike, it is a 3-mile round trip trek that goes up to the summit of Ryan Mountain.
With an elevation of 5,457 feet, the summit has some pretty stunning views, and this is where you’ll get a 360-degree view of the whole park.
The trail is a bit difficult, but if you can do it, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in the park. It’s worth the effort! Ans it’s one of the unique things to do in Joshua Tree.
9. Lost Horse Mine
There are lots of things to do in Joshua Tree besides hike. The Lost Horse Mine is a well-preserved historic gold and silver mine that operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A 4-mile round trip hike will get you to the mine, where you can learn a bit about the park’s mining history.
The trail actually retraces the old mining road that was used to mine for gold in the area. The name came from the man who discovered the mine, Johnny Lang, who found it when he went looking for his lost horse. The mine closed in 1936.
You can also do the Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, which is 6.2-miles. The Big Trees Loop Trail is also nearby, if you’re up for it.
10. Turkey Flats
Turkey Flats is a basin at the foot of Pinto Mountain where thousands of years of run-off from the mountain has formed alluvial fans across the landscape. It’s not actually “flat”, but the basin spreads out before you in a very interesting pattern.
You can get there from the main park road.
There are a couple of trails that offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. It’s definitely worth a visit.
11. Climbing and bouldering, one of the coolest things to do in Joshua Tree
After reading this whole list, you might be wondering if there are things to do in Joshua Tree besides hiking.
For rock climbers, there’s also a lot of climbing in Joshua Tree to be done, as well as bouldering. There are more than 8,000 established climbing routes and over 2,000 boulder spots to tackle.
👉 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.
For climbing, these are some of the best spots:
- Intersection Rock
- Atlantis Wall
- Quail Springs Rock
One of the best places for bouldering is Hidden Valley.
There are always others out there to help if needed and there are opportunities for beginners and more advanced climbers.
12. Stargazing in Joshua Tree
Since Joshua Tree has many clear nights and very little light pollution, it’s a great spot for stargazing.
The best places in the park to do some stargazing at Keys View, Ryan Mountain and Indian Cove. All of these spots have great views!
Did you know that Joshua Tree National Park is a prime location for stargazing, where the breathtaking Milky Way can be seen on a clear night?
Another great way to do some stargazing without having to hike in the dark is to do some camping or glamping in Joshua Tree.
There are some glamping spots that even offer yurts or tents with open tops or windows in the top of the tent, so you don’t even have to be outside to do it. It’s one of the most romantic things to do in Joshua Tree!
Final thoughts on the top things to do in Joshua Tree National Park
I hope this article has helped you plan your next visit to Joshua Tree National Park.
Whether it’s exploring the park’s incredible rock formations, taking in spectacular sunsets, or learning about its fascinating history and spotting local flora and fauna, there is so much to experience at this beautiful destination.
I have personally had some of my best experiences here over the years and can confidently say that a trip to Joshua Tree will leave you with lasting memories that you won’t soon forget!
So pack up your bags and get ready for an amazing adventure – the wonders of Joshua Tree await!
FAQ about Joshua Tree National Park
Where is the Joshua Tree located?
The Joshua Tree is located in southeastern California, in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts near the Nevada border.
What is so special about Joshua Tree?
Joshua Tree National Park is an awe-inspiring destination with stunning views, diverse wildlife, hidden rock formations, and starry night skies that make it a truly special place to visit.
What should you not miss at Joshua Tree?
At Joshua Tree National Park, don’t miss the epic views, rock climbing, camping and stargazing! There’s also plenty of other things to do and see, including hiking, biking, birdwatching, wildflower viewing, photography and more.
Is there anything to do in Joshua Tree?
Yes, there is plenty to do in Joshua Tree National Park, including rock climbing, camping, stargazing, hiking, biking and more. You can also take part in activities such as birdwatching and wildflower viewing for a unique experience.
What is the best hike in Joshua Tree?
The best hike in Joshua Tree National Park is the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, which offers a stunning combination of rock formations and wildlife.
The 1-mile loop allows hikers to take in views of bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, lizards, and more while exploring its unique landscape. It is also great for stargazing with clear nights providing a beautiful view of the night sky. One of the best things to do in Joshua Tree at night!
What is the best time of year to go to Joshua Tree?
The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is in the spring or fall, as temperatures are usually mild and the crowds are smaller.
What is the best month to visit Joshua Tree?
The best month to visit Joshua Tree National Park is usually April or October, as temperatures are typically milder and crowds are smaller. Additionally, wildflower blooms tend to peak in the spring months (February-March) and the fall months (September-October).
When should you not go to Joshua Tree?
It is best not to visit Joshua Tree National Park during the summer months due to extreme temperatures, which can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the area experiences monsoon storms and flash floods during this time which could put visitors at risk. It is recommended to plan your trip for spring or fall for more comfortable weather and fewer hazards.
What is the coldest month in Joshua Tree?
The coldest month in Joshua Tree National Park is usually December, when temperatures can drop to as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit and even below zero at night. However, visitors should still wear layered clothing and bring warm clothes, even during the winter months.
Is December a good time to visit Joshua Tree National Park?
Yes, December is a good time to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Temperatures are usually mild and it is a great time for stargazing with clear nights providing beautiful views of the night sky. However, visitors should bring layered clothing and some warm clothes as temperatures can drop to 30 degrees Fahrenheit or even lower at night.
How many days do you need in Joshua Tree?
It is recommended to spend at least a few days in Joshua Tree National Park to enjoy all the attractions and activities it has to offer. This allows visitors time to explore its rock formations, wildlife, starry night skies, and more at a leisurely pace.
Can you do Joshua Tree in a day?
Yes, it is possible to explore Joshua Tree National Park in one day. However, the park has so much to offer that it’s recommended to spend at least a few days to truly appreciate all of its features. That way, you can explore everything at a leisurely pace and really take in your surroundings. For example, you could spend one day exploring the rock formations and another day marveling at the night sky. No matter how long you decide to stay, Joshua Tree National Park is sure to provide an unforgettable experience!
How do you spend 3 days in Joshua Tree?
Spend 3 days in Joshua Tree National Park by exploring the epic views, rock climbing, camping, stargazing, hiking, biking and more. Try birdwatching and wildflower viewing for a unique experience. Enjoy memorable evenings with mesmerizing sunsets around campfires and star-filled night skies.
Is it worth driving through Joshua Tree?
Yes, it is worth driving through Joshua Tree National Park as there are many attractions and activities to explore such as rock formations, wildlife, stargazing and more. However, it requires a valid entrance permit and visitors should plan their trip in advance to make the most of their time in the park.
Make sure to explore Pinto Basin Road during your visit to Joshua Tree National Park! Located on the eastern side of the park, this 47km (29.7 miles) road runs from Cottonwood Visitor Center to Pinto Wye, offering scenic drive views along the way.
Can you offroad in Joshua Tree?
Yes, you can offroad in Joshua Tree National Park. However, visitors need to obtain an Off-Highway Vehicle Permit to ride on any of the designated trails. Additionally, all vehicles must be street legal and equipped with safety features like roll bars and seatbelts. It is also recommended that riders stay on established routes only for their own safety.
Can you do Joshua Tree without a car?
Yes, it is possible to explore Joshua Tree National Park without a car. There are various ranger-led programs and activities such as guided hikes, birdwatching, wildflower viewing, a guided tour, stargazing and more that can be done on foot or by bike. You can also take public transportation to get to the park.
Can you just drive through Joshua Tree?
No, you cannot just drive through Joshua Tree National Park. There are various things to do and explore in the park, so it’s recommended to plan your trip in advance and take time to appreciate all that it has to offer. Please note that the park requires a valid entrance permit for all visitors.
Which is the best entrance to Joshua Tree National Park?
The best entrance to Joshua Tree National Park is the West Entrance near Twentynine Palms. It is the closest park entrance to popular attractions like Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley, as well as interesting things to do like rock climbing, stargazing and exploring wildlife.
What time should I enter Joshua Tree?
The best time to enter Joshua Tree National Park is early in the morning when nature is at its most tranquil and beautiful. This way, you can make the most of your day by doing various activities such as rock climbing, camping, stargazing and more.
What should I wear in Joshua Tree?
When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, it is important to wear light and comfortable clothing that can protect you from the sun. Make sure you bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with you. Also bring sturdy shoes suitable for activities like hiking and rock climbing. Layered clothing is also recommended as temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day.
What should you not miss in Joshua Tree?
Don’t miss the stunning views, diverse wildlife, hidden rock formations, and starry night skies that make Joshua Tree National Park a truly magical destination.
Is Joshua Tree worth visiting?
Yes, Joshua Tree National Park is definitely worth visiting for its stunning views, diverse wildlife, hidden rock formations, and starry night skies.
Which part of Joshua Tree is best?
The best part of Joshua Tree National Park is the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, which offers a stunning combination of rock formations and wildlife. The 1-mile loop is great for activities such as exploring, stargazing and rock climbing.
Is it safe to go to Joshua Tree right now?
Yes, it is safe to go to Joshua Tree right now. The park has implemented safety measures and protocols in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines for public spaces.
Is Joshua Tree safe at night?
Yes, Joshua Tree National Park is safe at night if proper safety protocols are followed. The park is well-lit and patrolled regularly to ensure its visitors’ safety. Additionally, it’s recommended that visitors stay on established trails and paths while exploring the park at night. For more information about visiting Joshua Tree at night, please contact the National Park Service or local law enforcement.
What is so special about Joshua tree?
Joshua Tree National Park is special for its stunning views, diverse wildlife, hidden rock formations and starry night skies.
What is the Joshua Tree and what does it symbolize?
The Joshua Tree is a species of yucca tree found in the Mojave Desert and parts of the Colorado Plateau. It has become a symbol of resilience, perseverance, and beauty in difficult conditions.
How much does it cost to camp at Joshua Tree?
Camping at Joshua Tree National Park costs $15-$20 per night.
Can you stay overnight at Joshua Tree National Park?
Yes, visitors can stay overnight at Joshua Tree National Park. There are nine campgrounds available and campsite fees range from $15-$20 per night. It is advised to plan your trip in advance and obtain a valid entrance permit for all visitors.
Does Joshua Tree have cabins?
No, Joshua Tree National Park does not have cabins, but there are nine campgrounds available for those wishing to stay overnight.
Who owns the invisible house in Joshua Tree?
The invisible house in Joshua Tree is owned by a collective called The Shore Hotel.
Are there hot springs in Joshua Tree?
No, there are no hot springs in Joshua Tree National Park. However, there are several nearby hot springs located in the surrounding area. These include Desert Hot Springs, Miracle Springs Resort & Spa, and Two Bunch Palms. Many of these have been developed into resorts with pools and spa treatments.