Located just two hours from LA, Joshua Tree National Park is every nature lover’s dream getaway. From the iconic Joshua Trees, to the rock formations reminiscent of The Flinstones, and all the desert flora and fauna in between, there is no shortage of beautiful sights to behold. In Joshua Tree, you will find world class hiking, rock climbing, and camping. This guide will help you find when to visit, where to stay, what to do, and spots to see during a long weekend trip to Joshua Tree National Park!
When To Visit Joshua Tree National Park
The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is spring from March to May and fall from October to November. During spring and fall, average temperatures hover around 85 degrees. Winter temperatures average at 60 degrees during the day and can drop to 30 degrees at night. Alternatively, summer temperatures can soar above 100 degrees. We visited in December and found the nights to be chilly but the daytime to be very comfortable, additionally the crowds were not terrible.
Where To Stay in Joshua Tree National Park
There are several options when deciding where to stay near Joshua Tree. On the north and south side of the park there is ample Bureau of Land Management camping. The north side of the park has a large field for dispersed camping while the south side has several roads with individual spots branching off. We preferred the south side however it is not as close to the majority of the attractions in the park. Both the north and south BLM areas have Verizon service which is an added advantage over campgrounds within the park. With BLM Land there are no trash services or restrooms. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. Read our post for how we find free and dispersed campsites on our travels.
There are several campsites within the park to choose from as well. Unfortunately during our visit campgrounds were closed due to COVID. This is one park we may have opted to pay for a site, there are several campgrounds with cool rock formations around and the star gazing within the park is incredible. Camp spots range from $15-$25, some are reservation only while others are walk up. Check out the National Park website for more details and current conditions.
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There are several incredible options for AirBnBs in the surrounding area as well if you are looking for more privacy or amenities. Use our code for $50 off your first stay. Check out the following unique stays! Yurt AirBnB, Space Ship AirBnB, 2 Bedroom Cottage AirBnB all near Joshua Tree.
Can I Bring My Dog To Joshua Tree National Park?
Due to the nature of the desert, there are not many places where dogs are allowed to hike in Joshua Tree. The one exception is the Oasis of Mara Trail at the TwentyNine Palms visitor center, this is a short walk that is paved and follows along an oasis. Your dog is allowed on leash in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads. A great place for a longer walk that feels more remote is Desert Queen Mine Road and Queen Valley Road, these are both dirt roads that follow through Joshua Tree forest and rock formations. Never leave your dog alone in a vehicle when temperatures are warm outside, this is especially true in the summer in Joshua Tree when temperatures can soar to 100 degrees.
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What To Do In Joshua Tree National Park
Drive Through the Park
One of the great things about Joshua Tree National Park is that there is a ton to see just off the side of the road. Just a simple drive through the park will allow you to see spectacular rock formations and tons of Joshua Trees. It is a 60 mile drive from the north entrance to the south entrance. If you have a capable vehicle, there are several 4×4 trails to drive down. Below are easily accessible sites that can be seen just off the main road in Joshua Tree.
Cholla Cactus Garden
This spot is one of the most unique we have seen. Located on the border of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, there is a unique habitat that allows Cholla Cactus to thrive. This spot is absolutely beautiful at golden hour and sunset. Be careful and do not get too close to the Cholla Cactus as you can get pricked pretty badly by the loosely attached joints of the cactus!
Another beautiful spot located on the border of the Mojave and Colorado desert is the Ocotillo Patch. Ocotillo are cacti that can grow to over 15 feet tall! These funky looking plants are most beautiful in the springtime when they produce brilliant red-orange flowers.
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This is probably one of the most popular rock formations in the park and is located in the Jumbo Rocks area. It is right off the side of the road and is an easy stop for a photo opportunity. Water and wind erosion have led to a formation that truly does resemble a skull! A little bouldering will allow you to perch yourself right in one of the eye sockets!
This short side trip off the main road is well worth it! The end of the road offers stunning views of The San Andreas Fault, Mt. San Jacincto, Mt. San Georgino, and the Salton Sea.
Located on the south side of the park, Cottonwood Oasis is a spot in the desert that has a reliable water source. Oasis’s are formed from groundwater seeping up through fault lines. This Oasis is home to palm trees, cottonwood trees, and many birds. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can continue on for the 7.2 mile roundtrip hike to Lost Palms Oasis.
If you’re looking for more adventure, there are several great options for hikes in Joshua Tree ranging from short and easy to longer and strenuous. Visit the National Park website for a complete list of hikes in the park.
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This short 1.0 mile hike was one of our favorites! It leads to a hidden valley as it’s name suggests that was once used by cattle rustlers. It is a popular area for rock climbers and includes the iconic Great Burrito rock formation. You will want to get there early or be patient for a parking spot as this trail is popular.
Fortynine Palms Oasis
This hike was such a huge surprise. It is located off the TwentyNine Palms Highway on the north side of the park. The hike does not require an entrance fee as it is located outside of the park entrance. It is a 3.2 mile hike out and back with 300 feet of elevation gain each way. We recommend doing this hike in the morning or late afternoon as it is exposed the entire way. You will be rewarded with a secluded palm tree oasis in the middle of the desert! The Oasis is a result of groundwater flowing through fault lines and being pushed up forming a reliable water source in the middle of the desert, pretty neat!
Ryan Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the park and offers amazing views of the Joshua Tree Valley. It is a tough hike with 1,050 feet of elevation gain over 3.0 miles roundtrip. We were unable to do this hike due to timing but have heard great things and will make sure it’s on the itinerary for our next trip!
If you are an avid rock climber or boulderer, Joshua Tree National Park is heaven. Check out the National Park website for more information on rules and regulations, closures, and more.
As you can see, Joshua Tree National Park is packed full of activities for everyone. Whether you like side of the road attractions, more challenging hikes, rock climbing, or camping, you are sure to find an adventure that suits you! We found 4 days to be the perfect amount of time to hit the highlights, though you could easily spend more or less time. For more information and up to date conditions, check out the National Park Website. Have you been to Joshua Tree National Park? What was your favorite spot? Be sure to subscribe to our email list so you never miss a most. Now get out there and Create Your Own Roadshow!