If you absolutely love hiking, and think it’s an awesome idea to spend your nights huddled around a fire pit outside an RV, and your days climbing massive rocks – then Joshua Tree National Park is the right place for you! This park is an endless adventure of hiking trails, neat rock formations, and a unique desert experience. At just a 2-hour drive, straight east of L.A, you’ll find yourself in California’s vast desert life.
Before you enter the park, you can take a spin through a very depressed looking town of Joshua Tree. You’ll notice a lot of RV’s, a few general stores, and a lot of hitchhikers. Don’t be misguided by the less than energetic town, the real fun starts when you enter the park!
At over 1,200 square miles, the park was mapped out very smartly. You could spend a few hours there, a few days, or even a few weeks if you’ve got the time to allow it. For those with less time, the park is 100% drivable. There are paved roads for cars that run throughout the park – and you can either pull to the side of the road at any time to get out and walk around or stop at the designated areas (with parking lots) to explore the arrowed paths.
While there are definitely park rangers out and about, you don’t stumble upon them too often. The park gives you free rein to climb whatever is in reachable distance and if you have your own gear for the more official form of rock climbing (e.g. – rope, belay, harness), well then you can pretty much set up shop wherever you please. For the climbing and bouldering expert, you’ll have your pick of over 400 climbing formations and 8,000 different climbing routes.
If you’re planning on spending the night (or many nights) in the park – you’ll be at no loss of finding campgrounds to kick back in after a long day of calorie burning. There are nine different locations where you can spend the night all ranging at a very affordable $10 – $15 a night. But be sure to check out the website as each campground has different rules and some are more equipped for the luxurious camper with features such as flush toilets. Warning: There is a lot of wildlife in the park, especially coyotes, so keep your eyes open as they know more about the park than you do.
Other than coyotes and large rock formations, another thing you will stumble upon is the very cool desert plant life. Unlike the beautiful flower gardens in tropical places, here you will find plenty of prickly plants such as cacti, and other interesting ones:
Obviously, be careful where you step, or you may have a tiny cactus on your sneaker too.
Best Time to Go
The neat thing about Joshua Tree’s location Is that it could be snowing less than an hour drive away up in the mountains, but in the desert, you’ll be enjoying temperatures in the 60s even in the coldest months. At night it will drop down significantly though so if you’re spending the night, prepare for both types of weather. The best time to visit is late March to mid-April. The weather is ideal with a warm 70s during the day, and you’ll get to see the wildflowers in bloom.
And as an absolute worst time to go – try and avoid the summer, at all costs. Just don’t do it. The temperatures frequently go above 100 degrees and the air is very dry. If you DO brave the summer temperatures, bring a lot of water (and then pack more), and make sure your cars air conditioning is solid.
The park is beautiful, and a hiker’s dream. You can take advantage of the thousands of rock climbing routes, probably spot a coyote, and have some incredible photos when you’re done. This trip most definitely will not be costing you an arm and a leg – and if overnights in the desert are not your scene, you can spend your night in Palm Springs, CA which is a short 30-minute drive away.
For just $15, you will get a 7-day pass to the park. If you have a lightweight tent and are camping overnight in the park, you can pay $10 at some campgrounds, or splurge for $15 at others. Since you’ll need to bring your own food, the vacation will not cost you much at all.
- This is the desert, so bring a lot of water
- The plant life here can seriously hurt you so try not to wander off the beaten path too much
- To be safe, it would be smart to pack a first aid kit as there is plenty of opportunity for danger
- If you want to play it really safe, purchase a trip insurance plan before you leave so you’re covered against any medical or other trip interferences
Joshua Tree Official Website: http://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm
Elana is an avid traveler and obsessed with itinerary planning. One of her favorite hobbies is researching locations before she visits so she already knows the tourist attractions, culture expectations, and cuisines.
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