Last Updated on February 1, 2023
Best Hikes In Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is a hiker’s paradise. With over 191 miles of trails, there’s something for everyone – whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or a challenging hike. Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park is like stepping into another planet. The landscape is seriously out of this world!
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the hikes we loved in Joshua Tree National Park. We’ll also provide some tips for hiking in Joshua Tree National Park and share some interesting facts about the park.
Best Time To Go Hiking
It’s best to go hiking in Joshua Tree National Park during the cooler months, from October to April. Summer temperatures on exposed parts of park trails can reach over 120 degrees Farenheight in the shade. Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks.
Signage throughout the park suggests that you do not hike between 11 am and 4 pm, the hottest portion of the day.
What To Wear Hiking
Hiking in the desert can be hot, so wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. A hat and sunscreen are also essential to protect yourself from the sun. It’s also important to wear closed-toe shoes with good traction to prevent slipping on rocks or getting cuts from sharp plants.
Flash floods are a common danger in Joshua Tree National Park, particularly during the summer months. If there is any indication of rain or thunderstorms, avoid hiking on trails that lead to canyons or dry riverbeds as they may rapidly fill with water.
Geography Of Joshua Tree National Park
Located in the southern California desert, Joshua Tree National Park is a diverse and awe-inspiring landscape. Its area covers over 1,200 square miles, with elevations ranging from 274 feet below sea level to 5,814 feet above it. Within its borders, visitors can see grand rock formations like the Wonderland of Rocks and hidden oases like Lost Palms Canyon. In addition to stunning geological features, the park is also home to a variety of plant and animal life, including the namesake Joshua trees and threatened species like the desert tortoise. From high peaks to dry lakebeds, Joshua Tree National Park offers something for everyone to explore and enjoy.
History Of Joshua Tree National Park
The fascinating history of Joshua Tree National Park stretches back thousands of years. Native American tribes, such as the Mojave and Chemehuevi, were some of the first to inhabit the area and leave their mark on its landscape. Now, ancient petroglyphs can still be found among the park’s iconic Joshua trees and giant boulders. In the late 1800s, mining booms brought settlers and soldiers to the area. They named the unique yucca trees after a biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. The park we know today was first established as a national monument in 1936, and then upgraded to a national park in 1994. It continues to preserve its rich cultural history, diverse plant and animal life, stunning rock formations, and rugged desert beauty for future generations to enjoy.
Weather Of Joshua Tree National Park
If you’re planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, be prepared for some extreme weather conditions. In the summer months, temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making it important to bring plenty of sunscreen and water. Winter brings colder temperatures and potential snowfall, though it’s still a good time to visit if you’re interested in rock climbing or hiking. Spring often brings strong winds, but also blooming wildflowers for photographers to capture. And Fall offers cooler weather and clear skies, perfect for stargazing under the dark desert night. The temperature in the desert can drastically drop at night, so no matter what season you visit, don’t forget to pack layers and check the weather before heading out into the park.
Bring Extra Water
Travelers should be aware that potable water is scarce inside Joshua Tree National Park.
If you plan on hiking in Joshua Tree, bring plenty of water– dehydration is a real concern in the area all year long. Remember to pack enough water for everyone in your adventure group. You will need to have at least one gallon per person each day of your stay.
The only places to get water at Joshua Tree National Park are Blackrock Campground, Cottonwood Campground, the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, and Indian Cove Ranger Station.
Keep Your Vehicle From Overheating
The desert is HOT. Bring extra water in order to keep your car running smoothly, just in case your radiator overheats. Also, be mindful of using the air conditioning. It can cause overload while driving in high-temperature conditions.
Services In Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park does not have any hotels, gas stations, or restaurants. Always enter Joshua Tree with a full tank of gas! However, the towns of Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley, and Palm Springs do offer plenty of these services.
Joshua Tree National Park is known for its rock climbing opportunities. It’s important to remember to bring the necessary gear and have a permit if you plan on tackling some of the park’s famous climbs. The park offers many beginner areas, as well as those for more advanced climbers. Make sure to properly research your route before setting out on your adventure.
Go Early and Avoid Weekends
One of the best tips for hiking in Joshua Tree National Park is to go early and avoid weekends. Weekends, especially during spring and fall, can bring large crowds to the park’s more popular trails and rock climbing spots. Try going on a weekday or getting an early start to beat the rush and have a quieter, more peaceful experience in nature.
Always have a Plan B if your go-to hike is closed or parking is an issue.
How Many Days Do You Need In Joshua Tree?
The beauty and diversity of Joshua Tree National Park mean that visitors could easily spend weeks exploring its various trails, rock formations, and vistas. However, if you’re short on time, a few days in the park can still offer plenty to see and do. One option is to stay at one of the park’s nine campgrounds for a more immersive experience. Alternatively, staying in nearby towns like Twentynine Palms or Joshua Tree allows for easy access to the park while also providing amenities and accommodation options. Of course, no matter how many days you have in Joshua Tree National Park, make sure to plan out the itinerary and leave room for flexibility as some trails may be closed or weather may affect your plans. And most importantly, enjoy every moment of your time in this incredible desert paradise.
We had two full days in Joshua Tree, and since we were doing a lot of hiking, it did not feel like nearly enough. If you want to check out a lot of the trails, we would recommend at least four days in the park. While we checked a lot off of the list, we wished we could have seen even more!
Animals In Joshua Tree National Park
In addition to its famous Joshua trees and diverse geological features, Joshua Tree National Park is also home to a variety of animal species. These include mammals like coyotes, bobcats, and desert bighorn sheep, as well as rattlesnakes, birds like golden eagles, and roadrunners. The park is also a sanctuary for the threatened desert tortoise population.
The best way to avoid rattlesnakes while hiking is to stick to the trail, and be careful not to sit on or kick rocks over. If a snake starts to rattle at you, it’s their way of warning you to back away.
While visitors may be lucky enough to spot some of these animals in the wild, it’s important to remember to stay a respectful distance and not disturb or harm them in any way. Enjoy observing and appreciating the park’s wildlife from afar, and help preserve their habitat for future generations.
8 Hikes You Will Not Want To Miss
Cholla Cactus Garden
This easy 0.3-mile loop is a great introduction to Joshua Tree’s unique landscape. The trail winds through a sea of cholla cacti – also known as “teddy bear cacti” – which are native to the Mojave Desert. Be sure to stay on the trail, as these cacti are known for their barbed stems that can easily detach and become lodged in your skin!
Arch Rock & Heart Rock
This moderate 1.5-mile loop is one of the most popular trails in Joshua Tree National Park. The trail takes you past two huge granite boulders – Arch Rock and Queen Mountain – which were formed by centuries of erosion. Keep your eyes peeled for desert wildlife like lizards and snakes! Also, the rock formations along the trail on the way to the arches are just as mesmerizing.
There’s an off-shoot from the Arch Rock trail to Heart Rock. It takes only about five minutes to reach the heart from the marker, and the view from the heart is gorgeous!
This easy 1-mile loop is a great option for families with small children. The trail takes you to Barker Dam, a man-made reservoir that was built in 1900 to water cattle. These days, it’s a popular spot for birdwatching – over 200 species of birds have been spotted at Barker Dam!
This moderate 3-mile out-and-back hike is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park if you want to get off the beaten path. The trail takes you through a palm oasis before leading you up to 49 palms – a cluster of 49 California fan palms that were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
This moderate 0.8-mile loop hike is perfect if you’re short on time but still want to see some of the park’s iconic landmarks. The trail takes you past Skull Rock – a large granite boulder that resembles a human skull – before leading you back to the parking lot. There is also an area where you can park along the road and walk right up to the skull seconds from your parked vehicle!
Hall Of Horrors
This hike is a 0.6-mile wander if you only do the loop– but this distance can increase or decrease depending on how much extra exploring you do in this area, and whether or not you choose to complete the full loop.
If you wish, you can add on an adventure in the slot canyons. The trail is famed for leading through a very narrow canyon, which has appropriately been christened “The Hall of Horrors” due to the immensely spooky rock formations. Understand your level of comfort with confined spaces beforehand, as it can feel a bit claustrophobic sliding between the canyon walls.
Hidden Valley Trail
This moderate 1-mile loop hike is perfect if you want to escape the crowds at Joshua Tree National Park. The trail takes you through Hidden Valley – an area that was used as a hideout by cattle rustlers in the 1800s – before leading you back to the parking lot.
Cottonwood Springs Oasis
This moderate 2-mile out-and-back hike takes you through a lush oasis filled with native desert plants and wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for the nearby petroglyphs – ancient rock carvings left by Native Americans! Be sure to bring plenty of water, as there is very little shade on this hike.
Tips For Hiking In Joshua Tree National Park
If you’re planning a hiking trip to Joshua Tree National Park, there are some important things to keep in mind. First of all, make sure to bring plenty of water. Even in cooler months, the desert can get very hot and it’s easy to become dehydrated. Also, be aware that cell phone service can be spotty in the park, so it’s a good idea to bring a map or GPS device. It’s also important to protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen and a hat, and don’t forget your sunglasses!
Pack The 10 Essentials
It is so important to pack the proper gear before you hit the trails – safety first! Being prepared greatly helps the outcome of any bad situation. Preparation is key to having a safe adventure!
Make sure you pack the 10 essentials:
1. Navigation (map and compass)
2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
3. Insulation (extra clothing)
4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
5. First-aid supplies
6. Fire (matches/lighter/candle)
7. Repair kit and tools
8. Nutrition (extra food)
9. Hydration (extra water)
10. Emergency shelter
The heat will be hard on your devices, so pack a charger in case your phone or camera battery dies.
Leave No Trace
Follow marked trails and avoid trying to hike off-trail. Not only will this help protect fragile plant life, but it can also prevent you from getting lost or injured. Remember to leave the area as you found it, and pack out any trash that you bring in.
Be Aware of Wildlife
Joshua Tree is home to a variety of wildlife, including coyotes, snakes, and bighorn sheep. Keep your distance and do not approach any wild animals you may encounter on your hike.
Check Weather & Road Conditions
Before heading out on a hike, check the weather forecast for the area and make sure road conditions are safe. The park’s website also has updates on any closures or advisories.
Tell Someone Your Plans
Let a friend or family member know where you’re going and when you plan to return. This way, they can alert authorities if you do not come back as planned.
Where To Stay
The Westin Desert Willow Villas, Palm Desert
We can personally recommend the Westin Desert Willow Villas in Palm Desert.
If you’re hoping to explore both Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs, these villas are a good option for you. They are located about an hour away from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.
We opted for two villas side by side to ensure we had enough space, and we were very pleased with the condition of each property. With 4 outdoor pools on-site as well as a water slide and daily entertainment options near the pool areas, it was perfect for a vacation! Additionally, there is also a restaurant, 2 bars/lounges, a fitness center, a poolside bar, and a spa tub onsite. Each condo is outfitted with a kitchenette, which includes a refrigerator, stovetop, microwave, and dishwasher.
The convenience of having an in-suite washer/dryer and dining area to make meals was fantastic.
Autocamp Joshua Tree
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay near Joshua Tree, Autocamp Joshua Tree is the ideal unique accommodation for you. The airstream suites are a popular glamping option.
The grounds feature a mid-century modern Quonset Hut Clubhouse, a seasonal heated pool, outdoor seating around fire pits, and ample space to relax.
What makes this motel so unique is that it was built in 1946 by Roy Rogers as a movie set. The famous cowboy and actor, Gene Autry, played poker in room No.9 until the sun came up! Plus, it’s close to the West Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park so you can’t beat the location.
You can pick and choose from an array of unique rooms, some with towering cactuses and others named after famous film celebrities.
“The Canteen” is open 24/7 and serves as a place where you can socialize with other guests staying at the hotel. The Red Dog Saloon offers Mexican-inspired cuisine.
Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or a challenging hike, Joshua Tree National Park has something for everyone. Grab your hiking boots and hit one of these trails today!
Be sure to follow marked trails and avoid trying to hike off-trail. Not only will this help protect fragile plant life, but it can also prevent you from getting lost or injured. Have fun exploring all the beautiful scenery Joshua Tree has to offer!
Bonus tip: pack binoculars for some fantastic bird-watching opportunities. Happy hiking!
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