Joshua Tree National Park Trip Tips

Joshua Tree National Park Trip Tips

Josh GilbertDec 9, '19

Guest post courtesy of Chimani.

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Where? Joshua Tree National Park (California)

Nearby Cities

  • Los Angeles, CA (2.5 Hours)
  • San Deigo, CA (3 Hours)
  • Phoenix, AZ (3 Hours)

Destination Highlights

Low and high desert regions converge in this Southern California park, named for the distinctive species of yucca trees that can grow up to 50 feet high here. The 1,200-square-mile park also contains a segment of the Little San Bernardino Mountains with unique flora and fauna.

Dotting the landscape are palm oases fed by underground water sources, the remnants of abandoned 19th-century gold mines, and traces of past human habitation. A park loop road offers easy access to the Joshua trees, while those with four-wheel-drive vehicles can follow the 18-mile Geology Tour Road, with stops marked by interpretive plaques. A trail network welcomes both hikers and mountain bikers, with destinations like the Lost Palms Oasis and the top of Mastadon Peak. Rock climbers can enjoy hundreds of marked routes up formations like the Jumbo Rocks, and ranger-led tours that interpret life on the once-thriving Desert Queen Ranch.


Day 1

Stop by the Joshua Tree Visitor Center and learn about the natural and cultural history of the park. Be sure to ask a ranger for the latest off-road and trail conditions. Head to Barker Dam for a quick 1.5-mile loop that brings you to an old dam built by early cattle ranchers, as well as plenty of joshua trees. Head over to Hidden Valley, likely one of the most popular hikes in the park. This easy hike takes you through classic rock formations and offers remarkable vistas. Head to the Cap Rock Nature Trail and enjoy a relaxing interpretive hike on this short trail. Continue on to Key View for the best—and most popular—vista in the park.

Day 2

Head to Lost Horse Mine, a moderately difficult 6.5-mile loop, located off Keys View Road, which features remnants of a mine that generated the equivalent of $5 million worth of gold and silver ore during its heyday. Consider exploring the many backcountry roads for the day, in particular the Geology Tour Road. For a complete list check out the National Park Service website.

Day 3

Head south to exit the park at the southern entrance and be sure to stop at the numerous scenic outlooks. On your way, stop at the Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail. This flat hike leads visitors through 10 acres of teddybear cholla. This is one of the few opportunities to see a teddybear cholla stand in the park. But be careful—the stem-joints of the teddybear cholla can easily detach and hitch a ride due to the minuscule barbs on the spines.


Suggested Gear

  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking poles
  • Backpacking pack (or Carrier pack)
  • Hats
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pad
  • Dining package (plates, forks, knives)
  • Camping stove

Park Passes

Recommended Campground

Indian Cove: up to 101 camping sites available for reservation, 91 available for first-come, first-serve. To reserve, go to or call 877-444-6777 up to six months in advance of your reservation.

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