Joshua Tree is a unique National Park in the high desert of California located about 2,700 miles above sea level. This park is best known for its famous Joshua Tree named by the Mormon settlers as they crossed the desert in the 1800s. They said the tree reminded them of the story in the Bible where Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. These unique trees are found all throughout the park along with many interesting rock formations and desert plants.
The park is open all throughout the year and is set up so that you can drive through it and make plenty of stops along the way for fun day trips. You can also camp in the park; some campgrounds are first come first serve and the other ones need reservations made in advance through recreation.gov. The months of October through May see the most guests because the temperatures are more mild. If you come outside of those months the heat can get extreme, especially in the summer. Almost 3 million people visit every year to camp, hike, rock climb, and take photos. Joshua Tree is a whopping 800,000 acres making it a true desert wilderness.
Here are some of the spots in the park that I highly recommend checking out. One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we walked through the Cholla Cactus Garden. There are hundreds of these unique and beautiful plants along a walking trail where you can take great photos. Photographers come in the early morning or right before dusk to capture them when the light hits the needles of the plant just right. If you are looking for a short hike, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a one mile loop with rock formations, Joshua Trees, and a picnic area. Ryan Mountain Hike is a longer hike at 3 miles up and down with one thousand feet of elevation gain. The view from the summit is gorgeous which makes this trek worth it. Skull Rock is a popular attraction as it is an enormous rock that looks just like - you guessed it - a skull. This is a great place to take photos and climb some of the many rock formations in the surrounding area. A drive up to Keys View lookout point has a 5,000 foot elevation, cooler temperatures, and stunning views of the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, and on clear days you can see all the way to Mexico.
The entrance fees for the park can be found here. I recommend the season pass which grants access to any National Park because as long as you visit any park more than once, or go to more than one park in a year, you save money. The weather in a desert can change quicker than you think so be sure to visit The National Weather Service Forecast for Joshua Tree National Park before and during your visit. Definitely be prepared to be off the grid because just like most other National Parks, there is no cell service. The most important tip for a trip to the desert is to make sure your party has plenty of water. Each person should bring two gallons a day to be safe. The NPS website also recommends sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses in addition to extra water. Grab your camera, plenty of water, and have fun in this enormous desert playground!