Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California, right next to the San Bernardino National Forest. It was designated a national park in 1994, when it was combined with the neighboring Mojave National Preserve. It is made up of two deserts, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert.
The park has over 1,200 plant species, including Joshua trees, which give the park its name.
The park has a variety of landscapes, including deserts, mountains, and canyons and it is home to many species of plants and animals, including the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep.
Joshua Tree has become increasingly popular over the years partly because of its ‘desert aesthetic’, but largely because of how disconnected it is from anything else. Many have found it to be a place where they feel a spiritual connection and their creativity heightened. But it also offers exceptional views of the sky- stars at night, to the extent where you can actually see the Milky Way; and the beautiful burning orange sunrises.
Due to the fact that the entire park is a desert, you might want to visit when the temperatures are lower.
Before you go, here are some FAQs that might help you:
Is Joshua Tree good for hiking?
Yes! Joshua Tree National Park is a hiker's paradise. With its vast array of trails, hikers can explore everything from the park's low-lying deserts to its taller mountains. Although the park can be hot and dusty during the summer months, the winter and spring offer cooler temperatures and beautiful wildflowers. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced hiker, young or old, Joshua Tree has something to offer everyone.
Is Joshua Tree a hard hike?
Hiking at Joshua Tree can be difficult because of the rocky terrain, lack of shade, and extreme temperatures. The park, being in the desert, experiences high temperatures in the summer and lower temperatures in the winter. The rocky terrain makes it difficult to hike on some of the trails, and there is very little shade, so hikers can easily become overheated.
The Joshua Tree Visitors Guide offers some guidance on the best trails, times and seasons to go hiking in the park.
Is hiking in Joshua Tree free?
No, there are fees that you need to pay in order to drive through and camp. They range from $15 to $55. You can buy your pass online from recreation.gov.
Are there bears in Joshua Tree?
Although uncommon, there have been bear sightings in Joshua Tree. Park officials advise visitors to never approach a bear and to always keep food and garbage stored away in a secure place. Bears are powerful and can be dangerous, so it is important to take precautions when visiting Joshua Tree National Park. It is more likely that you will run into a coyote or two. If you do, then you should make a noise, wave your arms, and throw something into the vicinity of the coyote, just do not run away.
What to wear for hiking Joshua Tree?
The desert can be a harsh place. The temperatures can easily reach 100 degrees during the day and drop below 50 degrees at night, during cooler months. So, it's important to dress appropriately when hiking and camping in Joshua Tree National Park.
To name a few must-haves: wear light-colored clothing and loose-fitting clothing.
Always have a buff on hand, in case it gets windy, so you don’t breathe in sand.
Wear convertible pants, so you can easily adjust your clothing if the weather changes.
Lastly, always wear sunscreen and be sure to take it along with you while you’re hiking!Water sources are limited in the park, not all campgrounds have access to a water source. So you’ll most likely need to bring your own water or water containers to fill up at the campgrounds that do have water. The water is safe to drink, but if you are concerned about the quality of the water why not invest in the Survivor Filter Pro.
Here are 7 hikes we recommend doing in Joshua Tree (listed from easiest to hardest)
1. Hidden Valley
If you're looking for an easy hike with plenty of beautiful rock formations and lizards to see, look no further than the Hidden Valley Trail. This trail is a mere 1.5 miles long, making it perfect for inexperienced hikers or those with small children. The trail winds through a valley filled with beautiful rock formations and Joshua trees, and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Keep your eyes peeled for lizards sunning themselves on the rocks!
2. Split Rock LoopThe Split Rock Loop Trail is a great, easy hiking trail that offers beautiful views of the desert landscape and plenty of opportunities for birding. The trail can be completed in just over 1 hour, making it the perfect length for an easy morning hike. Be sure to go early in the morning to avoid the heat, and bring plenty of water and snacks!
3. Inspiration Peak
If you're looking for an amazing hike with quiet surroundings and incredible views, look no further than the Inspiration Peak Trail. This moderate trail is a steep incline, but the effort is well worth it - the view from the top is unbeatable.
The best time to go is early morning, when the sun rises and casts its light over the entire park.
You may luck out and be the only one on the trail too!
4. PanoramaThe Panorama Loop Trail is a moderate hike of about 6.5 miles that offers great birding opportunities and views of the park's namesake trees. It is a bit of a longer trail and takes , on average, about 3 hours to complete, but it is worth it! The trail can be hiked in either direction, but it's recommended to go counterclockwise in order to avoid having to climb the steep incline. This is also a popular trail for horseback riders.
5. Desert Queen Mine and Eagle Cliff Boulder House
Desert Queen Mine and Eagle Cliff Boulder House trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a historical trail that offers great birding opportunities, as well as hiking and trail running.
The trail starts near the Desert Queen Mine, which was operational from 1906 to 1916. From there, the trail climbs to Eagle Cliff, where there is a large boulder house that was used as a shelter by miners. The views from the top are spectacular, and it's worth stopping for a while to take them in.
6. Boy Scout TrailIf you're looking for a challenging hike with plenty of natural wonders to take in, the Boy Scout Trail is a great option. This 8-mile out-and-back trail winds its way through a rocky landscape that feels like a desert wonderland. With very little shade along the way, it can be hot during the summer months, but the views are well worth it.
The trail starts at Keys West trailhead and ends at Indian Cove campground, making it perfect for backpacking or camping trips.
7. California Riding and Hiking TrailThe California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) in Joshua Tree National Park offers backpackers the opportunity to explore a variety of terrains in a single trip. Although strenuous, this multi-day backpacking trip on the CRHT can be rewarding. It offers hikers and riders opportunities to camp, experience diverse desert vegetation, and view spectacular scenery.
There is limited shade, so it is necessary to dress accordingly and pack smart. The trail is well-marked and maintained, making it easy to follow for novice hikers.
Written by Caryn Mackenzie on behalf of Survivor Filter