Joshua Tree National Park lies at the crux of the Colorado and Mojave deserts and spans 429,690 acres (173,889 hectares) of wind-swept Southern California plains. Famous for its starlit night skies and surreal geological features, the park’s rich landscape and signature flora draws day-trippers, rock climbers, and backpackers alike.
Whether you want to visit on a day trip from Palm Springs or take a multi-day hiking tour, Joshua Tree is a perfect wilderness escape. Hiking and mountain biking trails abound in the park; visitors can stroll through Hidden Valley, bike down old country roads, or get completely off the grid on a customized hiking tour. Rock-climbing enthusiasts can perfect their solo climbing skills with a top-rope anchors class or take a beginners rappelling course, while photographers can snap photos of bighorn sheep, birds, and black-tailed jackrabbits.
Those wishing to cover more ground can venture deep into the desert on a van tour or luxury Hummer day trip and see highlights such as the inselberg rock formations, San Andreas Fault, and Keys View atop Ryan Mountain—the highest point in the park at 5,500 feet (1676 meters) above sea level.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bring comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, and plenty of water.
- Desert weather can change swiftly and dramatically; always check the forecast before heading out.
- There are four visitor centers in the park, each equipped with water, restrooms, and picnic areas.
- Pets must be leashed at all times and are not permitted on backcountry trails.
- Very few areas in the park have cellphone coverage.
- Some trails and campgrounds are wheelchair accessible; see the National Parks Service website for more details.
How to Get There
Joshua Tree National Park is located roughly 140 miles (225 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. The nearest airport is in Palm Springs, roughly one hour by road from the park’s south entrance. The best way to get to Joshua Tree is by road; you can approach the park from Interstate 10 or California Highway 62. Be careful not to rely on GPS directions, which can route you onto potentially impassable backcountry roads.
When to Get There
Peak season in Joshua Tree runs from October through May, with most visitors arriving in the spring and fall. Summers are hot here, with temperatures above 100°F (38°C). In the spring, wildflowers bloom and speckle the desert with bright red, purple, and orange hues.
Attractions Near Joshua Tree
The towns of Palm Springs and Palm Desert are good jumping-off points for excursions into Joshua Tree National Park. Coachella Valley Preserve, located near the Palm Springs area, is a popular destination for picnicking and hiking, as well as a hub for wind farming and agriculture. Mojave National Preserve, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Cabrillo National Monument are also within driving distance of the park.