Magical Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is about an hour from Palm Springs and two if you’re driving from Los Angeles. The park is nestled between the Colorado and Mojave deserts and on a clear day on top of Key Views, just one of the area’s many 360 degree vistas, you can see all the way to Mexico.
Once you’re inside Joshua Tree, it feels otherworldly. I’m instantly reminded of Western movies. Which isn’t really that strange, as many of the genre’s classics I grew up watching were shot in the region. The rugged desert landscape, breathtaking scenery with thousands of peculiarly beautiful Joshua trees and monumental rock formations make the park one of California’s most beloved destinations.
The park’s slow-growing yucca trees were given the nickname “Joshua” by Mormon settlers in the mid-1800s. They thought the trees unique shapes reminded of the biblical story of Joshua when he stretched his arms up to the sky during prayer.
After paying the entrance fee and picking up a map at one of the park’s Visitor Centers, head out on the main road until you find a scene that grabs your attention. There are plenty of designated parking lots and camping grounds throughout Joshua Tree, and when space allows, you can even leave your car at the side of the main road for shorter excursions.
Depending on how much time you have in the park, you can choose from a range of walking trails – at varying lengths and difficulty levels. Rock climbers from around the world flock to Joshua Tree to ascend to the park’s most popular boulder peaks and conquer steep rock faces. To satisfy your inner cowboy, you can also explore much of the park on horseback. More info here
There are no stores or restaurants inside Joshua Tree, so whatever you think you’ll need during the visit has to be brought with you – including water, food and sunscreen. But don’t leave anything behind! It can get really cold in the desert, freezing even, especially during the winter. Make sure to dress appropriately.
I’m told that the town of Joshua Tree, just outside the park, looks pretty much as it did back in the 1960s and 1970s. The selection of restaurants grocery stores and cafés is very limited. But what is there, is actually really good. Especially the few available dining places. You won’t find any fancy hotels or resorts in Joshua Tree. But there are plenty of houses available for short-term rent through home-sharing sites like Airbnb.
To fully appreciate this amazing nature experience, I highly recommend spending a couple of days and nights exploring Joshua Tree National Park. But if you’re short on time, this is also a great day excursion from Palm Springs, San Diego and even Los Angeles and an excellent representation of California’s geographical diversity.