In May 2014, only a few months after moving to California, Jonathan and I took a three day camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Of all the National Parks I have visited, this is one of the most spectacular parks offering amazing views of the desert, wildlife, cacti and Joshua Trees. I also have a very emotional tie with Joshua Tree National Park as it was the last adventure with my father before he passed away.
In 2008 my parents and I spent a week touring Joshua Tree and the surrounding areas and we had a blast. Years later my mum told me that she and my dad needed a week to recover after that trip because I was running around wanting to see every rock and cactus and they were completely spent! Those are the memories you never forget and although I have visited many National Parks with my parents, Joshua Tree will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Camping at Joshua Tree National Park
I think the best way to truly experience Joshua Tree National Park is to camp there. Joshua Tree has nine campgrounds however you can only make reservations at a couple of them and the rest are first-come, first-serve. It is very difficult to get a reservation unless you are willing to do that at least 6-months in advance so we took a chance and headed to Joshua Tree National Park without a reservation. Many recommend you try to go during the week when the park is less crowded or take a Friday off work and get there early – we left Friday mid-day and were able to get the last campsite in the Hidden Valley campground…we were lucky. We saw cars driving past our campground well into the night trying to find a place to camp so I would recommend taking that into consideration when visiting the park.
Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is huge and covers almost 800,000 acres…that is a lot of hiking! We hiked every day we were there and could return there many times and still miss something. What is unique about Joshua Tree National Park is that the landscape changes constantly as you drive through the park. One moment you are surrounded by massive boulders, next by little cacti and Joshua Trees, and finally you stumble upon an oasis filled with Palm trees. If you feel brave enough to venture off the trails, you may even discover abandoned mines or find a gold nugget! If you don’t know where to start, stop at a Welcome Centre and speak to one of the very helpful park rangers and they will guide you in the right direction. Joshua Tree National Park never ceases to amaze me and I hope to return many many times.
Some of the hikes and nature walks I would recommend (information taken from the Joshua Tree National Park website):
- Ryan Mountain – Excellent views of Lost Horse, Queen, and Pleasant valleys: 1,664m (5,461 feet). Strenuous. 4.8 km (3 miles)
- 49 Palms Oasis – Several stands of fan palms and pools of water are found at the oasis: Moderately strenuous with a 300-foot elevation gain, twice!
- Cholla Cactus Garden – Dense concentration of Cholla Cactus
- Hidden Valley (also where we camped) – Rock-enclosed valley rumoured to have been used by cattle rustlers
- Skull Rock – Boulder piles, desert washes, and a rock formation known as Skull Rock
Things to consider
- Always look at the Joshua Tree National Park website before going as there are important announcements and information (trails conditions, drought, etc.)
- Bring a lot of water. The recommended amount is about 1 gallon/person per day however if you are hiking, I would recommend at least 2 gallons/person per day. It may seem like a lot however we ran out and had to drive many many miles out of the park to get more. The last thing you want is be stuck without water in a desert.
- If possible, visit the park during the week when there are less people. Not only will it be easier to find a campsite, the park will also be less crowded.
- If you are camping, remember to secure all food and trash. Animals in the park are very bold and will take your food.
- Leave no trace. Please pick up trash around campgrounds and trails. If you want future generations to create memories as well, help the National Parks by picking up your trash.
- Visit the Joshua Tree National Park website to learn more.