Joshua Tree National Park has long been one of my favorite places in California. It’s just a couple of hours drive from Los Angeles, but it’s like you’re entering another world. There are so many reasons to spend the day there or camp in the park, but here are my Top 5 reason to visit Joshua Tree this Spring*.
Joshua Trees – I’m starting with the obvious here, but there’s nothing like seeing Joshua Trees for the first time. They’re actually not a tree, but a Yucca, and they are said to have been the inspiration of Dr. Seuss’ Truffula Trees in the Lorax. You can only see them in the desert southwest.
Wildflowers – If you hurry, you can still catch some of the wildflowers blooming in Joshua Tree. It’s not quite the superbloom that Death Valley saw, but it’s still pretty beautiful. You can check out the Wildlfower Report for up to date information.
The Sky – Whether it’s sunrise, sunset or the dead of night, you can’t beat the sky from Joshua Tree. It’s far from a city so the night sky is bursting with stars. And the sunsets and sunrises are so perfectly framed by the trees and rocks that they are often stunning.
There are some pretty spectacular places to hike in Joshua Tree. Mastadon Peak is a strenuous 3-mile hike with view of the Salton Sea and Eagle Mountain. The Lost Palms Oasis is a 7-mile hike that includes scrambling on rocks. If you’re looking for shorter, less strenuous hikes there’s Skull Rock, which is just 1.5 miles and stocked with boulder piles or the 1-mile loop of Hidden Valley. Be prepared and have water, sunscreen, snacks and bug repellent with you at all times.
Climbing and Scrambling
Your kids (and the kid inside of you) will love scrambling on the rocks. There are a lot of fun places to hike on rocks where you can go as high as you feel comfortable including Cap Rock and Skull Rock. Serious Rock Climbers will find many many routes in the park. Private companies will take climbers out for the first time. Check the NPS Joshua Tree website to check route closures.
Camping in Joshua Tree is really fun, but it can be challenging if it’s your first time out. There are only two campgrounds that have water – Black Rock and Cottonwood – so you must bring in at least two gallons of water per person per day. Most campsites are first-come, first-served, but the popular sites fill up quickly on the weekends when the weather is good. You can reserve a group campsite from October through May at www.recreation.gov.
I’ve camped at Indian Cove and I recently camped at the Sheep Pass Group Campground when I went on a trip with Mazda. The joy of camping in the park is being able to see the sunsets, sunrises and the night sky. Mazda booked a moon tour with Coyote Telescope – a guide came to our campsite, set up a telescope and we toured the night sky – and I was able to take this picture, probably my favorite picture I’ve ever taken.
You need to stop and talk to the park rangers when you enter the park in order to buy a day pass or a camping, but make sure and stop at the Visitor Center and ask a lot of questions. There are many Ranger Programs in the Spring that include guided walks, tours, and information about the wildlife and desert plants. You won’t run out of things to see and do.
*Joshua Tree is an extreme place. It can get very hot or very cold, depending on the time of year, and most of the camp sites/trail heads don’t have water. If you’re planning a visit, be prepared. Pack plenty of water, sunscreen, hats and make sure and check the alerts on the National Park Service website for Joshua Tree before you go.
Disclosure: During my last trip to Joshua Tree, I was a guest of Mazda and I camped with a group of bloggers and journalists organized by #MenWhoBlog. It was so much fun and a great way to rediscover the park.