In this article, I’ll share my best tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park. How to get there, where to stay, and what to see and do.
How to get there
Joshua Tree National Park has three different entrances. In the west, you can enter the park in the town Joshua Tree, in the north at Twentynine Palms, and in the south from Indio. The park is located near Los Angeles (west entrance), Las Vegas (north entrance), and San Diego (south entrance).
To get into the park, you’ll have to pay $30 (per vehicle) and your ticket is valid for 7 days. You can also choose to buy the America the Beautiful annual pass, this pass will cost you $80, and is valid in all the US National Parks for a year. So, if you’re planning a big road trip where you’ll be visiting multiple National Parks, it’s better to buy the annual card. Near every entrance, you can find a visitor center, where you can ask the rangers for more information about the park. This is also the place to fill your water bottle. Water won’t be available in the park, so make sure to have enough before you drive in.
Where to stay?
If you prefer to stay in the park, I highly recommend camping. This is the only way to see the amazing starry sky. The campgrounds have places for RVs and tents.
The best time to go camping is between September and May because it will be too hot between June and August.
There are four campgrounds in the park, where you’ll be able to reserve a site upfront, the other campgrounds are first come first serve. A site will cost you between $15-$20 a night. I camped at the Jumbo Rocks Campground (which you can see in the picture above this paragraph), and it was one of the most beautiful campgrounds I’ve ever stayed at. Check out this website for more information about the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park.
Do you prefer staying in a hotel? Then you’ll have to find one outside of the park. The best places to book a room are Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree, Palm Desert, and Palm Springs. It’s easy to reserve a room using Booking.com.
Highlights of Joshua Tree National Park
If you like nature and stay away from the crowds, Joshua Tree National is one of the best USA National Parks. It’s often overlooked by tourists, but absolutely worth a visit. The park is quite big, so if you don’t have a lot of time, I would recommend visiting these places:
Go for a scenic drive on the Park Boulevard
The Park Boulevard is the main road between the west and the north entrance. If you don’t stop, you can drive this road in about an hour. If you decide to stop for some sightseeing, it will take you about three to four hours. I drove this road multiple times, and it was never really busy. You’ll get the real USA road trip feeling when you’re driving here. Make sure to stop every once in a while to take pictures of the Joshua Trees and the beautiful rock formations.
When you drive on the Park Boulevard, you’ll also spot the most famous rock formation in Joshua Tree National Pak: Skull Rock. A very cool thing to see, it looks exactly like a skull!
Cholla Cactus Garden
The Cholla Cactus is a mean cactus, and it looks like they’ve got hair. It’s awesome to see them in the Cholla Cactus Garden because there are hundreds of them! There’s a short hiking trail in the garden, so you can make a loop. Make sure never to touch the cholla cactus, because it will hurt! There’s even a first aid kit at the trailhead.
There are several short hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park. These are my favorites:
Hidden Valley Trail
You can find the Hidden Valley Trail on the west side of the park, and it’s a nice short hike that will take you about one hour. It’s easy, barely any elevation, only a couple of steps. You will see different kinds of cactuses, Joshua Trees and crazy rock formations. If you only have time to do one hike, I would recommend doing this one.
Skull Rock & Discovery Trail
Another great trail is the combination of the Skull Rock & Discovery Trail. To hike this trail, you can park at the Jumbo Rocks Campground (it’s even better when you stay there as well!). This trail will also take you about an hour and does not have a lot of elevation. You won’t see as many Joshua Trees, but you will see lots of huge rocks, cactuses, and weird rock formations. And of course, you get to see Skull Rock!
The trail to Mastodon Peak starts at Cottonwood Springs in the southern part of Joshua Tree National Park. This trail is longer than the previous trails I mentioned before and more difficult. You have to climb some stairs, and the last bit you have to boulder your way to the top. Watch out for rattlesnakes in this area, I almost grabbed one! When you reach the top, you’ll have a great view of the park and you’ll be able to see San Jacinto Mountain. If you have a clear sky, you might even see San Gorgonio Mountain.
You can find more information about the trails in Joshua Tree on the official website.
These are my tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park! If you have any questions, or if you’d like me to add something, please let me know in the comments!