One of the closest National Parks to San Diego and Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is an oasis located in the beautiful high desert area of California. Covered with miles and miles of beautiful cactus, rocks, and some amazingly gorgeous views, it attracts everyone from rock climbers to desert hikers (that’s me) and all nature lovers in between.
I have lived in San Diego for 13 years and this was the first year I visited Joshua Tree National Park. Isn’t it crazy how quickly time flies???
If you live in San Diego, it’s about a 3 hours drive. Coming from LA would be about 2.5 hours. Assuming no traffic. But really, have you ever seen LA with no traffic?
My point is, if you live in SoCal, there is no reason not to visit.
And if you don’t live here? You should still totally visit. This place is awesome.
Gorgeous desert views, miles and miles of cactus and desert foliage, and so many awesome rock formations, the high desert is one of my favorite places.
Joshua Tree is known for for it’s succulents and the Joshua tree, with arms that reach high up to the sky.
If you’re looking to catch some serenity, this is the perfect spot. Given the size of the park, there are so many areas where you just won’t see other people.
At least that was my experience. I imagine if you go when Coachella or Stage Coach is happening, that you will get more crowds.
What to do in Joshua Tree National Park
It really depends on how long you’re there. You can totally do it in a day trip, but there are tons of places to camp and many hotels outside the park if you’re looking to spend a few days here (totally recommend that if you have time).
The best time to hike is going to be in the morning. Especially if you happen to be there in the summer months. It gets HOT guys. PLUS, a desert sunrise is one of the most beautiful scenes ever.
When you’re hiking, remember to bring plenty of water. Bring more than you think you will need.
There are so many different hiking trails, ranging from an easy 1/2 mile to a more moderate 4 mile, 1,000 foot elevation change hike (Ryan Mountain).
If you don’t mind a little elevation change, Ryan Mountain has some amazing views once you get to the top. It’s one of the highest peaks in the park, and is perfect for a sunrise or sunset hike. **If hiking in the dark, make sure to wear a headlamp.
Don’t forget to spend a little time checking out the Chollas cactus garden. Ten acres of teddybear cactus are located about 12 miles south of the north entrance. It’s beautiful.
For a complete list of hiking trails go HERE.
Joshua Tree park is also a great place to rock climb, or even learn how to rock climb, with it’s vast collections of boulders all throughout the park.
There are many companies you can hire for climbing excursions as well. Just make sure they are permitted to work in Joshua Tree.
There are over 300 campsites in Joshua Tree. There are some campsites that are first come first serve, and others require reservations. Paying for the campsites are on an honor system. You place your money in envelopes and put it in the metal boxes.
Here is a guide to some of the most popular campsites.
The roads through Joshua Tree National Park are incredibly easy to drive and there are so many pullouts along the way. Some of them are marked, and some are just pullouts. Personally, I like to find deserted areas and pull out there to get some peace and quiet.
I found this beautiful flower on a random hike I took to get some photos off the beautiful trees.
Definitely pull out at the Jumbo Rocks area and check out all the boulders. You can hike all around them (there are campsites hidden throughout – cool place to camp).
Need a little more information on the park? This visitor’s guide has some awesome information in it.
Looking for some more things to do in SoCal? Check out these posts: