Joshua Tree National Park

Overview

Besides a visit to the beach, a visit to Joshua Tree National Park is a must for any van or RV nomad exploring Southern California. The park offers excellent adventures to include camping, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, stargazing, and great geologic features that add to the wonder of this vast wilderness. 

Adventure

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best adventures in all of Southern California. The park is a great place to spend a week or two exploring the park and the surrounding area. 

The most popular things to do here are walking or hiking among the trees, climbing the towering rock walls, camping under the stars, capturing the beauty in photographs, or simply soaking up the tranquility of the desert.

Well-positioned nature paths, hiking trails, and vehicle pullouts are spread throughout the park, providing easy access to this stunning landscape.

Joshua Tree is so unique because it has two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and Colorado.  These two ecosystems create a wide variety of plants and animals and a rich landscape carved by winds and heat.

Map: Joshua Tree National Park Map

Hiking

The main activity is Joshua Tree National Park is hiking. Joshua tree has hundreds of hiking trails located throughout the park that are worth exploring.

The trails throughout the park range from short and easy hikes off the main road to overnight extreme trails in the back areas of the park. A few of the most popular hiking trails in Joshua Tree are:

  • Ryan Mountain Trail (3 Miles – Easy)
  • Arch Rock Nature Trail (1 Mile – Easy)
  • Forty-nine Palms Oasis Trail (3 Miles – Hard)

Climbing

Climbing and bouldering are some of the most popular recreational activities in the park, and one look at the landscape will tell you why.  

Joshua Tree has somewhere around 8,000 climbing routes and hundreds of climbing formations. Information pamphlets and maps are available at the visitor centers.

Camping

There are six campgrounds within the park and two right outside the park. The campgrounds within the park are Ryan, Jumbo, Sheeps Pass, White Tank, and Bella. The two right outside the park is Black Rock and Indian Cove.

These campgrounds fill up quickly, so make sure you get there early for the first-come, first-serve campgrounds and reserve a spot well in advance for the others. 

Boondocking

The Joshua Tree area is a fantastic place to go boondocking.  The majority of boondocking opportunities in Joshua tree will be found south and north of the park.

My favorite boondocking location around Joshua Tree is located south of Joshua Tree National Park’s southern entrance. This area between the south entrance and the I-15 freeway offers countless boondocking opportunities. What is great about this area is that you are only a 10-minute drive from the park. There are no amenities, but cell reception is available.

The majority of boondocking around Joshua Tree National Park is located north of the park. There is boondocking within the Cleghorn Lakes and Sheephole Valley Wilderness areas. Both areas offer countless opportunities to boondock. Just make sure you are careful on the dirt roads; some can get very muddy after it rains.

Directions

Although the park encompasses some 800,000 acres, most of it is not accessible by road. Two main roads run through the park: Park Boulevard, which runs west to east from Twentynine Palms and the North Entrance to the West Entrance and the town of Joshua Tree; and Pinto Basin Road, which joins up with Park Boulevard and runs south to north from Interstate 10 and the Cottonwood Visitor Center to the North Entrance and the town of Twentynine Palms.

Park Boulevard is the main section of the park that is of interest to most visitors, but other places of interest are found along the north half of Pinto Basin Road.

References and Other Adventures

Town

Pioneer Town

If you are looking to experience a small bit of western Hollywood history, a Pioneer Town visit is worth the trip. The town reminds me of Tombstone, Arizona, with its main street surrounded on each side by authentic-looking western old-time stores. A few tourist shops, a bar, a hotel, and a few restaurants.

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