Joshua Tree is one of the most eclectic destinations in California. Famous for its countless cacti, amazing rock formations and of course the incredibly unique Joshua Tree itself, there are a few other reasons to visit Joshua Tree. From the moment you arrive, you know you are in for a great adventure. Somehow this desert wonderland is relaxing and invigorating all at the same time. But don’t think this desert is solely loved for its outdoor activities and star gazing. From trailer park antiquing and thrifting to an organic coffee house and mouth-watering pizza, Joshua Tree is the perfect weekend getaway.
Where to Stay
Camping is the best way to reconnect with nature and sleeping under the stars in Joshua Tree should be on everyone’s list. Joshua Tree is home to several campgrounds, however, plan ahead as these coveted campsites fill up fast.
RV parks are more our style since we travel with our 32 Springdale Travel Trailer. 29 Palms RV Resort is a full amenities RV park, very friendly and helpful employees, clean and well kept, and just up the street from the North entrance to Joshua Tree which is closest to all of the exhibits in the park. If you are traveling with an RV I highly recommend this RV resort!
The Joshua Tree House is a two bed two bath 1949 hacienda located 10 minutes from the west entrance of Joshua Tree National Park in Joshua Tree, CA. The house is run by Sara and Rich Combs who have made desert living look magical. Designed with a slow pace in mind from sipping coffee on the porch to watching the phenomenal sunsets from the hot tub you will be transformed from a weekend in this desert oasis. While you are planning your trip you can live vicariously through their gorgeous Instagram account @thejoshuatreehouse.
Where to Eat
Serving organic coffee roasted by hand in Joshua Tree. Grab a cup of joe on your way to exploring or relax on the outdoor patio.
These mouth-watering hand tossed NY style pizzas are the perfect fix after a long day of adventure. Baked in real stone fired pizza ovens with fresh topping combinations this piece of pie is not to be missed. Perhaps you have tried these yummy pizzas as Pie For the People has vended many outdoor music festivals.
For good food and live music head over to Pappy and Harriet’s at Pioneer Town Place. Check their calendar for the live music schedule and plan to dance the night away.
This is my favorite part! Joshua Tree is made up of two different desert ecosystems the Colorado and the Mojave. These landscapes are very different which makes Joshua Tree so amazing to explore. With only one day in the park, I planned out our itinerary using a park map the night before. I had read that sunrise in Cholla Cactus Garden was not to be missed so we set our alarm for 5 am (ouch and yes even the boys) and were entering the park by 5:45 am. The drive to the Cholla Cactus Garden is about 20 miles from the North entrance of the park and with a sunrise scheduled for 6:48 am we arrived in plenty of time to choose a fantastic spot for photos. My kids are used to me taking photos on all of our adventures and a little tip that has helped make that happen is giving them cameras to take their own photos. Getting them involved means less complaining 🙂 All of this was worth it as the sunrise over the mountains illuminated the tops of these prickly beauties.
Sunrise Cholla Cactus Garden
Next up we drove to the visitors center to pick up two junior rangers booklets. The Junior Ranger program in Joshua Tree is awesome! There are so many helpful volunteers and the book is based on age so there is something for everyone. The swearing-in ceremony at the end of the day was rather fantastic when the ranger threw in “always listen to your parents and eat your vegetables”:)
Exploring some of the rock formations was next with a stop at Split Rock and Skull Rock. Skull Rock has a 1.7-mile nature trail across from the rock that was designed by GATE program kids for kids. There is a guided hike starting daily at 10 am.
There are several short hikes in the park such as the Hidden Valley Loop Trail at just a one-mile loop perfect for little ones. Ryan Mountain Trail is another great hike a little more challenging with an elevation of 5,500 at the top and a total of 3 miles. We hiked out on the Barker Dam Loop a very easy 1.1-mile loop that is known for spotting Big Horn Sheep. We didn’t see any on this day but it was a nice hike and there was more water than I expected in the damn providing a great reflection.
Joshua Tree was made for rock climbing with over 4,500 climbing routes ranging across all levels. Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School is the perfect place to test your skills. They offer guided climbs, expert instruction and many different packages to choose from for individuals or families.
Driving the Park
Just driving through the park you are able to experience the different terrain from the Cholla Cactus Garden on the Colorado Desert border to the Joshua Trees and Rock formations in the Mojave Desert. Stopping to watch some of the expert rock climbers was really fun and there are tons of great spots to pull over and take photos.
Sunset in Joshua Tree
When you watch a sunset in Joshua Tree National Park you will see colors in the sky you have never seen before. With pink, orange, purple, red and blue the sky looks like a painting. Keys View has the highest drivable elevation in the park making it the best spot to watch as the sun sets over the Coachella Valley. Parking is limited and it gets very crowded so I recommend getting up there at least an hour before sunset.
Joshua Tree has some of the clearest skies in the country away from city lights which make for pretty spectacular stargazing. Try to plan your trip when there is a new moon so the moonlight will not detract from the glittering sky. I hope you enjoy Joshua Tree as much as we did!! Happy Travels