Joshua Tree National Park is a true desert park. It is 800,000 acres, there are 2.8 million visitors that come here every year, and so it’s quite popular. Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California, approximately 130 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, two hours if you’re driving. It’s about three hours drive from San Diego, and about four hours driving from Phoenix, Arizona. Admission into the park is $30 per vehicle, as many people as you want in that vehicle, and the admission is good for a week. There are very few amenities in the park, other than the two deserts that come together. It’s the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, and of course, this park is famous for the Joshua tree.
The second thing to know is what is a Joshua tree? This is a Joshua tree, and this park is full of these trees. Now, this is a type of yucca tree that’s in the agave family, but where did they get their name Joshua tree? Well, legend has it that the Mormon settlers, as they were coming west, saw these trees, and it was like Joshua was opening his arms, and guiding them to the west. So that is where the name Joshua tree comes from, and they aren’t just native to here.
There’s a ton of them throughout this park, and by the way, you’ll find pretty much all of them on the side of the park with Joshua tree and Twentynine Palms, not on the Palm Springs side, near the 10, so if you want to find these, make sure you’re visiting the north side of the park. Kinda looks like something out of Dr. Seuss, right? The trees come in all sizes, there are little ones, and big ones, the tallest one in the park is 40 feet tall. The average age of these trees in the park is 150 years old, so they’re quite old trees.
And the small ones, it actually takes 60 years for them to mature, so please be kind to the little ones so they can become big ones, for other people to see. So in addition to Joshua trees around the park, you’ll find lots of cactus. Now I should say respect this cactus, don’t get too close.
Some of these cactuses in the park they call jumping cactus, ’cause when it gets windy, these needles can actually fly, and jump and get you (humming). The third thing to know is about getting to Joshua Tree National Park. To get here, you’ll pretty much need to drive a car, that’s the best way to get here. And there are three main entrances to Joshua Tree National Park. One in the city of Joshua Tree, one in the city of Twentynine Palms, and then one down along the south, near Palm Springs. Each of those entrances has a visitor center, and I would encourage you to go to the visitor center and pick up some maps when you get in.
These are really handy to help you around the park. There’s one like this that’s easy to put in your pocket, but pick up this one that also looks kinda like a newspaper, because this newspaper one also has a lot of great detailed information about the hikes that are in the park, in case you wanna pick out whether you wanna do an easy hike, a medium hike or a hard hike.
We are gonna be doing the easy hikes, and by the way, the easy hikes, this is the Oasis Trail, at the visitor center in Twentynine Palms. A pretty nice paved path, so you can see they start like this, or you can climb on the rocks, and do things really hard too. Now that you’re in the park, let’s talk about getting around the park, and the way you’re gonna get around the park is using that same car that you brought in the park.
This park is really spread out. It’s not like the Grand Canyon, or Zion, where there’s some central canyon that has buses. There’s really nothing that runs around here, and everything is really far apart. So you’ll be taking your car from the parking lot to the parking lot, to see the attractions. That map I mentioned earlier will really come in handy. Most of the roads in the park are pretty well paved, though there is a whole set of backcountry roads that are dirt roads.
If you’re gonna go on any of the dirt roads, like the attractions you wanna see are on those, then you will need not just a car, but you will actually need a four-wheel-drive vehicle, to go on the dirt roads. Cell phone service is really lousy in the parks, so if you’re planning to use Google Maps or some other cellphone-based navigation, make sure you download your maps before you get here, so you can actually navigate in the park.
You can see down here have no connection, but because I’ve pre-downloaded the maps, then I can actually still route around here. Don’t depend on cellphone service in the park. You need to know when to go to Joshua Tree. The busy season in Joshua Tree for visitors from October to May,(bells chiming)so fall, winter, spring. Why not summer? Because it’s a desert, and so the summer’s gonna be really, really hot. In the summers, temperatures range above 110 degrees Fahrenheit, so they’re really hot.
Now in the winter, it actually can snow here sometimes, so temperatures fall below freezing, which is why spring and fall are the most popular times to come. Now if you’re coming on the weekends, Saturday or Sunday, get here early in the morning, because it actually had signs that say parking lots fill up by 10:00 a.m., so that’s pretty early, specifically if you want campgrounds as well.
So best days to come, really Monday through Thursday, you’ll have fewer crowds if you can swing it here then. The sixth thing to know about the things to do, and certainly hiking is probably the number thing to do here. There are lots of hiking trails. That map I mentioned earlier outlines a lot of them, but I will mention, if you’re hiking, no pets on the hiking trails, no pets allowed at all. If you’re doing the main hikes on the park, like this one, this is like the Arch Rock trail, pretty easy, they’re pretty well signed. If you’re doing some of the more advanced hikes, you’ll wanna bring your own maps, your own GPSs, because not everything is all that well signed, and this is a really big park, and you really don’t wanna get lost in the desert.
Now if you’re a rock climber, you’ll find plenty of great rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park. And if you’re an amateur rock climber, you just like to boulder over things, well you’ll find lots of smaller boulders to go on as well. Great for nature viewing, great to just relax, really great to take pictures. Well, it does actually require some amount of bouldering. So, see you at the top. But make sure you bring some good shoes when you come through here. So in addition to rock climbing, one of the activities to do is rock viewing.
And you saw me on this trail earlier. This is the Arch Rock Trail, and there’s a lot of really unique rocks in this park. So make sure to find them on that map, and check ’em off. Another one you’re gonna see in a moment is Skull Rock. The Skull Rock Trail is much easier to access than the Arch Rock Trail. There’s parking right on the street, and the Skull Rock is right there. So this one’s really close to the street.
It looks like a skull, if you squint, and kinda turn your head sideways. If you’ve got limited time, you can probably skip this one. The one must-do, easy hike for first-timers the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. It’s a one-mile loop in this hidden valley, that apparently some people back in the day, used to steal cattle and bring them here, into this hidden valley. Now you can enjoy it with a little bit of a hike. The seventh thing to know is about food, and what you should know about food in Joshua Tree NationalPark is there isn’t any. The closest you’re gonna get to food is picnic tables, you can bring all of your own food, and there’s a lot of picnic tables and picnic areas throughout the park.
But there are no food sales, and there are no water sales anywhere in the park. So make you either eat when you come in, you bring a lot so that your tummy stays full. Don’t expect to buy anything here. Oh, and there aren’t even vending machines either, really no food. There are a few drinking fountains, but that’s it. Now you’ll wanna know where to stay if you’re coming to Joshua Tree National Park, and you wanna spend the night here, well your first option is you can camp in the park. There are nine campgrounds in the park, a couple of them take reservations. A couple of them are just you show up, but they do get pretty busy. Now if you wanna stay in hotels, well your options for hotels, they’re not very plentiful.
You can stay in Joshua Tree, the town right outside. There are a few motels out there. You can stay in Twentynine Palms, there’s like a Best Western and a Motel 6 over there. Or if you’re looking for nice hotels, the closest spot for that would like Palm Springs, or Desert Hot Spring, though that’s about an hour drive to the park.