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Joshua Tree

National Park

Two vast deserts come together within the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park, making the park an excellent destination for those seeking an introduction to the natural beauty, ecology, geology, history, recreational opportunities, and night skies of the desert.  The park is immense (and expanding), and its nearly 800,000 acres brings together the Joshua tree forests and granite rock formations of the Mojave Desert in its western half, with the hotter, lower, Colorado Desert’s creosote bushes, ocotillo, and cholla cactus to the east.

The diversity of plant and animal life, geology, and human history, provides an array of fascinating desert experiences.  Visit one (or all) of the five fan palm oases throughout the park, hike to mining districts like the Desert Queen and wonder what it must have been like 100 years ago to hear the stamp mills crushing the ore day and night in these canyons.  Look for blooms from the immense assortment of wildflowers and flowering plants found throughout the park (and throughout most of the year in one form or another), and keep a lookout for petroglyphs and signs of the Native Americans who lived here long before the first white explorers arrived (though the park has made virtually all Native American sites inside park boundaries illegal for the public to visit, it is possible to stumble upon them).

If you only have a day, we suggest doing “The Loop,” which serves as a friendly introduction to Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll see the Joshua tree forests, said to be named after the prophet Joshua by Mormon pioneers, with their arms upstretched toward heaven (we think they look like something Dr. Seuss created), and the famous otherworldly rock formations that make the park one of the world’s leading rock climbing destinations.  Buy lunch in Twentynine Palms and bring it with you, and don’t forget to bring water and gas up the car before you go!  There are no concessions operating within the park.

If you have more time, there are numerous hikes, drives, and places to explore around the park.  Joshua Tree National Park visitor centers are located in both Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree, as well as at the Black Rock Campground near Yucca Valley, and at the Cottonwood Visitor Center at the southern end of the park.  Rangers and volunteers at the visitor centers can provide timely suggestions based on your interests and needs, and books and maps are available for help in generating your own list of must-see park destinations.

Plan your visit before you go at  Visit other sections on our website for travel ideas for the area around Joshua Tree National Park.  While there is much to do inside the park, there’s a wide variety of things to do outside the park as well.

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