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Best Trails in Joshua Tree National Park

319 reviews

#4 of 35 National Parks in California

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The United States Congress designated the Joshua Tree Wilderness in 1976 and it now has a total of 594,502 acres. All of this wilderness is located in California and is managed by the National Park Service. The Joshua Tree Wilderness is bordered by the Sheephole Valley Wilderness to the north and the Pinto Mountains Wilderness to the north. The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 transformed Joshua Tree National Monument into a national park and expanded the old designated Wilderness by 133,382 acres. The additions thrust north into the Pinto Mountains, northeast into the Coxcomb Mountains, southeast into the Eagle Mountains, and southwest into the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Most of the park away from road corridors is wilderness, a fabulous meeting place of two desert ecosystems. The lower, drier Colorado Desert dominates the eastern half of the park, home to abundant creosote bushes, the spidery ocotillo, and the "jumping" cholla cactus. The slightly more cool and moist Mojave Desert covers the western half of the park, serving as a hospitable breeding ground for the undisciplined Joshua tree. You'll find examples of a third ecosystem within the park: five fan-palm oases, where surface or near-surface water gives life to the stately palms. By day, you might spy bighorn sheep on mountainous slopes, numerous lizards lazing in the heat, and eagles soaring in bright sunlight. Still, it's nighttime that truly brings the desert to life, with tarantulas, rattlesnakes, coyotes, jackrabbits, bobcats, kangaroo rats, and burrowing owls responding to the lure of the dry, cool air. You'll witness some of the most fascinating geologic displays to be found in any of Southern California's desertland: twisted rock formations and granite monoliths painted with faded colors into a giant and beautiful mosaic. These rocks are an immense attraction to rock climbers. You won't find a lot of trails, but you will find travel relatively easy in multitudes of arroyos and playas, bajadas, and narrow ravines that require scrambling over skin-scraping boulders. Carry water. Joshua Tree National Park is made up of 75 percent wilderness and lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles, 175 miles northeast of San Diego, and 215 miles southwest of Las Vegas. You can approach it from Interstate 10 and Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The closest airport is in Palm Springs. Public transportation to the park is not available. There are three park entrance stations: 1) The west entrance is located five miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village. 2) The north entrance is in Twentynine Palms, three miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Utah Trail. 3) The south entrance at Cottonwood Spring, which lies 25 miles east of Indio, can be approached from the east or west, also via Interstate 10.

on Joshua Tree National Park...
13 days ago

hiking

Wish I could've spent more time here!! A mere few hours was not enough time to see all that Joshua Tree has to offer. It has a lot of unique, desert views unlike anything that I've seen before. Bring lots of water and dress for the heat!

on Ryan Mountain Trail
13 days ago

hiking

Brink your Camelbak and hiking sticks for this one. This is a challenging hike, but the views from the top of the mountain are worth it! A must for visitors to Joshua Tree.

on Joshua Tree National Park...
1 month ago

nature trips

So beautiful and a wonderful desert hike! Just make sure to bring more than lots of water because you will dehydrate super fast in the heat, regardless of hiking or not. Also, if you bring your dog, be careful and know that they are only allowed on certain trails.

on Ryan Mountain Trail
1 month ago

Beautiful view.

on Barker Dam Nature Trail
2 months ago

easy fast hike. I enjoyed it.

on Joshua Tree National Park...
2 months ago

off road driving

This is a fun little drive for anyone who wants to get off the main paved roads and away from the bigger crowds in Joshua Tree. I took my Jeep on this road and had an awesome time. Some of the number markers for the self-guided tour pamphlet were either hard to read or missing, but if you read the literature and pay attention to the landscape, you can figure out what they are talking about in the various places, and learn some cool things along the way. Fun drive, highly recommended :)

on Boy Scout Trail To Willow...
2 months ago

backpacking

This is my favorite trail in Joshua Tree so far. It isn't overly strenuous and the views are awesome. When I think back to everything I did there, I always remember this hike first. There are plenty of cool places to wander off the main trail to make yourself a hidden camp for the night among the various rock outcroppings. Be sure to bring a headlamp and plenty of battery power for your camera so you can wander about at sunset taking pictures and enjoying the night sky. This was a wonderful hike, I would gladly do it again.

on Ryan Mountain Trail
2 months ago

hiking

on Arch Rock Nature Trail
3 months ago

Easy walk with cool rock formations that are good for jumping on.

on Lost Palms Oasis
3 months ago

Oasis is pretty cool, but be careful doing this trail in the summer, almost no shade along the way. I was very underprepared for this hike. I was ready for it to be over long before I was back in the car.

on Mastodon Peak Loop Trail
3 months ago

hiking

Great hike at Joshua Tree. Not to bad for Children. Go early before it gets hot. Stay on trails. One rattlesnake when climbing to the peak.