JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK was originally designated a national monument in 1936 covering approximately 825,000 acres until it finally received official national park status on October 31, 1994. Joshua Tree National Park is known for it's sprawling Joshua Trees (Yucca Brevifolia) covering the serene desert landscape in the northern park of the park, but it's also home to over 800 other plant species, 240 bird species, 41 mammal species and 40 reptile species. In a nutshell, Joshua Tree is an incredible, yet fragile desert ecosystem.
The enormous and extremely diverse park is best visited during the late autumn and winter months in order to avoid the dangerously high temperatures in warmer months. Though, keep in mind, the winter months offer cold temperatures and multiple layers should be considered when packing for your visit. Also, there are three main entrances to the park, the most popular is the entrance in Joshua Tree, CA and the directions below bring you there. The other two entrances are Twentynine Palms (northeast from the town of Joshua Tree) and Cottonwood Springs (the southern-most part of the park near the city of Indio).
CAMPING can definitely be tough to secure if you don't plan in advance by booking a campsite before your visit. One of the most popular campsites in the park is Jumbo Rocks Campground, which gives a unique experience with massive boulders piled up around the campground. It's centrally located in the northern part of the park and is close to multiple sights visitors may want to explore without driving too far. Joshua Tree is also a car-centric park, meaning you'll need to drive to all your destinations unlike the convenient trams of Zion National Park.
However, if you're a spontaneous camper and looking to find a dispersed campsite near Joshua Tree, look no further than the Bureau of Land Management's Wasteland Campground. Here, it's publicly owned land so you're able to camp anywhere within the boundaries of the protected areas. It's a few miles away from the Joshua Tree National Park entrance in the city of Twentynine Palms and offers secluded desert camping. While in Wasteland (seriously, this name is perfect for this place), there are many campers staying in the area use the land for off-roading with ATVs and Motocross, so don't be too surprised when you're sharing the narrow dirt roads with one of them.
NOTE: If you're heading to Wasteland to disperse camp, be sure to have 4-wheel drive on your car due to sand and muddy situations during the wet season.
HIKING in Joshua Tree is full of trails ranging from easy to difficult. It's important to know these hikes are ideally experienced in the cooler months and should not be attempted in extreme heat. Skull Rock and Ryan Mountain are two extremely popular hikes with the latter offering panoramic views of the entire park. Rounding out at approximately 2.7-miles long with over 1,000 feet in elevation gain, Ryan Mountain is a bit tougher but worth the trek for the views. The hiker traffic is moderate to heavy along the trail with well-marked signs the entire way up ensuring a simple route to the summit.
NOTE: For a full lis of other hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, visit the official hiking page on the park's website to explore more.
Have you been to Joshua Tree National Park? If so, share your tips and/or suggestions below in the comments section.
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