My one-day guide to Joshua Tree National Park California will have you wandering through cholla cactus gardens, hiking in the desert, and learning about the different ecosystems throughout the park. The desert becomes more beautiful each time I visit. My first impression of the desert landscape, I wasn't impressed. Coming from the Great Lakes State of Michigan where the nearest body of water is no more than 30 miles away, no matter where in the state you are, I wasn't so sure I liked the dry barren brown of the desert.
However, when I looked closer I could see the life that was all around me. I saw so much beauty and colors throughout the desolate land and wondered how I could ever think it wasn't pretty. The deserts don't have vibrantly colored in-your-face type of beautiful, but instead soft earthy tones the shades of green, tan, brown, and even purple. So yes, it is 100% worth planning a day trip to Joshua Tree.
One day in Joshua Tree National Park and you can easily see most, if not all the main attractions. Joshua Tree is known to be the perfect place to take a day trip from cities like Las Vegas, Palm Springs, San Diego, Los and of course Los Angeles. Palms Springs is the closest major city to Joshua Tree which is about an hour away.
How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park
I've been flying out to the Los Angeles (LA) area every 3-4 months for business for the last couple of years. I counted, and it came to 14 trips in total out to LA. Not bad for someone who 3 years ago had never set foot in California huh?! So on one of the trips, I extended my visit into the weekend and Logan flew out to meet me.
We spent the weekend exploring the east side of the city all the way to Joshua Tree.
As the temperatures of our planet continue to rise, the deserts are hotter, droughts are longer, and the survival of the park's plants and animals is in danger of extinction. Sadly climate change is now affecting the very species that inspired the namesake of the park itself- the Joshua tree.
The bursting Joshua trees and other yuccas indicated we were still in the Mojave as we continued our drive south.
Joshua Tree National Park is made up of two very distinct desert ecosystems. The harsh and unforgiving climates are surprisingly rich in biodiversity and home to many species. We had the best weather in November on our adventure to Joshua Tree. I spent a beautiful Saturday with Logan exploring the park and frolicking through cacti', it's a good life.
The most popular months to visit Joshua Tree National Park are March-May and October/November. The park gets too hot in the summer months, where temperatures reach over 100° F with an extremely dry, desert heat and little to no shade to protect you from the sun.
Our journey began on the north end of the park in the cooler Mojave desert. As we drove into the park I saw a palette of earth tones emerge. A sense of calm and soothing tingled over me. I admired the desert as we hiked along the trails. I saw life thriving around me. Still beautiful despite being in the harshest of conditions. Along the trails were dry, cracked cacti and I could see the plants fighting to survive. Our planet is dying, not just in the desert but everywhere! The plants and animals in the desert don't know when or if the next rain is coming to save them. To keep them alive.
The Joshua tree. (Yucca brevifolia) is a member of the Agave family and a good indicator that you're in the Mojave Desert. Sometimes you might also find it growing in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains. Go on a driving tour to see the highlights of Joshua Tree National Park to make the most of your day in the park.
No, do not touch the Joshua trees if you care about this unique species that gives Joshua Tree National Park and the area around Joshua Tree its name. Don't climb the trees or hang from them just for a photo, you won't look cool - you'll look like an A$$ that doesn't respect this precious ecosystem.
As we drove further into the park, we stopped at Keys View. The view is so colorful! We were hammered by gale-force winds so strong that I feared Logan was in danger of being blown off the very steep rocky cliff he stood upon. Thanks to gale and her forces, we weren't able to stay long ... or take many pictures. This, of course, was because the mountains at Key's View are purple, pink, and beautiful.
One day in Joshua Tree National Park gives you a limited time, so I recommend taking an adventure with a professional photographer to capture your memories while you are enjoying the park. Plus you'll get to be photographed in the most instagrammable places in the park!
Climate change affects more than just the beloved Joshua Tree. Rainfall in the desert is crucial to the survival of the wildlife that lives there like the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep. Severe droughts are forcing the animals up into higher, colder elevations where rainfall is more likely.
It was incredible to watch the transformation of desert life as we descended south through the park. We were driving with our windows down enjoying the breeze on the descent and I could feel the temperature rising as hot air began to hit my face. We said goodbye to the Mojave and watched as the desert transformed to show different species of plants and wildlife.
Some species have adapted but for others, it's taken over centuries for the desert species to adapt and survive the harsh climate conditions of the park's deserts. The cholla cactus garden is my favorite part of Joshua Tree National Park. My favorite dog of all time name is Chala (cha - la) which sounds like cholla, so obviously.
Stone Adventures offers rappelling tours for the adventurous. If you've gone rappelling before you know how much fun it is.
Rock Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park CA
Stone Adventures also provides rock climbing tours in Joshua Tree National Park that cater to beginners, families, and adults in multiple time increments. My experience of rock climbing was one I'll never forget. I can still feel a tickle of adrenaline just thinking about it.
Here's what to expect:
"After finalizing our meetup time and location we'll start out on a Half-Day Hike that best matches your group's interests, abilities, and objectives. We'll focus on what is important to you or your group before you arrive so that I can design a customized route that exceeds your expectations.
These hikes may be either leisurely or strenuous, depending on what your group is in the mood for. The mileage and pace are almost always adaptable in real-time. Apart from stewarding you safely through the terrain, I'll discuss the flora, fauna, unique geology, and cultural history of the region. Plenty of time will be set aside for taking in views, having snacks, and discussing in greater detail the unique environment presented by Joshua Tree National Park. Routes can be designed for both experienced and novice hikers."
Tripadvisor - Wandering Mojave
By Joshua tree alchemy
Here's what to expect:
"Held in an intimate group setting, you'll join us for a nature walk + sound bath and guided meditation in a magical cave. The nature walk portion is led by a local guide, who is well-versed in the beauty of the sacred land. The private location provides boulders and Joshua Trees. Historically, it is said that Serrano and Cahuilla Indians inhabited this land. A handful of petroglyphs remain visible throughout the boulders.
The property is well-maintained and gardened in areas of traffic. The guide will take you to a staircase boulder cave, where you will be greeted by a certified sound healer, who utilizes sounds to heighten meditative states. Here you will settle into the space, meditate, receive, and relax. Additionally, you'll have access to hike, explore, take a dip in the pool, and center yourself in a majestic desert setting. Stick around and catch the sunset. (Overnight accommodations are available for an additional fee). So much magic to see and experience."
Tripadvisor - Joshua Tree Alchemy
See the sights of Scottsdale on a Segway i2 Personal Transporter with the “Old Town Exploration Tour.” Roll with us into the historic Old Town Scottsdale District and glide your way through Scottsdale’s most renowned Downtown area. Experience everything from the preserved rustic traditions to the unique art scene and outdoor sculptures.