Located in southern California, Joshua Tree is one of the most famous national parks in the region and a must-visit destination for every nature lover. Famed for its desert landscape, unique rock formations, and hiking trails, this national park offers an abundance of activities including stargazing, bird-watching, climbing towering rock walls, hiking, and camping. Whether you wish to camp under the stars with that special someone, take your kids to go rock climbing, or capture the beauty of this picturesque national park in photographs, a visit to Joshua Tree promises to be an unforgettable experience. To make the most out of your adventures in southern California, here is a list of the best things to do in Joshua Tree.
1. Coachella Valley Preserve – Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve
With 25 miles of hiking trails, the Coachella Valley Preserve – Thousand Palms Oasis is a 17,000-acre site well-known for its desert landscape, picnic areas, and a variety of wildflowers. It’s also one of the rare spots in the region where you can spot the fringe-toed lizard, as well as lush palm woodland oases and desert wetlands. Drop by the rustic palm log cabin from the 1930s called the Palm House and admire the beauty of the McCallum Pond.
2. Skull Rock
Pick up a Joshua Tree Map from the visitor center and head out to the famous Skull Rock, a granite rock that was formed by water erosion and looks like a human skull. Climbing the rock which is located along Park Boulevard is relatively easy, but many travelers say how there is not much to do except taking a few photos. However, the entire area around the Skull Rock looks amazing and includes remnants of old trails and a few beautiful Joshua trees.
3. Barker Dam
One of the easiest and shortest trails in the national park, the Barker Dam Trail is a 1.3-mile loop trail that takes about 45 minutes to complete and is suitable for both adults and children. Along the way, expect to see dozens of stunning rock formations and many Joshua Trees. There is also a nice area of water where many birds gather. It is also worth mentioning that Barker Dam is the only train in the park that takes you right to the 100-years-old historic dam.
4. Keys View
Searching for romantic things to do in Joshua Tree? Look no further than the Keys View, a fabulous lookout point that offers sweeping views of the Coachella Valley. With an elevation of over 5,000 feet, Keys View can be easily reached with a vehicle and is one of the most popular destinations to enjoy sunset views. There is a short path that takes you to a small bench from which you can see the San Andreas Fault line, Palm Springs, and even the Salton Sea on a clear day.
5. Arch Rock
Many visitors say how Arch Rock is one of their favorite places to visit in Joshua Tree National Park. Located in the White Tank Campground, the collection of campgrounds leads to a nice collection of rocks via a half-mile trail. It’s an excellent hike and offers plenty of opportunities for snapping cool photos of basically everything around you. The easiest way to reach Arch Rock is to park at the Twin Tanks area from where you can walk to the Arch Rock.
6. Cholla Cactus Garden
A collection of Cholla cactus located just a short drive from the North Entrance of the Joshua Tree National Park, the Cholla Cactus Garden is a beautiful area dotted with jumping cholla with clustered stems and yellow spines. Keep in mind that its barbs are not easy to remove off the skin, so its recommended not to touch the cactus. Visitors can also take the quarter-mile Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail which is one of the best Joshua Tree hikes and boasts many plants, as well as the teddy bear cholla.
7. Keys Ranch
Go on a ranger-guided walking tour to see the Keys Ranch, an old ranch homestead that dates back to the 1900s. The tickets for this tour can be purchased at the visitor center in Twentynine Palms and last for about 90 minutes. Group size is limited, so make sure to purchase a ticket early in the morning. Once you reach the property, the guard will take you inside Keys Ranch where you will have an opportunity to see a well-preserved homestead with a schoolhouse, workshop, and a store.
8. Ryan Mountain
Located right in the center of the Joshua Tree National Park, Ryan Mountain is one of the park’s most prominent landmarks that offers spectacular views of the surrounding area from the summit. The hike to the top of the mountain is short, but at the same time quite steep. However, once travelers reach the summit, they will be rewarded with stunning views of the park’s many Joshua trees, and unique rock formations. Ryan Mountain is also a popular spot for sunset views, but it’s recommended to carry a flashlight on your way back from the top.
9. Indian Cove Nature Trail
No visit to Joshua Tree in California is complete without going on the Indian Cove Nature Trail. Surrounded by crazy boulder formations, this 0.6-mile long interpretive trail is definitely the best place to enjoy the national park’s flora. Visitors will also have a chance to spot a variety of wildlife along the way. Many campsites can be found here, as well as nice picnic areas. If you wish to enjoy rock climbing, Indian Cove is an ideal place for activities like bouldering and some serious rock climbing.
Southern California’s night can be pretty dark and one of the best places in the state to go stargazing is in Joshua Park. Enjoy this meditative experience at the Pinto Basin Road which offers the darkest skies due to its remote location and allows visitors to sit and admire the beauty of meteors, stars, Big Dipper, and even the Milky Way. On clear nights, stargazing is one of the most memorable experiences a person can have at the Joshua Tree National Park.