“Joshua Tree” comes from Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands to the sky in prayer.
Joshua Tree is a unique and magical place located in the heart of Southern California’s High Desert, approximately 130 miles from Los Angeles.
This park is known for its surreal and unusual rock formations, desert wildlife, and its namesake, the Joshua trees. With over 800,000 acres of protected land, there is no shortage of activities to enjoy at Joshua Tree.
Planning a visit to the park? Here are ten fun things to do while visiting this amazing park.
- Fun Things To Do In Joshua Tree National Park
- 1. Head To The Hidden Valley and Barker Dam Nature Trail
- 2. Hike Through The Arch Rock
- 3. Take A Picture On The Skull Rock
- 4. Touch The Heavens In Keys View
- 5. See Lost Horse Mine Trail
- 6. Head To The Cholla Cactus Garden
- 7. Take A Hike Or Go Rock Climbing
- 8. Stargazing, Photography & Wildlife Viewing
- 9. Explore The Park’s History
- 10. Admire the Epic Joshua Trees
- Tips for Enjoying The Joshua Tree National Park
- 1. Stay On The Trails
- 2. Bring Tons Of Water
- 3. Bring Sunscreen And A Hat
- 4. Wear Proper Footwear
- 5. Pack Snacks
- 6. Pack A First-Aid Kit
- 7. Carry A Multi-Tool
- 8. Bring Wipes Or Hand Sanitizer
- 10. Download Offline Maps
Fun Things To Do In Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is a unique and beautiful destination that offers something for everyone. From rock climbing and hiking to stargazing and wildlife viewing, there is no shortage of activities to enjoy while visiting this amazing park.
Here’s a list of fun activities and landmarks that would make every trip to this park worth it.
1. Head To The Hidden Valley and Barker Dam Nature Trail
Hidden Valley is a unique area enclosed by massive boulder formations popular among rock climbers and boulderers. The area is easily accessible and offers a short but scenic loop trail that leads hikers through a maze of rocks, chasms, and narrow canyons.
Meanwhile, the Barker Dam Nature Trail offers visitors a leisurely 1.3-mile hike leading to a historic water-storage reservoir constructed by ranchers in the early 1900s. The trail winds through a desert oasis, where visitors can see a variety of plant and animal life, including bighorn sheep and coyotes.
The Hidden Valley and Barker Dam Nature Trails offer easy hiking and interesting landscapes. These are great trails that are accessible to anyone. Be careful where you are walking – we crossed paths with a baby rattlesnake during our hike!
2. Hike Through The Arch Rock
Arch Rock is a popular camping area within the park, but what makes it so unique is the number of large rocks in the area. It’s like a playground filled with archways, boulders, and caves.
Another impressive rock formation, Arch Rock, is a must-see for visitors to the park. The trail to Arch Rock is just a half-mile round trip and is easy for visitors of all ages and skill levels.
Once visitors reach the rock, they can explore the area and take in stunning views of the desert landscape. Several other trails in the area offer scenic views and unique rock formations for those looking for a longer hike.
3. Take A Picture On The Skull Rock
This iconic rock formation is shaped like a human skull and is a popular spot for taking photos and exploring the surrounding area. Visitors can climb on and around the rock, which offers a unique vantage point for taking in the surrounding landscape. Be sure to bring a camera, as the photo opportunities are endless.
This is a quick stop in the park, but it is an interesting landmark. Skull Rock resembles a giant human skull, making it a popular location to snap photos or videos.
4. Touch The Heavens In Keys View
For breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, head to Keys View. Keys View is toward the West end of the park. The views from this area of the Coachella Valley were incredible. From this location, you can see the San Andreas fault line, the Salton Sea, and the peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio Mountain.
The view from Keys View is particularly stunning during sunrise or sunset when the light creates a warm and golden glow over the landscape.
5. See Lost Horse Mine Trail
The Lost Horse Mine Trail is a must-see for history buffs and hikers alike. The trail is 4 miles roundtrip and leads to the remains of an old gold mine active from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
This trail is not far from Keys View and offers a 4-5-mile incline hike to an abandoned mine. The mine is fenced off, but the highlight was the trail itself. The Lost Horse Mine Trail is very secluded and offers beautiful landscape views.
Along the way, visitors can see a variety of desert flora and fauna, including wildflowers and bighorn sheep. At the trail’s end, hikers can explore the remnants of the Lost Horse Mine and learn about the area’s history.
6. Head To The Cholla Cactus Garden
This was my favorite stop in the park. The Cholla Cactus Garden is home to the “jumping cactus,” famous for being extremely sticky and difficult to remove. There are signs everywhere warning visitors to be careful of the cacti.
The Cholla Cactus Garden is a unique and stunning sight, with a dense concentration of cholla cacti covering the area. Visitors should stay on the designated path, as the cacti are known for their barbed spines.
I had seen a few YouTube videos of people getting completely covered with cactus needles and had read stories about it being feared in the desert. Against my better judgment, I decided to test how easily it would stick with me. It was a funny but painful experience!
7. Take A Hike Or Go Rock Climbing
Joshua Tree is one of the world’s most popular destinations for rock climbers. With over 4,000 climbing routes, the park offers something for everyone, from beginners to experts. With its unique and challenging terrain, climbers will find plenty of opportunities to test their skills.
It also offers many amazing hiking trails that showcase the beauty of the desert landscape. Whether you’re looking for a short and easy trail or a challenging backpacking adventure, the park has something for everyone. Some of the most popular trails include the Barker Dam Trail, Ryan Mountain, and the Boy Scout Trail.
8. Stargazing, Photography & Wildlife Viewing
Joshua Tree is home to various unique desert animals, including bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, roadrunners, and more. Visitors can see these creatures in their natural habitats by taking a scenic drive or hiking through the park.
With its clear night skies, Joshua Tree is an excellent place to stargaze. Visitors can enjoy the stars from picnic areas, campgrounds, and scenic drive overlooks. You can also bring a telescope or rent one from the park’s visitor center.
Joshua Tree is a photographer’s paradise with unique landscapes, rock formations, and wildlife. Whether a professional or an amateur, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to capture stunning images while visiting the park.
9. Explore The Park’s History
Joshua Tree is rich in cultural history, with evidence of Native American habitation dating back thousands of years. Visitors can learn about the park’s cultural heritage by visiting the Oasis of Mara, the Cholla Cactus Garden, and other cultural sites.
10. Admire the Epic Joshua Trees
Joshua Tree National Park is among the most beautiful places in the United States. Its stark landscape, incredible rock formations, and Joshua trees are unique.
These fascinating trees can be found throughout the park and are a must-see attraction. You can even take a scenic drive through the park to admire the stunning landscapes and unique rock formations that make this place special.
Tips for Enjoying The Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the unique national parks in the United States. With thousands of giant Joshua trees, dunes, and incredible hiking trails, it’s no wonder this park is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
If you’re planning to take a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, here are some of our top tips:
1. Stay On The Trails
Even though you may be tempted to walk off the trails, I would advise against it. There are many cacti in the area, but you never know when you might encounter some wildlife – like a snake! Also, if you’re traveling with kids, remind them to watch where they are stepping and be aware of their surroundings.
2. Bring Tons Of Water
Joshua Tree is hot! I would double the amount of water you normally carry when hiking. We bought a large jug of water at the store before entering the park but wanted to keep the water cool when we were hiking. We packed several Swell-insulated water bottles that kept the water nice and cold the entire day. I highly recommend them!
3. Bring Sunscreen And A Hat
This might seem like a no-brainer, but even I underestimated the sunlight. While there were some opportunities to find shade among the rocks, there isn’t much vegetation to block the sunlight when hiking on the trails.
4. Wear Proper Footwear
I saw a lot of folks on the trail with flip-flops. While it may seem appropriate since it’s so warm, it’s dangerous given the number of cacti and wildlife around.
5. Pack Snacks
Once in the park, we didn’t see any opportunities to buy food or refreshments, so it made sense to carry some snacks. Just keep in mind that your food might melt because of the heat.
6. Pack A First-Aid Kit
Joshua Tree National Park is vast, so you won’t see the rangers in the park very often. Also, phone reception was very limited, so be prepared by carrying a first aid kit in case of any emergencies.
7. Carry A Multi-Tool
As mentioned in the highlights, I had a little encounter with the Cholla jumping cactus. I tried to remove it using my hands, but how the cactus spines were designed worsened the situation. Luckily, I had packed a small Leatherman tool to remove the cactus spine. It saved the day!
8. Bring Wipes Or Hand Sanitizer
While there were bathrooms at almost every trailhead, we did notice that the bathrooms lacked water to wash your hands. I would recommend packing some sanitizing wipes or hand sanitizer.
9. Bring A Spare Battery Pack
While I always find carrying a spare battery pack useful whenever I travel, my phone battery drains especially fast in high heat. It also didn’t help that my phone constantly searched for a signal.
10. Download Offline Maps
This was extremely useful. We downloaded the maps for Joshua Tree National Park on the Google Maps app, then marked the locations we wanted to visit. This helped us to plan out the activities based on proximity. Also, since the map data was on the phone, we could even use the navigation without a phone signal.
Joshua Tree National Park is a beautiful place to visit and explore. From rock climbing to hiking, there are plenty of things to do. These are some of the best ways to create memories on your next visit to the park.
Have you visited Joshua Tree National Park? If so, please share your experience below in the comment section. Also, let us know if you have any additional tips.