Joshua Tree is known for its namesake trees, which are actually a succulent species called yucca brevifolia. The park includes two biological life zones: the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. The area was once home to the Shoshonean branch of Native Americans, who were among the first people to live in the area. Today, you can visit their caves and rock shelters to learn more about their lives.
Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderland of stunning landscapes, fascinating history and quirky attractions. With just under a million acres to explore, we’ve found that there are some things that can’t be missed when visiting this desert oasis.
The scenery is beautiful and on top of camping you can also go hiking, biking, birding or even star gazing! You could go here a hundred times and still find new things to see. After being a regular here for over 2 decades, here are 10 things that we have done during every trip to Joshua Tree.
Climb the Great Burrito
Joshua Tree National Park is a vast and sparsely populated expanse of land in southern California. It’s home to the Joshua tree, which inspired its name, as well as other stunning natural features like huge rock formations and towering mountains.
One of these features — the Great Burrito — is easy to find, but it requires a bit of climbing to reach. Here’s what you need to know:
Where is it? The Great Burrito is located in Joshua Tree National Park, near the junction of Park Boulevard and Keys View Road (see map). The easiest way to get there is by car or bicycle; otherwise, you can take the bus from Los Angeles or Palm Springs. You can also hike there from various trailheads in the park.
What does it look like? The Great Burrito is a steep rock formation that resembles a giant burrito as seen from above (hence its name). Its shape was created by erosion over thousands of years, as wind and water eroded softer rock around harder stone until only hard granite remained visible at the top of this large boulder.
Why climb it? Climbing up onto the top of this boulder offers hikers an excellent vantage point from which they can see some spectacular views of other nearby peaks
Drive up to Keys View, a lookout point
It’s an easy drive from Los Angeles, and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Mojave Desert and the high rock formations that make the park so unique. The area is also popular with rock climbers, so bring your camera to capture some stunning shots of people scaling the rocks.
The drive to Keys View can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour, depending on how many stops you make along the way. The most popular attractions include Barker Dam, Hidden Valley and Skull Rock.
Keys View is located at an elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level and is open year-round from 6:00 a.m. until sunset daily.
The best time to visit Keys View is in the morning or afternoon when the sun isn’t directly overhead. This will allow you to see all of the mountains and valleys around you without being blinded by the sun’s rays reflecting off them.
When you get there, don’t forget to take some time relaxing on one of the picnic tables or wandering around nearby boulders that have been carved by wind erosion over millions of years into unique shapes like mushrooms and castles.
Hike to the Barker Dam
The Barker Dam Trail is a 2.6 mile hike that leads to the Barker Dam, an artificial lake that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as part of a water conservation project.
The hike starts with a short descent before reaching a flat section that leads to an intersection. From here, hikers can choose to go left or right. Hikers who want to add some more distance can continue straight ahead before turning around at another junction after about 0.25 miles.
Those who want a shorter hike can turn right immediately after this junction and follow a faint trail that leads to one of several campsites located along Barker Dam Road.
Barker Dam was built to provide water for cattle ranchers in the area and it can still be used by ranchers today. It is also used by hikers and campers when they need drinking water or a place to swim. Visitors should note that there are no toilets or trash cans at this site so please pack out all your garbage when you leave!
Camping among the Joshua trees, surrounded by bizarre rock formations
Camping in Joshua tree national park is a unique experience that cannot be missed by outdoor enthusiasts. The national park has over 800 square miles of rugged landscape filled with towering trees, gushing creeks, and vast deserts.
There are plenty of campsites throughout the park where you can pitch your tent and enjoy the serene desert atmosphere.
Cholla Cactus Garden
A Cholla cactus garden is one of the most unique things to see at Joshua Tree National Park. The park is home to many species of cactus and a variety of other desert plants. One of the most interesting and beautiful sites to see is the Cholla Cactus Garden.
Cholla cactus gardens are an interesting feature of Joshua Tree National Park. These gardens are found at the base of large rock formations, and are made up of thousands of cholla cacti. The cacti grow together to form this unique garden.
Cholla cacti are native to the Sonoran Desert, which is located in California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. They grow in a variety of habitats, including desert grasslands, rocky slopes and desert scrub. Cholla cacti have been known to grow up to six feet tall in some locations!
Joshua Tree National Park is the ideal place to rock climb. There are many places to climb including Hidden Valley, Black Rock, and Park Boulevard.
Hidden Valley is my favorite place to go rock climbing in Joshua Tree. It has a nice variety of easy and moderate climbs ranging from 5.6-5.11+. The rock is good quality granite and there are many routes with great views over all of Hidden Valley.
Black Rock Canyon has lots of great routes ranging from 5.6-5.10+. Most of the climbs have great exposure, which makes them very exciting!
Park Boulevard provides some easier climbs that are perfect for beginners or anyone who wants to get into climbing without having too much difficulty on their first time out. The rock quality isn’t as good as the other two areas though so make sure you bring your own gear if you plan on climbing here so you don’t slip off when going over the top!
Explore Keys Ranch
Keys Ranch is a historic working cattle ranch in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. The ranch has been in operation since 1916, when it was purchased by Frank and Mabel Keys. The Keys family owned and operated the ranch until 1986 when they sold it to the National Park Service.
Today, Keys Ranch is part of the larger Joshua Tree National Park complex and offers visitors a glimpse into the past through its interpretive programs and guided tours. Visitors can learn about life on a working cattle ranch during the early 20th century by taking part in an interpretive hike through the desert landscape or attending one of several special events offered throughout the year.
Visitors are invited to participate in guided tours led by knowledgeable park rangers who will take them from room to room on a journey through history at Keys Ranch. Guides will share stories about life as it was lived during this time period as well as discuss how people survived off the land without modern conveniences such as electricity, running water or telephones.
When visiting Keys Ranch visitors should expect to see an authentic working cattle ranch complete with corrals, barns, tack rooms and other structures associated with raising livestock for consumption during that time period.
The best time of year to visit is October through April, when temperatures are milder and wildflowers are in bloom
Photography and Arch Rock
Arch Rock is a unique rock formation in Joshua Tree National Park. From the ground, it looks like any other rock outcropping, but from above it resembles an arch.
There are not many places to get a good vantage point of Arch Rock, so you’ll need to hike a bit to see it. The trailhead starts at Sandstone Quarry Trailhead and winds through some beautiful desert scenery before reaching the top of Arch Rock. The elevation gain is only about 200 feet but it took us about 2 hours round trip because we stopped often to enjoy the views and take photos along the way.
Once you reach the top of Arch Rock, there’s an amazing view of the surrounding area including Jumbo Rocks, Cottonwood Spring and Skull Rock. There’s also an interesting sign telling you about how this landmark got its name.
Joshua Tree National Park is a beautiful and rugged desert landscape that protects the Joshua tree, a plant found only along the Colorado and Mojave Deserts. The park is filled with wildlife, from bighorn sheep to coyotes and foxes. The park’s diverse landscape includes mountains, valleys, and sand dunes.
We had spectacular wildlife sightings in Joshua Tree National Park in the 2 decades we have been regulars here.
Joshua Tree National Park is a very unique and special place. There are so many things to see and do here, but one of our favorite things to do at night is star gaze.
The park has some of the darkest skies in Southern California, which makes it a great place for stargazing.
This is the best time to be in Joshua Tree National Park. The sunsets are spectacular and the Milky Way is at its most brilliant. For those who enjoy star gazing, there are no better places in the world than Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park has a vast array of dark skies, making it an ideal place for stargazing. The park boasts a 2,000 square mile area that is designated as a dark sky preserve. This makes it one of the largest protected areas in the United States for night sky viewing. The park also has more than 5,000 celestial objects visible with the naked eye at any given time of year.
Our hope is that this guide has inspired you to explore Joshua Tree for yourself. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or regular in the area, this list is designed to help you find the best of what Joshua Tree has to offer on your next visit. You can make the most of your trip if you take a little time prior to arrival to figure out how to prepare. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy every minute while you’re there!
Joshua Tree National Park is an area that can be enjoyed in many different ways. Staying overnight here gives you the chance to see the attractions during different times of the day, making this the best way to visit and experience everything that it has to offer. From camping options, to fun things to do, there’s something for everyone.