I didn’t think I’d like Joshua Tree National Park. I typically prefer the more “traditional parks” that consist of deep canyons or mountains, forests, and lakes. I figured Joshua Tree NP would just be a boring desert with a bunch of cool trees, right?
Free camping on BLM land outside of Joshua Tree NP:
Within minutes of entering the park, I figured how very wrong I was, especially during the magic hour of sunrise. Silhouettes of the gnarled trees beckoned us as we drove down the vast, empty road, and it became understandable why artists, poets, and nature lovers personify these trees. I, too, became enamored by these trees, and yearned to grab them by the arms and dance in the desert twilight.
Compared with the 20+ national parks we’ve visited, Joshua Tree NP truly leaves a lasting impression. With its alien world of spiky trees and rock formations, it is difficult to imagine such a place exists on this planet. But it DOES exist, which is why there are national parks to begin with–to show the world just how incredible certain parts of the world can be.
Who knew that desert landscapes could be so beautiful? Perhaps the most scenic and popular trail in the park is the 1-mile Hidden Valley loop trail, where ranchers once rustled cattle. We watched sunrise at Hidden Valley and had the typically crowded valley all to ourselves.
We then proceeded to the neighboring Barker Dam, which unfortunately had no water in the fall season. The trail was still scenic, but not as gorgeous as Hidden Valley.
Attractions along the road include Skull Rock:
And a sprawling “garden” of cholla cactus, a surreal landscape for sunrise or sunset:
The Quail Springs Rock Exhibit Area is popular amongst rock climbers and boulderers.
And the densest concentration of Joshua trees can be found in the higher region of Black Rock Canyon.
With tolerable autumn weather, a bike ride up to Keys View is a glorious way to view the park and its trees. Keys View boasts the only lookout at the park, which overlooks the Coachella Valley.
Joshua Tree NP doesn’t have much in the way of long, epic hikes like those in Glacier or Canyonlands, but its short, scenic strolls through concentrated areas of rocks and trees help one appreciate the landscape at a more leisurely pace. With rocks to climb, new landscapes to explore and discover, and so much to learn, Joshua Tree NP will bring out the inner child in anyone.