Travel Tuesday: Joshua Tree National Park

by - 11:14 AM

While living in California for just shy of 2 years, we were able to get out and travel to some gorgeous parks. Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Death Valley; just to name a few. One of the parks that we travelled to most would be Joshua Tree National Park. Situated just outside of Palm Springs, Indio, and Twentynine Palms is this desert park that attracts rock climbers from all areas. But there is so much more to do than just rock climbing. Below you'll see a couple of "must see/must do" things within Joshua Tree. Most of what I suggest can all be done within the course of one day for those that are on a tight schedule and only want to see the best things in the park. Like any park though, you can spend multiple days in Joshua Tree and still not see it all.

One of the most popular trails in the park is the Cholla Gardens. The trail is short and sweet coming in at just over .3 miles in length. The hike is great for all seasons so if you visit in the winter, it'll be just as neat as the summer. I think it's perfect for families but the only problem is the cholla are really sharp and they extend onto the trails in some places. If you have kids, you'll want to make sure that they aren't getting stuck by the cholla. Even if you are as cautious as possible, you'll probably still make it back to your car and notice that you have a couple of needles in your shoe. It's bound to happen. This is one area of the park that has the most dense cholla.

One of my next favorite things about the park isn't necessarily a single location but an activity. When you visit Joshua Tree, you'll notice the size of the rocks. There are massive boulders just piled on top of each other. The best thing about massive boulders is you get to be a kid and climb. The rocks are great for exploring, picnicking, or simply enjoying the view. Some parts of the rock are extremely prickly so to speak. You'll want good shoes on to really be able to enjoy the rocks. Not to say that you can't have fun with sandals on but you'll for sure want to have good shoes for climbing. I would go one step further as to say make sure you wear long pants as well so you don't get scratched up but that depends on how you feel. I personally wore shorts during the summer even when climbing but I'm used to being tore up! You'll also want to be careful when it comes to lizards and snakes also. They like to sunbathe on the rocks. You probably wont see one but be forewarned in case you do. But back to the rocks! You can pull off on the of the roads (in the pull offs of course) and just go climb. Pretty much everywhere you go within Joshua Tree will have large rocks.  
Speaking of rocks, another thing that Joshua Tree is well known for is well, rock climbing. I'm not talking about the bouldering like I mentioned above. I'm talking about, harnesses, carabineers, ropes, shoes, etc. I'm talking about chalk bags on your waist and climbing up a rock wall shoving your fingers into cracks and pulling yourself up. I love rock climbing, but I've actually never been climbing in Joshua Tree. It's on my list of future to-do's. If you aren't able to set up your own anchors and belay others, you can find many adventure companies outside of the park who will take you climbing and teach you everything you need to know for an enjoyable day on the rocks. Just make sure you give plenty of notice because in the summer, the rock climbing companies are booked solid!
Another place that I really enjoy is going to the top of Inspiration Peak. To get to Inspiration Peak, you'll drive the 7 miles to get to Key's View. If you don't feel like hiking, you can stop and enjoy the view of the Saltan Sea, Coachella Valley, and Mount San Jacinto. The hike is very easy but challenging at the same time. The trail is just over half a mile but it's pretty much a straight shot up. Once you reach the top, you have amazing panoramic views that wrap for miles on the clearest of days. You can hike even further if you want but most people turn back around and hike back the same way you came. No matter what time of year you visit, the view will be worth it whether you hike to Inspiration Peak or if you just stay at Keys View. You won't be disappointed.  
I have yet to camp in Joshua Tree itself. I've stayed at Dead Horse State Park just a little bit away but we always lived so close we just went for day trips when we lived there. That said, the campgrounds are really great if you are tent camping or going by travel trailer. The only thing I will say about going tent camping there (and this is from previous experiences in hot, windy places) you might not want to tent camp when monsoon season is around or when there are dust storms expected. It can get really windy there and very hot. Make sure you have a good summer tent so that you aren't too hot. And because it is a desert, it gets cold at night. It's a catch 22 when it comes to being hot during the day and cold at night. If you aren't into camping, you have hotels nearby in Twentynine Palms or Palm Springs.
This is usually where I put photos of the wildlife that I have seen while at the parks but after going through all my albums of photos from Joshua Tree, I don't have a single animal in a photo. It doesn't mean we haven't seen any. I know we've seen coyotes, lizards and scorpions; just no photos to show of it. Regardless, watch for animals because it is a desert. It's a great trip for couples or families!

*Next weeks Travel Tuesday*
Bandelier National Monument (New Mexico) or Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
Comment below with which park you would like me to write about!

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