Exploring Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park features nearly 80,000 acres of whimsical trees, vast desert, enchanting fan palm oases, and otherworldly rock formations. Two unique desert ecosystems exist in the park, the Colorado and the Mojave, and the meeting of high and low desert create a beautiful, diverse habitat for a variety of animals and plants.  

Joshua Tree National Park not only boasts a stunning landscape, but it offers a number of exciting outdoor recreational opportunities. Here are the top hikes, climbs, and sights you need to explore at the park.

Hiking

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

Trails at Joshua Tree range from short nature walks to strenuous hikes. To start, head to Hidden Valley and walk the Hidden Valley Nature Trail which is an easy 1-mile loop. While mild, this is one of the most scenic places in the park, and the trail leads you into the center of what is essentially a bowl surrounded by enormous rock formations.

If you’re looking for a hike with awesome views, check out Ryan Mountain. This 3-mile up-and-down trail climbs 1,100 feet to the top of Ryan Mountain which sits at 5,461 feet. It’s not easy, but the climb is well worth it for the spectacular views.

If you want to see Joshua Trees, the 1.3-mile loop at Barker Dam is a must-do. The dam was constructed in the early 1900’s by cattleman, and at certain times of the year you can see water here. Don’t miss the signs for the petroglyphs towards the end of the trail!

For more of a challenge, try the 7-mile round-trip Boy Scout Trail to Willow Hole hike. Venture through beautiful Joshua Tree forest and into the Wonderland of Rocks, a maze of towering rock formations. Willow Hole does indeed have willow trees as well as a seasonal water hole.

Climbing

Hall of Horrors

Hall of Horrors – NPS

With more than 8,000 climbing routes and around 400 climbing formations, climber’s from around the world travel here to experience the surreal landscape at Joshua Tree, especially during the winter months. Climbs range from easy boulders to super challenging vertical cracks, so climbers of all skill levels can find something to enjoy.

The Hidden Valley area, Hall of Horrors, and the Wonderland of Rocks are all popular spots for climbing.

Sights

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

As always, favorite sights and views differ from person to person, but here are a few everyone can probably agree are worth checking out.

Take a drive up to Keys View located on the Little San Bernardino Mountains. At more than 5,000 feet, this lookout point offers great views of Coachella Valley and Palm Springs.

If you’re looking for something unique, Cholla Cactus Garden is a must-see. Here, you will find a sea of Cholla Cactus and a short walking loop.

Skull Rock is just what it sounds like, an enormous rock shaped like a skull. It’s located near the road and the surrounding boulders can be fun for scrambling or just taking in the surrounding views.

If you want to immerse yourself into a little history of the park, take the Keys Ranch tour. Once the home of William F. Keys, the ranch features a store, schoolhouse, workshop, and house.

Camping in Southern California

Walters Camp RV Park and Campground is a family focused campground located on the Lower Colorado River and surrounded by beautiful desert. During the warmer months, this park is perfect for wakeboarding, kayaking, or just relaxing on the sandbars. In the cooler months, take an off-road adventure, go hiking, or explore the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge.

walters camp

Walters Camp offers RV sites, nearly 10 acres for tent and dry camping, and waterfront sites.  Joshua Tree National Park is an hours drive from the park.

Oasis Palms RV Park in Thermal, California offers spacious sites and tons of outdoor activities. Enjoy the heated pool, game room, daily Happy Hour, and clean showers and restrooms. This campground is pet-friendly and features an off-leash dog park.

Lisa Kyle Young Photography

Oasis Palms is a short 30 minutes drive from Joshua Tree National park.

Exploring more of California? Discover hundreds of California campgrounds on Camp Native.

Jessica Goehring title: Administrator
Jessica is a freelance writer. She resides in Minnesota with her husband, daughter dog, and 4 cats. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, and hiking.