If you like camping, hiking and bouldering, I can’t imagine a better place to go than California’s Joshua Tree National Park. A national park since 1994, much younger, by the way, than U2’s iconic album ‘The Joshua Tree’, it lies at the meeting point of two mighty deserts—the Colorado and Mojave. It’s a park filled with beauty, a place that invites you to explore and adventure. In this post, we’ll zoom in on the five main Joshua Tree National Park highlights.
5 Major Joshua Tree National Park Highlights
Encompassing 794,000 acres of sandy desert, boulder fields, mountain ranges and the occasional oasis, Joshua Tree National Park is pretty huge. However, well-maintained roads crisscross the park, offering easy access to its most noteworthy attractions. Of course, the presence of the native Joshua trees is a highlight in itself. Because that’s rather obvious, I haven’t included it in the following list of Joshua Tree National Park highlights.
1. Jumbo Rocks Campground
Right in the middle of it all lies Jumbo Rocks Campground, my favorite camping area in the entire park. It might get busy and sometimes loud, but the campground’s setting amid huge boulders and Joshua trees totally makes up for that. Its location in the heart of the park makes it one of the most strategic places to base yourself for two or three days in Joshua Tree National Park.
All sites are first-come first-served, so you’re advised to arrive there early to secure a spot. I recommend getting there no later than 8 am during the busy season. There’s no need to arrive exceptionally early, though, as you’ll most likely have to wait until other people pack up and leave anyway.
2. Keys View
Park Boulevard runs through the northern section of the park, connecting the West and North Entrances. A side road of this main one leads south to Keys View. From Park Boulevard, it’s about a twenty-minute drive to the viewpoint.
At 5,185 feet high, Keys View is one of the best panoramic overlooks anywhere in Joshua Tree National Park. Overlooking the entire Coachella Valley as far as the Salton Sea and including a section of the San Andreas Fault, it’s the greatest sunset spot in the park.
3. Cholla Cactus Garden
The second major road through the park is Pinto Basin Road, which runs southeast toward the South Entrance. It’s this road that will take you from the Mojave Desert, where you’ll find almost all the Joshua Tree, into the Colorado Desert, located at a lower elevation and noticeably hotter.
Along Pinto Basin Road, you’ll find the Cholla Cactus Garden. A quarter-mile-long loop hike takes you through this patch filled with jumping cholla and ocotillo plants.
4. Hidden Valley
A secluded area surrounded by tall hills and large piles of boulders, Hidden Valley is where cattle rustlers used to hide and regroup. Nowadays, it’s one of the park’s most popular bouldering and rock climbing spots. A one-mile loop trail circles through the area, introducing you to pretty much all of the park’s characterizing features—Joshua trees, desert, boulders and wildlife.
5. Lost Palms Oasis
One of the longest hikes in the national park, Lost Palms Oasis is the largest collection of palm trees anywhere in the park. The trail runs through the Colorado Desert, a hike that’s hot, shade-free, remote and downright beautiful. Count on about five hours for the entire outing and bring plenty of water.