ah, the desert, or is it dessert? one is sand, the other is chocolate. no matter, i love them both. joshua tree national park in southern california is one of my favorite places and a spectacular place to visit for the day or a whole week. now, don’t expect amusement rides here kiddos, this isn’t disneyland or disneyworld, kind of the exact opposite. what you will find is a desert environment unlike anywhere else in the world. Three ecosystems meet here, including the colorado desert, mojave desert, which is home to the famed joshua tree (yes, made infamous by u2’s joshua tree album), and the little san bernardino mountains.
joshua tree national park, or “jtree” as we-in-the-know like to refer to it, is located about 90 miles east of los angeles, california and lies within a 3 hour drive of some 18 million people. it is the kind of place to escape for a day or week and remove yourself from society for a little while. there are many activities within the park including hiking, backpacking, camping, and rockclimbing (my favorite activity and one i did quite often before the kiddos came along).
for the daytrippers, this is the perfect day getaway. i’ve made many trips on a saturday or sunday for rockclimbing. we’d leave los angeles at 7:00, arrive in the park and ready to climb by about 9:30 and start heading home around 4:00 and get home around 6:30. it’s also a great place for dayhiking as well, so you angelenos out there, if time is tight, just go out for the day, you’ll be glad you did.
for the campers, there are several great camping spots including hidden valley (hard to find a spot and filled with rock climbers), ryan campground (nice and should find a spot if you arrive by friday midday) or jumbo rocks, a little further in the park and more secluded (but bigger campground than others), are some of my favorites. there are no services within the park so you must bring all food and water with you (joshua tree, california is right outside the park and has all services) and ladies, there are no running toilets or restrooms, but pit toilets are the norm (they are what they sound like).
for the non-campers, there are several choices of places to stay. you’ll find mostly motel 6 type places located outside the park in joshua tree and nearby yucca valley. for a real weekend getaway, i recommend staying at the desert lily, a boutique bed and breakfast, located just outside the park (carrie yeager, the owner, was recently featured in the shout out!).
for the rockclimbers (did i metion i did this a lot before the kiddos?), there are over 5,000 routes in the park ranging from super easy to super hard. for those of you who always wanted to try rockclimbing, this is one of the best places to do it. contact the joshua tree rockclimbing school or vertical adventures for lessons. both outfits run very safe and fun operations. i recommend taking a saturday and sunday class and staying in the park overnight (motels are nearby if you’re not the camping type).
the best times to visit the park are october thru may. the summers get blistering hot (this is the desert afterall) and the winters are beautiful during the day but freezing cold at night (this is the high desert, elevation 3000’+). the desert wildflower season is almost upon us and you can get a pretty good show in the park.
so whether you want to go out to joshua tree national park for some peace and quiet, see an amazing display of stars amongst the dark skies, or you want to tell everyone how cool you are because you just got back from “jtree”, you should put it on your to-do-list. i assure you, you won’t be disappointed and you might even get a little dirty.