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The Ultimate Joshua Tree Guide | Things to Do in Joshua Tree

joshua tree yucca plants

Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its “Joshua Trees” or the Yucca brevifolia, better known as the Yucca tree. The park’s main entrance is located in Joshua Tree, California but spread out and straddles across the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. The park receives nearly 3 million visitors each year and is the second most popular National Park in California. The park is perfect for those you love to hike, stargaze, enjoy magical sunsets, and more. There are tons of things to do in Joshua Tree. Here is my Joshua Tree guide to planning the perfect getaway.

woman at cholla cactus garden joshua tree national park

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Joshua Tree Guide

Below is my Joshua Tree guide that includes things to do in Joshua Tree National Park as well as things to do in town and in the surrounding High Desert cities. You’ll find information on when to visit, where to eat, where to stay, and more that will help you plan the perfect Joshua Tree weekend.

woman at joshua tree mural

Things to Know When Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

There is little to no cellular service in the park so it’s important to have a map with you. You can download a Joshua Tree National Park map, pick up a free one at a Visitor Center or entrance, or buy a detailed map that shows hiking trails and more.

I suggest looking at the map beforehand and creating a rough Joshua Tree itinerary so that you have an idea of where to go. You’ll find things along the way and make stops but having somewhat of a plan will make things easier since you won’t be able to rely on cellular service.

woman at cholla cactus garden sunset photoshoot joshua tree

Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree

The best time to visit Joshua Tree is in spring months (March – April) when it’s still cool but not cold and the flowers are in bloom. After summer (October-November) when it’s not scorching hot is also a great option. Joshua Tree weather is super hot in the summer months and still pretty warm in spring and fall. The nights drop down in temperature even in the summer months so having an extra layer is needed if you’re out past sundown.

Joshua Tree National Park Entrance & Fees

There are three entrances for Joshua Tree:

West Entrance in Joshua Tree, near the Joshua Tree Visitor Center
North Entrance in Twentynine Palms near the Oasis Visitor Center
South Entrance near the Cottonwood Visitor Center

Park Boulevard is the main section of the park and has many attractions. If you visiting for the day or even a few hours, visiting along Park Boulevard will be a good way of making the most of your day in Joshua Tree.

Entrance to the park is $30 for a non-commercial vehicle and is good for seven days. If you’re planning to visit three or more national parks in a year, then opt for the National Parks annual pass which is $80.

Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Below is a list of things to do in Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve also included some helpful tips that I’ve learned between my many visits to the park and around the surrounding cities. It starts off with a Joshua Tree National Park guide, then a guide to the surrounding cities. Hopefully, these tips will help when creating your Joshua Tree itinerary.

Go Hiking

Joshua Tree has tons of hiking trails from short hikes to longer hikes. Many are flat while there are some that have an incline. Here are some park faves:

Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail – 3 miles
Hidden Valley Nature Trail – 1 mile, 1-hour loop
Cholla Cactus Garden – 15-30 mins loop
Skull Rock – the trail is 1.7 miles (1-2 hour loop) but Skull Rock is only a few steps away from the main road
Barker Dam – 1.1 miles, 1 hour (check out the petroglyphs)
Ryan Mountain – 2.8 miles
Lost Palms Oasis – 7.4 miles
Arch Rock Nature Trail – 1.2 miles

Check out my beginner’s hiking guide for tips on what to bring along for a hike, helpful tips, and more.

Check Out Ancient Rock Formations

Did you know that the oldest rocks in Joshua Tree are 1.4 to 1.7 billion-year-old metamorphic rocks? The park is full of these cool rock formations, check them out.

Skull Rock
Arch Rock
Jumbo Rocks
Headstone Rock at Ryan Ranch (1.2 miles round trip hike)
Heart Rock 33°59’17.6″N 116°00’47.8″W (unmarked trail – short hike from Arch Rock)

Rock Climbing & Bouldering

With so many huge rocks, Joshua Tree is a great place to rock climb. Hidden Valley is a popular spot for climbers. Even if you don’t participate it’s fun to watch! If you’re a newbie to rock climbing then check out  Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School. They will get you set up. They have one-day seminars and two to four-day courses.

Catch the Sunset

Desert sunsets are dreamy so enjoy the evening and watch the colors of the sky at one of these spots.

Keys View – Just a short walk up from the parking lot is Keys View. It’ll take you up to about 5,000-foot elevation and gives you a perfect view of the sunset over the mountains. Visit a little before sunset to find the perfect spot and check out Palm Springs, the Salton Sea, and even the San Andreas fault line in the distance.

woman at keys view joshua tree at sunset

Cholla Cactus Garden – This is a great place to hang out during the golden hour and into the sunset. The sun gives the cactus needles and beautiful glow. This spot is also good for sunrise.

woman at cholla cactus garden joshua tree

Go Stargazing

Joshua Tree is a dark sky park making it’s the perfect place for stargazing. Because of its location and elevation, Joshua Tree doesn’t get much light pollution. The night skies are truly stunning and stargazing makes for a perfect nighttime activity.

stargazing joshua tree comet

You’ll want to scout out a place before dark so you know exactly where to go once it’s dark. I personally love stargazing at Skull Rock but there are many great spots. Take a blanket to lay on or a chair. You’ll also want a red light when stargazing. It takes 20-30 minutes for the human eye to adjust to low light so using a red light to see helps. Avoid bright white lights, lanterns, or cell phone lights as much as possible. And take layers as it can get cool at night even in the summer months.

Check the moonlight time and try to avoid it especially if it’s a full moon. Use a star finder app to see constellation and even the Milky Way. Late April – late July is the best time to view the Milky Way in the park.

Take Some Photos

Joshua Tree National Park is full of beauty, it has tons of stunning trails, unique rock formations, funky trees, and more. If you’re interested in Joshua Tree photography, check out my guide to the best Joshua Tree photo spots.

Where to Stay At Joshua Tree

If you want to spend the majority of your time visiting the park or doing activities in the park camping is a great option. For those who want to explore the town and other parts of the High Desert, a hotel or Airbnb might be a better choice.

Joshua Tree Camping

There is camping available inside the park and some private campground outside the park. There is also BLM camping in the north and south if the park. Check out the before Joshua Tree guide to camping.

joshua tree camping

First-come, First-Serve Campsites

Hidden Valley is located in the main park, next to Hidden Ranch Nature Trail.
White Tank is located in the main park and right next to Arch Rock and many other trails and boulders.
Ryan is located in the main park just off Park Ave. It’s next to Ryan Ranch and a short distance from the Ryan Mountain Trailhead.
Belle is located in the main park, near White Tank.

Campsites You Can Reserve on recreation.gov

Jumbo Rocks is located in the main park, is central to many park attractions, and a great choice if you want to stay in the park for the majority of your stay.
Black Rock Canyon is located in Yucca Valley and is a 20-minute drive from the West Entrance.
Indian Cove is located in Twentynine Palms and is a 20-minute drive from the North Entrance.
Cottonwood is located near the South Entrance.

Private Campsites

If you don’t have much luck booking a campsite or finding one the day of, consider a private campsite. These are campgrounds that are not affiliated with the park but have similar campground amenities like bathrooms and some have hot showers.

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground
First-come, first-serve tent camping and RV park

Airbnbs

If you’re staying the night in Joshua Tree you can book from a variety of Airbnbs. Airbnbs are a popular option and provide you with a unique experience. As an Airbnb Associate, I earn when you book through the links on this page.

This Must Be The Place! Airstream w/Hot Tub JTNP – Campers/RVs for Rent in Joshua Tree, California
2 guests, 1 bedroom, 1 bed, 1 bath

The Caravan House – Houses for Rent in Joshua Tree, California
6 guests, 3 bedrooms, 3 beds, 1.5 baths

Magical Airstream, Stunning Views – Campers/RVs for Rent in Joshua Tree, Ca
4 guests, 1 bedroom, 3 beds, 1 bath

Sol to Soul House – Houses for Rent in Pioneertown, California
4 guests, 2 bedrooms, 2 beds, 2 baths

Hotels

You can also book hotels, motels, vacation home rentals, and other accommodations on Booking.com. I hope this Joshua Tree guide helps with booking your stay.

Budget

Casa Anya (sleeps 8)
Joshua Tree Green Oasis (sleeps 3-4)
Open Sky (sleeps 3)

Moderate

Eclectic Joshua Tree (sleeps 6)
The Farmhouse Retreat (sleeps 10)

Premium

Sacred Sands (sleeps 2) <– perfect for a romantic Joshua Tree getaway

Luxury

Invisible House <— if you’re looking for something truly epic!

Things to Do Outside the Park

If you’re staying in Joshua Tree for a couple of days be sure to explore the city. There are also plenty of things to do in the neighboring cities as well. Here are some unique things to do in Joshua Tree and the other surrounding High Desert cities.

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Sculpture Museum

Noah Purifoy lived and worked as an artist for most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree. He spent the last 15 years of his life creating acres full of large-scale sculptures in the desert. The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Sculpture Museum is a quirky place where you can see Noah’s one-of-a-kind art on display which is constructed entirely from junked materials.

World Famous Crochet Museum

Another unique thing to do in Joshua Tree is to visit the World Famous Crochet Museum. It’s a small museum located inside a FotoMat booth and has many cute and kitschy crocheted items.

Glass Outhouse Art Gallery (29 Palms)

The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery is an outdoor sculpture museum and an indoor art gallery located in 29 Palms. Come stroll the grounds and view some unique art!

Wonder Valley Hot Springs (Wonder Valley)

Wonder Valley Hot Springs is a 20-acre property with multiple overnight rentals, each with their own private stone soaking tub filled with our mineral-rich hot springs water. Day soaking is also available but must be booked in advance.

Pioneertown

Pioneertown is an unincorporated town with a population of 420. It was started up in 1946 by actor, Dick Curtis. There are shops, bars, restaurants, and more with Western facades that will have you feeling like you’re in an old Western movie set.

Integratron (Landers)

The Integratron is known for its sound baths. You will have to book in advance as spaces fill up rather quickly. You might get lucky as a walk-in but don’t count on it if your heart is set on this experience.

integratron landers

Go Shopping

Joshua Tree and the surrounding High Desert cities have cool and unique shops. If you’re looking for a fun gust for someone, love vintage, handmade, or wellness products, check out some of these shops.

Wine & Rock Shop (Yucca Valley)
The Wine & Rock Shop is a hip shop that sells rocks, crystals, and small gifts. Along with natural and organic wines mostly from small and local wineries.

wine and rock shop yucca valley

Grateful Desert (Joshua Tree)
Grateful Desert sells hand-crafted herbal, aromatherapy, and natural health products.

Moon Wind Trading Co (Yucca Valley)
Moon Wind Trading Co is a carefully curated shop with products that are made from natural or re-purposed material.

The End (Yucca Valley)
The End is a shop that carries vintage clothing, jewelry, apothecary items, and more.

Where to Eat in Joshua Tree

There are many options for eating in Joshua Tree and the nearby cities. However, if you plan on eating inside the park you’ll have to pack a meal and snacks as there aren’t any options. Even water is limited and only found at the entrances and ranger station (see exactly where on the map above). Below is a Joshua Tree guide to some of the best places to eat.

Joshua Tree Restaurants

Joshua Tree Saloon
open every day from 9 am – midnight
Joshua Tree Saloon is a great place for a quick snack, a burger, and some cocktails. They’re located only a 10-minute drive from the West Entrance of the park.

food and cocktail joshua tree saloon

Crossroads Cafe
open Monday – Saturday from 7 am – 9 pm, Sunday from 7 am – 2 pm
Crossroads Cafe serves diner classics with a modern spin, including vegan options. This spot is a popular option during the weekends so arrive early for breakfast or opt for a late lunch on Saturdays to avoid the crowds.

Natural Sisters Cafe
open every day from 7 am – 2 pm
Natural Sisters Cafe serves comfort food with a natural twist. Come in for organic, plant-based, and locally sourced food and drinks.

Pie for the People
TEMPORARILY CLOSED
(usually open Sunday – Tuesday from 11 am – 9 pm, Wednesday – Saturday 11 am – 10 pm)
The best pizza in the High Desert! Pie for the People serves New York-style pizza with a variety of toppings and fun names for their specialty pizzas.

pizza from pie for the people

Other Nearby Restaurants

Pappy + Harriet’s (Pioneertown)
closed Tuesday & Wednesday
Honky-tonk, barbecue restaurant, and music venue

pappy and harriets pioneertown joshua tree

Carla’s Route 62 Diner (Yucca Valley)
open every day from 6 am – 2 pm
An American diner serving up breakfast and lunch

woman eating breakfast at Carlas route 66 diner

Frontier Café (Yucca Valley)
open every day from 7 am – 5 pm
Cafe offering breakfast and lunch made with fresh ingredients, coffee, tea, wine, and more

La Copine (Yucca Valley)
TEMPORARILY CLOSED
(usually closed Monday – Wednesday)
*make dinner reservations
Chic restaurant offering New American cuisine

What To Bring

Sunscreen
Hat
Water (enough for the entire day) ** there are fill-up stations at some of the entrances/visitor centers and ranger station, please see the map above**
Camera
Snacks/Food
for the day if you don’t plan on leaving the park
Headlamp with red light (if you’re staying passed sundown)
Layers (it cools down at night)

                 

I hope you enjoyed this Joshua Tree blog post and that this makes things a lot easier when planning a Joshua Tree trip.

joshua tree yucca plant california high desert

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