Joshua Tree National Park

What you can see and do in a short amount of time, even if you're not a climber!

It has been a tradition for my girlfriend Becky and I to celebrate Thanksgiving since we became friends 5 years ago. Both of our families live in Michigan and neither of us travel home for this holiday so it made sense. Even though we don't live in the same vicinity anymore, we still hold true to our tradition! We decided to visit Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, and I must say we picked the perfect time of year! The weather was in the high 60's the whole time, much nicer desert weather than in the summer months!


The Place

Let me start off by showing you where we stayed! This was found on the website hipcamp.com, similar to AirBnb but more geared towards the outdoors and camping. We found this perfect yurt at a good price! The owner greeted us upon arrival and showed us around the property, pointing out all of the amenities and making us feel extra welcome!

We had our own lounge area including some outdoor furniture, a hammock and a table and chairs. There was a shared restroom with a shower, and we were free to use their fire pit, putting green, hang with the chickens on the property, or play various outdoor games that were set up!

You could even paint your own square on the wall that surrounded the yurt! Although we ran out of time to do that, its a super fun idea!

This was a great option if you want the outdoor experience without having to do the work!


The Park

Neither Becky or myself are rock climbers, and after experiencing this park it was evident this is a great place for those who are climbers! If you do not rock climb, there are a few nice hikes and some things to see which is what we focused on for this trip!


Hidden Valley Trail

This was a fun and easy scenic 1-mile loop trail, where it is said that rustlers hid their illicit herds. Large boulders and numerous sorts of cacti line this trail.


Keys View

An easy spot to drive to with an incredible reward of picturesque views of the Coachella Valley. It was a very hazy day due to the amount of moisture in the air but we didn't care it was totally worth it! I also hear the sunsets from here are amazing!


Barker Dam

A hand crafted dam built by cowboys in order to have water for their cattle, it has become a small lake that attracts the local wildlife. In this desert, it is a rarity to see so much water in one place! There is a 1.3-mile loop trail that takes you to the dam, follow the signs carefully as we veered off at the petroglyphs and starting going in the wrong direction on a different trail!



Jumbo Rocks

Awesome place to rock climb but there are some smaller, more manageable rocks to explore for people who aren't climbers. You get the feeling as if you're in the Flintstones movie when you are surrounded by all of these smoothly shaped boulders!



Skull Rock

Just a short drive down from the Jumbo Rocks, is this well known landmark. Great pit stop for a quick photo opportunity! This was a very popular place with the children, they were climbing all over the surrounding rocks and posing with the skull! If you want to get a clear shot its best to hit this place early!

Cholla Cactus Garden

Most of the attractions are toward the center of the park where the roads all come together, the Cholla Cactus Garden is near the south end of the park by itself. Definitely worth the drive, much like how the Joshua Trees only grow in certain areas of the park, the cholla cactus is concentrated in this specific area. There is a walking path that winds around the cacti, but be careful they are prickly! This was personally one of my favorite areas of the park.



49 Palms Oasis

A 3-mile out and back moderate hiking trail takes you to this beautiful area tucked away between desert mountains. A special place where palm trees grow naturally while being fed from a natural spring. Take plenty of water on this trail, there is no shade from trees and in the summer I could imagine it gets blistering hot!



Where to Eat

We grocery shopped a little before our trip, packing a small cooler with hummus, veggies, fruits and tons of water to keep us going while we were in the park. There are no amenities in the park besides pit toilets so be prepared! The few times we exited the park to get something to eat, we enjoyed these places:

  • Natural Sisters Cafe

  • Palm Kabob House

Don't forget, Joshua Tree is known for some really beautiful sunsets and the star gazing is said to be amazing. We did stick around for a few sunsets but since we weren't camping, we missed the opportunity to star gaze. Overall we had a great time and got to see some really amazing things! Check out the map for all of the locations mentioned above!



Try picking up a guide book for extra ideas! We used the one below for both Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. I do receive a small commission when you purchase these items through the links. I only list what I use and would recommend to others.



Don't forget to pin it!


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© 2018 by Jamie Sielski