The Joshua Tree National Park is a Must See during a road trip in California. This guide contains everything you shouldn’t miss during one day in Joshua Tree National Park.
GETTING TO THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
A visit in Joshua Tree can easily be connected with a visit in Palm Springs. After we spend the whole day exploring this special city we drove around 50 Mins to Yucca Valley. This small village is only a few minutes away from the visitor center and the West Entrance Station of the National Park. We stayed there for two nights in the coolest Airbnb ever!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO THE JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK?
The Joshua Tree National Park is a desert so keep in mind that the temperatures can get really high during the summer months. Autumn and spring are perfect for a visit while the winter months can get a bit chilly. When we’ve been there at the end of November we had nice sunny days with around 22°C but as soon as the sun was setting (which was already at 4pm) it got really chilly.
HOW MUCH IS THE ENTREE FEE FOR JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK?
As already mentioned above you will enter the Park through the West Entrance Station if you stay in Yucca valley or come from Palm Springs. A pass for one car (no matter how many people are in it) costs 30$ and is valid for seven days. You can get the ticket at the visitor center or right at entrance gate.
A PLACE WHERE TWO DESERTS MEET…
Joshua Tree National Park is the place where two deserts meet. The Mojave desert in the West and the Colorado desert in the Eastern part of the park.
The first one is the part where you will find the famous Joshua Trees which gave the place its name. The plants only look like trees but are a species of yucca. You will also see countless boulder rock formations next to the streets of the Mojave part.
As soon as you enter the Colorado desert there will be no more Joshua Trees but therefore a lot of cacti which look super fluffy from far but are in fact very hurtful.
YOUR ROUTE FROM THE WEST TO THE EAST –
ONE DAY IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Map with all mentioned stops
After entering the Park through the West Entrance station (1) you will see the unique nature around you. The further you drive the more Joshua Trees and jacked boulders can be seen from the car.
The Keys View (2) is a nice view point to overlook the valley and the mountains. It’s on an elevation of 5,185 ft / 1,580 m and accessible by car – you only have to walk up the last few meters. On clear days you can even spot Coachella Valley and Palm Springs from up here.
On the way to the Ryan campground (3) you will find a single rock surrounded by Joshua Trees on your left hand side. I really loved this one since it looked so different from the other rock piles we’ve seen. And of course it also made a nice photo location
Following the street to the East it will lead you to the Jumbo Rocks (4). These are the same boulder rocks you’ve already seen before – just way bigger! And a few meters behind it is the famous Skull Rock (5) located. You won’t miss it since the unique shape of a giant skull is very remarkable and can already be seen from the street.
Continuing the street it will lead you to a junction (6). The way to the left will lead you out of the park but driving right you will enter the Colorado desert part of the park. It’s impressive to see how the nature & landscape starts to change around you. Boulder rocks disappear and will be changed to a huge valley with some cacti here and there.
The Cholla Cactus Garden (7) is definitely worth a stop. It’s a patch which is covered with jumping cholla cactus. These cacti are also called teddy bear cholla since itchy looks super fluffy from a distance. But let me tell you that you better should not cuddle them
Now you can decide whether to continue this road until you leave the Joshua Tree National Park through a gate in the South and drive to Palm Springs or to take the same route back to reach Yucca Valley again. This is how we had the chance to see the beautiful National Park during sunset again.
558,000 acres of the Joshua Tree National Park are declared as wilderness and aren’t accessible by car. This is to protect the unique nature of the desert.
A FEW THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE SPENDING ONE DAY IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
- Bring enough water, a few snacks and don’t have an empty gas tank! You will find no shops or restaurants in the National Park. Even most campgrounds don’t have water – the last stops to get some water are the visitor centers. Yucca Valley is the last village before the West entrance with gas stations, restaurants and shops.
- Due to daylight saving the sun sets quite early in California starting from November 1st. This means you will only have time until around 4.30 pm before it will be dark & cold all of a sudden. So plan enough time for your one day visit before the sunset.
- You won’t have any phone service, internet connection or GPS in the National Park. But the map you will get at the visitor center / the entrance station helps for orientation plus the streets can not be missed.
- If you have a little more time you can do one of the countless hikes in the park. Find all hikes in Joshua Tree National Park and how much time you should plan for them here.