I just recently got back from a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. I grew up in Palm Desert, California- only 40 minutes from Joshua Tree, so I had been there more than a few times growing up. It is a gorgeous place with abundant wildlife, wacky trees, and amazing star-gazing. It really is a quirky one-of-a-kind getaway. However, there are some critical things to know before planning your visit to the park that could make or break your adventure:
Joshua Tree has Dramatic Temperature Changes:
One minute you’ll be baking under the dangerously hot sun, trying to find shade. Then without warning the clouds will roll in and the wind will pick up, and you’ll be freezing wondering why you didn’t bring your winter coat. I am serious, do not take the low desert dangers lightly. Be prepared for blistering cold and blistering hot all in the same hike. Wear layers, bring more water than you think you’ll need and wear a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
It is PACKED on weekends:
Like I said, I grew up really close to Joshua Tree National Park, so it has never before been an issue for me to get a camping spot. They are first come, first serve, and fill up really quick. We drove 10.5 hours to Joshua Tree and arrived at about 6pm. There was absolutely nothing available. We also arrived on Friday, and were told they would be booked all weekend by the folks already there. We camped in one of the many campsites outside of the park, so we had somewhere to go, but it was a bummer to not be in the park. On Sunday night however we had no issues finally getting a site at the BlackRock campground.
Joshua Tree is a HUGE park:
Joshua Tree National Park is larger than Road Island, and has so many features spread throughout the vast terrain. If you’re going for a day, or even a weekend, you will have to prioritize your time and figure out exactly what you want to see, because unfortunately, you just can not see everything in that short amount of time. So do your homework and prioritize attractions because the park is rich in things to see and do.
There is Beautiful and Dangerous Wildlife:
You may think the desert could only be home to sparse wildlife because it is so dehydrated and provides little protection, however on the contrary, Joshua Tree National Park is bursting with wildlife. It has everything from frogs, Coyotes, Big Horned Sheep, Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Rattlesnakes, Jackrabbits, etc. So be safe. While camping be sure to store all food in a secure spot away from your tent. You do not want to unknowingly lure pesky rodents into the camp site. More so, a hungry Mountain Lion would not hesitate to enter your camp if he were temped with your leftovers.
Joshua Tree Has a Very Fragile Environment:
Did you know that it takes decades for one Joshua Tree to grow a limb? Anywhere you go, you must respect the environment as if it were someone else home (because it is!) Do not move vegetation, hang anything from the Joshua Trees, stray off the trail or leave any trash behind. I know these things are all common sense for most adventurers, but I see a devastating amount of people breaking these rules, and it is absolutely not acceptable. You are a guest in the park and you should absolutely Leave NO Trace. Keep it beautiful for other visitors, and the wildlife who have made their homes there. Do not disturb the ecosystem.
With all of those things in mind, you absolutely can have an amazing time visiting Joshua Tree National Park. It is truly a unique adventure with one of a kind terrain. Just remember to get there early, stay safe and hydrated, and respect the vegetation and wildlife.