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Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderful place to spend the day when you are traveling in California. Learn how to make the most out of your visit with this travel guide.
To truly explore Joshua Tree National Park you need at least a few days, but if you don’t have the time, there are some pretty impressive things to see in just one day.
Better yet, if you are not a hiker, most of these locations are right off the road.
It takes around 3 hrs to drive from L.A. to Joshua Tree national park and I suggest you leave early in the morning and stop at one of the In-N-Out Burger joints along the way.
Stay the night in Palm Springs nearby and return to L.A. the next morning.
If you don’t mind long hours on the road, you can make this a day-trip from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park.
Things to do in Joshua Tree National Park
The park has three main entrances with most of the attractions on the northern part of the park.
Start at the Oasis Visitor Center and drive down Park Boulevard to the White Tank Campground. From there hike the 0.3 miles to Arch Rock for some pictures.
Next stop is the Cholla Cactus Garden.
Backtracking a little, take the road towards Keys View. Stop to see Skull Rock and drive to Observation Point for an amazing sunset.
If you are into Night Photography, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the few locations where you can find pitch dark skies with enough foreground interest to make amazing pictures. The park stays open 24hrs, which means you don’t have to trespass – not that you would anyway!
Arch Rock Trail
If you enjoy bouldering or rock climbing Joshua Tree National Park is your playground.
If you are hiking, remember that the trails are in the middle of the desert. The landscape is hard, rocky and flat and the heat is extreme. So if you are visiting at mid-day or summer months, make sure you have sun protection and plenty of water.
Cholla Cactus Garden
Joshua Trees are pretty much everywhere along the roads of the park, but once you get close to Cholla Cactus Garden, the landscape starts to change to these shorter and spikier cacti.
Because blooming season in the desert starts early, you might see newly bloomed pink flowers earlier in the year, but the Cholla Cacti blooms around April-June. So if you would like to see that, plan your visit accordingly.
The trail at the Cholla Cactus Garden is a short loop walk from the parking lot where you can find yourself completely surrounded by spikes.
The jewel of this itinerary, Keys Views provides an unparalleled look at the San Bernadino mountains. It’s a great place to watch the sunset!
And if you are not too tired after a day exploring the park, you can stay to photograph the dark skies. Otherwise head to Palm Springs for a nice dinner!
Have you been to Joshua Tree National Park? What are your favorite sites?
For hotels in Palm Springs, consider these:
For more things to do in California, check out these travel guides:
- Things to Do in Downtown LA
- Malibu Travel Guide
- Where to Whale Watch in Southern California
- Yosemite Valley National Park Travel Guide
- The Best Beaches in Southern California
- Things to Do Near Mammoth Lakes
Post originally written April 2016. Last updated June 2020.