Joshua Tree National Park
Location and Characteristics
| Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Website of Joshua Tree NP at NPS
Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California, east of Los Angeles and near Palm Springs. It is named after the Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) native to the Mojave Desert. The area was originally designated as a national monument in 1936, and became a National Park in 1994.
The park includes a total of over 790,000 acres, slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, of which 429,000 acres are designated as wilderness.
Nicknamed “J-Tree” by locals, the park lies at an ecological crossroads, where the higher Mojave Desert meets the lower Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains traverse the southwest edge of the park.
The higher and cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua tree for which the park is named. It occurs in patterns from dense forests to distantly spaced specimens.
Joshua Tree National Park is open year-round. There are few facilities within the park, making it a true desert wilderness.
More than two million visitors enjoy the park each year partaking in activities such as camping, rock climbing, biking, hiking, photography, and just enjoying the quiet desert wilderness.
The busiest time of the year is from October through May.
|The namesake Joshua Tree in California|
|Aerial view of Joshua Tree National Park (NPS)|
|NPS sign at entrance to Joshua Tree National Park
Getting to and Exploring the Park
Spend a day, or more, and enjoy and explore Joshua Tree National Park!
Before visiting the park, check out your options for entering. In addition to the heavily used west entrance near the Joshua Tree Visitors Center, there is also a north entrance, near the Oasis Visitors Center in Twentynine Palms, and a south entrance, near the intersection of Box Canyon Road and Interstate 10, which leads to the Cottonwood Visitors Center.
Visitors can approach Joshua Tree from Interstate 10 or California Highway 62 (the Twentynine Palms Highway). The park is 140 miles east of Los Angeles, 175 miles northeast of San Diego and 215 miles southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. The closest airport is in Palm Springs.
The park features 93 miles of paved roads and 106 miles of unpaved roads, nine campgrounds with 523 campsites and two horsecamps, and 10 picnic areas with 38 picnic sites. There are 32 trailheads and 191 miles of hiking trails throughout the park.
The park has three entrances:
- The West Entrance is located five miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village.
- The North Entrance is in Twentynine Palms, three miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Utah Trail.
- The South Entrance near Cottonwood Spring is an access point along Interstate 10, 25 miles east of Indio.
|Sunset along Geology Tour Road at Joshua Tree National Park|
There are four visitor centers:
- Joshua Tree Visitor Center - The first stop for park visitors headed towards the West Entrance. Located in the village of Joshua Tree on Park Blvd. just south of Hwy 62. Exhibits, bookstore, cafe, flush toilets onsite; public telephone and showers nearby.
- Oasis Visitor Center - Located at the Oasis of Mara in Twentynine Palms. Exhibits, bookstore, water, flush toilets, picnic tables.
- Cottonwood Visitor Center - Near the South Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Exhibits, bookstore, water, and flush toilets onsite. Picnic area nearby.
- Black Rock Nature Center - Located in the heart of beautiful Black Rock Campground. Bookstore, water, flush toilets, picnic area.
The park is always open and may be visited anytime of year. Visitation increases as temperatures moderate in the fall, peaks during the spring, and diminishes during the heat of summer. To enjoy your time in the park with sparser crowds, visit Joshua Tree midweek.
|Visitor Center at the west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park|
Map of the Park
Shown below is a map of Joshua Tree National Park, courtesy of the National Park Service.
click the image to view maps at NPS
What Weather to Expect in Joshua Tree
Desert weather in California can change swiftly and dramatically. Knowing the forecast is an important part of preparing for any visit to Joshua Tree.
Days are typically clear with less than 25% humidity. Conditions may vary greatly depending on your exact location within the park
|Storm clouds brewing over Joshua Tree National Park|
|Wildflowers in full bloom in the spring at Joshua Tree ... Temperatures are most comfortable in the spring and fall, with an average highs around 85°F (29°C) and average lows around 50°F (10°C) respectively.|
|Summer time at Joshua Tree ... lots of heat and sunshine ... Summers are hot, over 100°F (38°C) during the day and not cooling much below 75°F (24°C) at night.|
|A snowy, winter day at Joshua Tree ... Winter brings cooler days, around 60°F (15°C), and freezing nights. It occasionally snows at higher elevations.|
|Fresh snow on the Joshua tree
Wildlife in the Park
Joshua Tree provides habitat for 813 higher plant species, 46 reptile species, 57 mammal species, and over 250 bird species. The federal register lists one park reptile, the desert tortoise, as threatened and one park plant species, the triple-ribbed milk vetch, as endangered, and one plant species, Parish′s daisy as threatened. In addition there are 49 plant species of special concern being protected within the park.
Birds, lizards, and ground squirrels are most likely to be seen because they are largely active during the day. However, at night desert animals come out to roam. Mostly nocturnal animals include snakes, bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, coyotes, bobcats, and black-tailed jackrabbits
Bird species include the greater roadrunner, cactus wren, northern mockingbird, LeConte's thrasher, verdin, and Gambel's quail, and many more!
Things to Do at Joshua Tree
Visitors to Joshua Tree enjoy hiking, climbing, stargazing, bird watching, biking, photography and camping. Nine established campgrounds exist in the park, two of which (Black Rock Campground and Cottonwood Campground) provide water and flush toilets.
Several hiking trails are available, many of which can be accessed from a campground. Shorter trails, such as the one-mile hike through Hidden Valley, offer a chance to view the beauty of the park without straying too far into the desert. A section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail meanders for 35 miles (56 km) through the western side of the park.
|The rugged rocks and terrain of Joshua Tree ... a hiking and climbing paradise|
The park is also a popular climbing locale, featuring more than 8,000 known climbs and 400 unique formations. Its remoteness makes it an ideal for astronomy and star gazing.
|Cholla Cactus Garden - a 0.25-mile loop through one of the world’s densest concentrations of cholla cactus|
Lodging Near the Park
Other Destinations in California
More Information about Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park Association - a private, non-profit Cooperating Association working in partnership with Joshua Tree National Park to help in its achievement of programming goals in education, interpretation, scientific and historic research and activities.