An oasis in Southern California, Palm Springs is the last major destination skirting the border of one of North America’s most dynamic National Parks.
There are three entrances into the Joshua Tree Park. Two are located to the north of the park along Route 62 just south of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms. The third is located to the south along Route 10. The main artery through the park is Park Boulevard. This road will loop through the main attractions such as Jumbo Rock and Lost Horse Trail. If you choose to camp, you may do so at one of the campgrounds for up to a week at a nominal rate of roughly $15-18.
You must arrange to arrive at your campsite early. If you arrive after eleven a.m., especially during peak season, you can expect to enter the caravan of tardy drivers and spend a few hours looking for a spot. Pro-tip: check the orange pay slips on each campsite and look for people who may be leaving soon, asking a campsite if they are set to leave that day can sometimes land you a spot.
Camping in the park is restricted to the campgrounds, and for good reason. Leaving the trail and pathfinding on your own can cause incremental damage to the park’s grounds. With nearly a million visitors a year, the damage would be unsustainable.
The ideal time to tour the park is in the spring. The summers can reach blisteringly hot temperatures averaging in the high 90s. Be advised, campsites provide potable water but you should always pack at least a gallon per person for each day. The desert has infamous ‘dry heat’. The danger therein is how unnoticed dehydration is. You will begin to feel your lips chap almost instantly. If you find yourself thirsty, you are already dehydrated. The trick is to drink small sips continuously.
You should expect to drink at least two liters per day, anything less can lead to dehydration. Besides the usual critters such as rattlesnakes, scorpions, and the occasional coyote, the park is relatively safe.
One unexpected element is the wind. The gusts can roll across the unobstructed landscape at 25-30mph which can make camping nearly impossible without proper equipment. If you find yourself stuck with a windy campsite you can apply this quick fix. Try fashioning a makeshift tent out of your campsite picnic table. These heavy concrete tables can withstand the high winds. Use tarps and cordage to wall off every side and provide yourself a retreat from the elements.
Sites to See
Just off the park trail, you can find challenging rock climbing and cave systems in the boulders that dot the horizon. The Hall of Horrors, Jumbo Rock, and Ryan Mountain offer excellent bouldering trails with amazing vistas and intimate cave systems. If you are cautious with your footing you shouldn’t have any problems.
As your day comes to an end, make time to drive to Keys Point. This 5000-foot vantage point overlooks the Palm Springs valley with iconic views of the setting sun over San Jacinto Mountain and Coachella valley. An environment of dynamic extremes, tread carefully but definitely experience the beauty of the desert at Joshua Tree Park.