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Escaping the big city; Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is the perfect weekend destination for those near and far. This destination is perfect for those Southern Californians looking to escape the city being only 2 hours inland from Los Angeles and San Diego.

For those coming from out of town, Joshua Tree is a must see location for a California road trip itinerary. Pair the great outdoors with neighboring Palm Springs for a perfect vacation.  And for those who aren’t keen on camping, take a day trip to the Park from a neighboring resort in Palm Springs. Palm Springs even has its own airport including direct flights from East Coast destinations. 

Favorite Hikes in Joshua Tree

Hidden Valley Trail - Easy 1 mile loop. 

This, along like many trails in the park, is best for climbing up the rocks and walls to explore off the beaten path. Don’t go too far from the trail as everything looks the same and you can easily get lost.  There are lots of picnic tables here so this is a good spot for relaxing and eating as well. 

Baker Damn Nature Trail - Easy 2 mile out and back trail 

Depending on the time of the year, and more importantly how much rain California gets, there will be a little oasis in the desert. 

Key’s View - vista point

This is the best spot in the park for Sunset. Be sure to get here a little earlier than golden hour to get a spot in the parking lot. From here you can see the Salton Sea and Desert Valley below with great 360 Degree Views. This spot is my favorite location to end a perfect day trip. 

Skull Rock - vista point

You can hike around the area but the focal point of this stop on the road is the uniqure rock formation resembling a Skull. The destination is right off the main road as you drive towards Arch Rock. 

Arch Rock - Easy 1 mile easy lollipop loop 

This is a camp site and is home to some very cool rock formations including the famous arch rock. This rock is a great location for Astrophotography. 

Perfect 1 Day Itinerary:

Hidden Valley Trail - morning hike + lunch

Baker Damn - afternoon hike

Key’s View - golden hour/ sunset

*Arrive to the park before 9AM to beat crowds at the entrance and get parking spots

**Stop along the way before you exit the park for star gazing as you will get some light pollution from Key's View

Stargazing / Astrophotography in Joshua Tree:

Joshua Tree can easily be done in a single day trip but be sure to stay a little while after the sun sets even if you don’t plan to camp overnight. Desert Sunsets are usually some of the best. When the sun sets the sky lights up with hundreds of stars visible to the naked eye (be sure to do this during a New Moon when the sky is darkest). The park recently got the official Dark Sky Designation so this is definitely one of the better places (and closest) for stargazing around the LA or SD areas which have heavy light pollution.

Tips for day or overnight trips

  • Campsites fill up so make sure to get there early if you plan on visiting around a Weekend. This is also important for entering the park as the one lane entrance can back up with cars. (Buy a US National Park Pass for “free” admission)

  • There are no restaurants or gas stations in the park so plan and prep accordingly before entering the park. There are restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations right at the entrance. 

  • There is virtually no Cell Service in the park. Make sure to save or screenshot map directions on your phone before you get into the park. 

  • The best time to visit is in the Spring or Fall as the Winter and Summer months can have very extreme weather conditions. 

Pro Tip: if Camping isn’t your thing, grab an airbnb or hotel in the Palm Springs area (<1 hour away) and enjoy a nice weekend with a better night of sleep.


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