What better way to welcome the crazy 100F summer heat, other than a post about a place where the sun just does NOT play… The DESERT.
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most photogenic desert oases I’ve been to!
Known for its whimsical trees and fascinating boulders, Visiting Joshua Tree is like jumping into a page of a Dr. Seuss book!... Literally! These trees inspired the Truffula Trees in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.
Spanning about 800,000 acres, Joshua Tree National Park is where two desert ecosystems meet—the Mojave and the Colorado.
The Mojave is considered the high desert, sitting at above 3,000ft in elevation, this is where you can it’s iconic giant Joshua trees and massive rock piles that are just absolutely photogenic to say the least.
The Colorado, on the other hand, is the “low desert” which thrives at 1,000ft. Much less vegetated than the Mojave, it is flatlands than are in sparsely forested. With temperatures being at higher ranges, it is much less forgiving to vegetation, other than the occasional cactus garden.
And driving through this national park, you will be surprised of the abrupt transition between the two dessert ecosystems. It was pretty cool to see this, if you ask me :)
What’s there to do?
As the high and low deserts meet, where appearances of each highly contrast the other, Joshua Tree offers rewarding hikes and stunning views!
Depending on the season camping at a Joshua is a spectacular experience! Think about it, sleeping while surrounded with fantastic boulders, under a dark night blanketed over countless stars, and a meteor every once in a while.
Temperatures wildly fluctuate throughout the year at Joshua Tree. Temperatures during the summer months can go well over 100F, and below freezing during the winter months. So camping is usually at it’s peak from October-May, as these are the most suitable conditions.
These campgrounds fill up quick! So make sure to book in advance. You can book up to 6 months in advance.
Homes in this area have taken the desert oasis feel to the next level!
There are plenty of airbnb accommodations to choose from (glammed up air streams, tiny houses, to eclectic homes that create such a luxurious feel to the whole desert experience with well-thought of design and architecture, pools, etc.)
And so this is where we decided to make our tiny house dream come true here. And it was one to remember!
*click on the image for a direct link to it's Airbnb listing :)
When the skies are clear, Joshua Tree is one of the best places I've been to star gaze! Watching the night sky just peppered by the glittering stars of the Milky Way was definitely a great treat after a busy day of hiking.
How to get there
Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California.
The closest airport to here is Palm Springs.
It’s above 140 miles east of Los Angeles
175 miles North East of San Diego
215 miles South West of Las Vegas
And 222 miles west of Phoenix
Taking a car is the most reliable way to get around in this area. This will also allow you to take the scenic drive, and see the amazingly abrupt change in terrain.
When to go
It is open all year round, 24 hours a day. And visitors usually come in the fall, peaks up during the spring, and dies quite a bit during the summer. And let me tell you WHY.
This is the desert, so when I say hot, I mean SCORCHING HOT.
Our trip was kind of a spur-of-the-moment trip for us, as we were itching to find something to do in the summer that was close by. And WOAH was it hotter than the hinges of hell! As in we would have to be up before the break of dawn, in which the weather would already be in the 70s… do some hiking, and would have to be back in our air conditioned trailer by 9am at the LATEST, as the sun would be at a blazing 90F by this time!
So unless you love the dry heat, or have an air conditioned accommodations, I really would NOT suggest going in the summer.
The fall and spring times are best to ensure comfort.
Fees and Passes:
There is a $30.00 USD entrance fee that is good for 7 days.
If you are going by foot or bike, there is a $15.00 USD per person.
There aren’t any grocery stores inside of the national park, so make sure to plan accordingly. Outside of the park is a town with some restaurant and grocery options.
Camping is the time where I love love love to be creative in cooking. If you're stuck in a rut on what to cook, Pinterest has a whole bunch of easy/creative suggestions to make outdoor cooking more fun. The tin foil recipes are the best! :)
But there is a Von's grocery store close by in the city of Joshua Tree, a few minutes outside the park, if you ever need to pick up some things.
However, if you really want to try some local eats:
We only ate at 2 restaurants: The Natural Sisters Cafe and Yucca Kebob and Hookah, as we just wanted to try a couple places, since we cooked all our meals. The others were runners up on our list, and we've heard good things about them :)
The Natural Sisters Cafe was a great breakfast place with great veg. options.
Yucca Kebob and Hookah surprisingly had very good Mediterranean food.
JT Country Kitchen
If you are cooking your own meals at the campsites, just remember, to avoid a not-so-friendly visit from our wildlife inhabitants, store food in designated containers. NOT in your vehicle. And ensure that all left overs and crumbs are properly thrown away.
Also, be aware that there IS NO WATER at the most of the campgrounds. So make sure to pack enough!
Where to stay:
There is no lodging at Joshua Tree National Park. Only campgrounds. So plan your trip accordingly (to the weather!) However, there are plenty of beautiful airbnb’s with you and your glamping dreams in mind!
As for us, we stayed within about 10 minutes of the entrance in a small community in Joshua Tree, where our tiny house was situated. It was a remodeled tiny house that was just perfect for us two, and 2 other friends who came and joined us for 2 nights.
Going to Joshua Tree was definitely a feast for the eyes (and legs). It’s a great place to be able to camp OR glamp. Or if you’re not up to it, rent a cool spot, have all the amenities you want, and still enjoy nature with just a quick drive up to it.
Where I wish we had gone:
Because we were short of time, and that it was just scorching hot outside, we decided to skip The Integraton and Pioneertown. The Integraton is an integration of art, science, and magic!
So what is it?
Built in the 1950's by ufologist and contactee George Van Tassel, and located in the Mojave Desert, it is a structure that is dubbed "acoustically perfect." He supposedly built this dome-like structure under the instructions of visitors from the planet Venus. He claimed it to have abilities to provide rejuvenation, anti-gravity, and time travel. Interesting, right?! I totally wish we had gone!
So nowadays, they use this structure for events. You can even book what they call a "sound bath" in here! What's a sound bath you say? It's a 60-minute session of pure relaxation by sonic healing. Ahh, writing about it now it's making me regret not going even more :(
I highly suggest you make time for this!
As far as Pioneertown, this was a town founded by Hollywood investors and actors to be used as an old western film set. Over 50 films and shows were filmed here in the 1940s and 50s. There isn't too much filming that takes place here now, but they still have a bar/restaurant Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace which serves BBQ and plays live music.
So, thinking of a quick weekend not-so-far-getaway (in California) for some peace and quiet? The serenity of Joshua Tree is just absolutely a perfect mix of some light (or heavy if you're into the hard-core rock climbing) work out, and relaxation. :)
I hope you enjoyed this article on visiting Joshua Tree. If you found this helpful, please share this blog, follow me on Instagram (@whereiscza), and subscribe to this blog to support me in creating more free content for all you travel junkies out there!
If you have any comments, questions, or want to share your Joshua Tree experience please don't hesitate. I'd love to hear your thoughts! :)