I finally did it! I made my way to Joshua Tree for a day trip. It has been on my list of places to do for such a long time – It was even a part of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. If you’re unsure if a day trip is enough time to explore a park that spans nearly 800,000 acres, here is the perfect way to spend those few hours you do have. It is definitely possible and you can actually go on several hikes to catch a glimpse of everything Joshua Tree has to offer.
We first arrived at the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center on the corner of Park and Twentynine Palms. This is the closest visitor center if you’re coming from the LA area. Depending on time of day, it should take about 2-2.5 hours (no traffic) to get here (festival friends, just imagine you’re going to Coachella which is in the same area :)). We left LA around 7:30 and got there close to 9:30 which was perfect – the weather was definitely not too hot, mid 70’s 🙂
There are also two other centers – Oasis Visitor Center (also on Twentynine Palms but further east) and Cottonwood Visitor Center – which is a lot more south, around 40 miles. Pick up a trail map here and make sure you ask questions to the visitor center employees – they will be able to inform you of weather conditions, what hikes may be better suited for your fitness level, and where the best sunset spots are.
We started off on the North side of the park at Hidden Valley and Barker Dam. Each of these trails are 1-mile long hikes. They aren’t strenuous and I would rate them an easy-low moderate level. Typically walking a mile would take someone maybe 20 minutes but since this is a hike and you’re looking around at your surroundings, taking pictures, I would give yourself one hour.
Fun fact! See all the crevices in the rocks? The giant rocks at Hidden Valley act as water collectors. The rainfall runs off through the cracks in the rock and collects around the base.
Along the way, you’ll notice a lot of brave souls rock climbing. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it a try!
Interesting rocks with cutouts are plentiful, so you can take fun little pictures like this. Look I’m so tiny! 🙂
You will also see petroglyphs – Native Americans left behind evidence of their activities as they were migrating looking for food and water. They generally carved these into canyon walls where ever there was a food or water site nearby.
Do you see it? Hint: It’s called Face Rock 🙂
A hike to Barker Dam meant let’s see that dam! With no water in it 🙁
Also, make sure to check out Split Rock – the rocks are so interesting here and there’s definitely areas where you can see if you can squeeze into. Just don’t get stuck 🙂
Making your way through all of these hikes is already such a full day but you have to stay for sunset! There weren’t too many purples and pinks in the sky that night but the sky was so clear, we definitely captured a lot of the blues and oranges that I might not have been able to see in the city. I’m going to have to go back on another night! This view point was from the Belle campground. Just find yourself your own rock and do some meditation and reflection – honestly one of the most peaceful moments you could ever have.
Resources: To help prep me, I used Vagabond 3’s one day guide – so check out her guide too!
74485 National Park Dr.
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597
- Entrance fee: $20.00 per vehicle, which will be good for 7 days in the event you decide to come back – which you might!
- Non-flush toilets are available at each hike – equipped with toilet paper, which was surprising!
- The visitor centers have necessities you can purchase – water, some snacks, and of course some memorabilia
- Backpack to hold all of your necessities (I used The North Face Litus Hiking Backpack which held everything and felt super lightweight. I loved that there was a hard back so that it kept my back upright instead of me hunching over)
- Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer
- Snacks – I packed Justin’s nut butter packs, RX bars, trail mix, and paleo friendly Epic bacon bites
- Lunch – Make sure you pick up food before you actually get into the park. There are no options inside – we ended up going to Subway in Twentynine Palms and packing them with ice so they didn’t go bad in the heat. It was the perfect meal after hiking for hours! Food never tasted so good.
- Water! They recommend one gallon of water per person but this will all vary depending on the climate.
- Sunscreen – I am obsessed with COOLA – since it is organic and not harsh on your skin. No burns here!
- Sweat towel
- Hat – I wore a basic baseball cap but if you are sensitive to the sun, you may want to consider getting one of those wide-brimmed hats.
- Sweater – You might think that’s crazy since it’s generally pretty warm there but once the sun starts to go down the breeze really does pick up!
If you have any questions, definitely feel free to comment or message me on Instagram and I’d be happy to help out!