I live in Joshua Tree, so I thought I'd put together a few "insider tips" to help you plan your next trip to the town of Joshua Tree and the Park. For starters, Joshua Tree is called "JT" by the locals (Climber's refer to it as JTree). Here we go:

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1. It's an
Ancient Desert

"The Park"  is a massive desert. It's over 790,000 sq. acres. It fact, it's bigger than the state of Rhode Island. Yes, it's Magical. Yes, it's Amazing. Yes, it's Freaky - but it's still a desert. And like most deserts, it can be hostile and unforgiving. So, be warned.

In the desert there is:

  • NO WATER (bring more than enough)
  • NO ELECTRICITY
  • NO STREET LIGHTS
  • NO FOOD SERVICE (bring it)
  • NO LODGING/HOTELS - only camping
  • and NO CELL RECEPTION

There are toilets, but not the flushing kind, so come prepared!


2. It's the Closest
National Park
to
Los Angeles &
San Diego

Getting to the Park is half the fun. The Park is centrally located in the California High Desert. Now who doesn't want to take a road trip to the California Desert??? The main (preferred) entrance to the Park is in the town of Joshua Tree, but that entrance has long wait lines on weekends and holidays - so try to use one of the other entrances:  

  • West (Main) Entrance (Hwy 62, in Joshua Tree)
  • For visitors coming from Los Angeles / San Diego / Palm Springs
  • North Entrance (Hwy 62, in 29 Palms)
  • Tip: Lines are much shorter here on weekends!
  • South Entrance (Off Hwy 10)
  • For visitors coming from Phoenix / New Mexico / Indio

3. Joshua Tree
is an Artist's & Musicians
Community

There are an amazing number of artists and musicians in the town of Joshua Tree. Between the Farmers Market and the numerous Art Events and Art Galleries - and live music venues - you'll see creativity everywhere. 

So, after you've visited the Park, check out the town. You'll find some good restaurants, live music venues, Galleries and many funky shops in "Downtown". Downtown is located the corner of Hwy 62 and Park Blvd. 

What you won't find in town are Fast Food restaurants, "Super Stores" or High Rise Luxury Condos. This is by design. The residents have worked very hard to keep their town "authentic". The town of Joshua Tree looks much the same way it did back in the sixties. So, the time you spend locally helps the locals, not big corporations who want to bring in parking lots and strip malls and freeways and sky scrapers... 

I'm not exaggerating...


4. Get an
Annual Pass

When you get to the park entrance, you'll need to make a decision: Do you get a "Day Pass" or do you get the "Annual Inter-Agency Pass". It's a no brainer. Get the Annual Inter-Agency Pass. Yes, it costs more, but...

The Inter-Agency Pass
gets you into every National Park
for FREE for the next twelve months

Make sure to ask for a map and the current newsletter. Hint: Try not to arrive at "Noon" on Saturday, that’s rush hour. There can be 30-100 cars/RVs in front of you. (note: if you have an Annual Pass, sometimes you get to cut in line and pass those RVs!)

If you are entering the Park at the West Entrance, make sure to fill up your water containers there, it's your last chance. Also, if you arrive after hours (when the Park entrance station is not staffed), you can still enter the park (Free maps are in the brown box). When you exit the park, you will be asked to show your receipt as proof of payment. So, if you got in free, you will need to pay upon exit.

Tip: Get Your Pass
at the Visitors Center
"Before" heading up to the park entrance


5. Visit
Intersection Rock
& Arch Rock

Intersection Rock (Westside)

If you're entering the Park from the West Entrance (Joshua Tree), this is your first major stop. It's a good place to get your boots on the ground, check the maps, and determine where you want to go for the rest of the day. (Hidden Valley gets more press, but it also gets more tourists). Intersection Rock is located roughly in the "center' of the major features of the park. 

There are lots of trails nearby and you'll have a very good chance of seeing some climbers in action. Take a walk around. If you're planning on spending the night, there's a campground nearby.

Arch Rock
(Eastside) 

If you entered thru the North Entrance (29 Palms) or the South Entrance (Hwy 10 / Phoenix), Arch Rock is a good first stop for exploring. It's in the White Tank Campground. 

Arch Rock is a special place. There are a ton of little trails behind it that weave in and out of rock piles. It's hard to get lost there because all of the trails seem to wind back to the camping / parking area. There are only a few parking spots (besides the campsites), but that's what makes it special. 


6. There are over 300 campsites

Camping in Joshua Tree is amazing. You get to sleep under a zillion stars and wake up in the middle of the California desert. If you're lucky, you'll get to hear coyotes howling in the distance. Spooky, but amazing.

There are over 300 campsites within the park boundaries. The fee is typically $15 per night. There is no running water or electricity in the campsites - so bring everything you need. Once you've chosen an empty campsite, get a yellow envelope (at the campground entrance), put your fee in it and deposit it in the metal box at the front of the campgrounds.


7. Get a Guide! 

Joshua Tree provides unique opportunities for climbers, hikers and photographers Whether you are a beginner or more experienced - guides and workshops help you experience the park - better and safer. Hiking guides know the best locations in the park - to match your skills. Climbing guides have the proper equipment and they will make your experience safe. Photography guides know where, and when, to capture amazing images. 

Here are some Local Tours, Guides and Workshops


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Learn Photography
at our B&B in Joshua Tree

 

Landscape / Milky Way / Wildflower / TImelapse Photography
Sunset & Weekend Tours


8. Check out the
Night Life around Joshua Tree

There are some good restaurants and clubs in Joshua Tree and the surrounding communities. There's something about the sound of a Gibson on a warm summer night. Joshua Tree is kind of a haven (heaven?) for musicians as well. They say Jim Morrison haunts this place. 


9. Stay local
at an AirBnB
in Joshua Tree

If camping is not your thing, there are some funky hotels in JT.  There are also a number of AirBnB's in JT for about $70/night - with a light Breakfast! Plus, if you stay locally in Joshua Tree, you can explore the park until late at night (stargazing) and still get back to your place within 30 minutes (and wake up in a cozy bed!).

Try something in the town of Joshua Tree. There's no need to stay at some Motel "XXX" in some other town. Yuk!


10. There's World-Class Stargazing!

Joshua Tree is one of the best places for stargazing in the country (and the planet!) The reason is that the Park is located in the High Desert (3000-5000 ft above sea level) and it is located far from major cities (which create light pollution). The East side of the park is best for stargazing. Out East there is very little light pollution from cities, since the closest major city (looking East) is Phoenix, about 300 miles away!

To get the best chance of seeing a zillion stars, you'll need to do a little planning before your trip. Now, you're probably not a werewolf, so you don't live by the light of the moon, but the next time you head to the park, google "moon phase" to see when the moon will rise and set that night. You want to visit when the moon is NOT in the night sky.


Bonus Tip!

Make sure to
bring some
"Road Trip" Music!

Getting there is half the fun! So make sure to load up iTunes with some music that is appropriate for journeying into the California High Desert.  Remember, you are fleeing the Big City, so you need to free your mind as well. 


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