Looking for the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park? I’ve got you!
As someone who loves the desert and experiences that feel somewhat unusual, this national park in California is definitely one of my favorite places in the entire world.
Spread over 800,000 acres of land where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, Joshua Tree National Park is home to a stunning, changing landscape that turns from otherworldly rock formations to a seemingly endless expansion of Joshua trees as far as the eye can see.
My favorite things to do in Joshua Tree National Park center mostly around experiencing the magic of the desert, admiring Joshua trees, and marveling at its array of wonderful rock formations.
Whether it be by hiking the park’s nature trails, wandering around huge boulders, scaling mind-boggling rock piles, admiring the unique Joshua trees, driving around, or climbing to the viewing points to get stunning vistas and photographs, visiting Joshua Tree is all about immersing yourself in the desert.
36 Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park
1. Check out the Joshua trees
Joshua trees are pretty quirky, seeming to have come out of a cartoon rather than being real, live flora in the midst of southern California.
With thousands of them around, each with its own unique shape and size, you can spend days on end just observing and photographing them, either up close or from one of the hiking trails or viewing points in the park.
A fun fact I learned is that their name was given by early Mormon settlers, who were reminded of the Bible character Joshua raising his arms to the sky.
2. Go hiking
Hiking is a must-do in Joshua Tree, with tons of options for all levels of fitness.
Whether you decide on a short loop or a long hiking trail, you’ll find plenty of them to lead you to stunning spots where you can experience the desert in all its glory.
✔️ Arch Rock Trail
A short 0.5-mile trail leading from the White Tank Campground to Arch Rock involves some incline and rock climbing on the final leg in order to get a good view of the iconic arch.
This is a favorite trail for day and night hikers and photographers, with several further ramifications that start out behind the arch for those who want to venture a bit further.
✔️ Ryan Mountain Trail
Ryan Mountain Trail is a 3-mile moderate hike with a 1000 feet elevation change that starts out a few miles east of Hidden Valley.
It is one of the most popular trails in Joshua Tree National Park and one I found a bit strenuous, but the effort is well rewarded with breath-stopping panoramic vistas of the entire park, Wonderland of Rocks included.
✔️ Cap Rock Nature Trail
This is an easy 1-mile loop leading to Cap Rock, a fabulous rock formation that seems to be wearing a giant cap.
Beginning at the start-off point of Key View Road, it includes a guided path through rock formations with informative signage that contains desert information. This was my favorite hiking trail for sunrise views and one that I recommend waking up early for.
✔️ Skull Rock Trail
A super easy 50 feet trail that leads to one of the most peculiar rock formations in the park, Skull Rock Trail lies right by the road east of the Jumbo Rocks Campground entrance.
It is a super fun trail and a favorite when it comes to things to do in Joshua Tree with kids and a great spot for selfies and Insta shots.
✔️ Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail
Joshua Tree attractions include desert oases, with Fortynine Palms Oasis being one of the most important of them.
This secluded palm tree oasis is reached by way of the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail, a moderate three-mile out-and-back hike that has a 300 feet elevation gain.
I was a bit disappointed because the entrance to the oasis is not allowed.
It is an important water source for wildlife in the desert and I later learned that it is off-limits to the public in order to keep animals safe.
In fact, during the summer months, the trail, the oasis itself, and the adjacent parking lot all close to allow bighorn sheep and other herds to help themselves to the water source undisturbed.
✔️ Mastodon Peak Trail
Mastodon Peak Trail is a 2.6-mile loop with 440 ft. of elevation gain in the Colorado Desert side leading to Mastodon Peak.
This is a great hike to obtain fantastic panoramic views of the southeastern part of Joshua Tree Park, the Salton Sea, and Eagle Mountain.
There is a trailhead close to Cottonwood Spring Camp. The loop passes by the remains of two abandoned mines: Mastodon and Winona, so it has plenty of history to offer as well.
✔️ Warren Peak Trail
A relatively challenging 7.7-mile loop trail because of the distance, although the inclines are smooth.
You’ll get to see many gorgeous Joshua trees along the way and the views from Warren Peak are simply stunning.
This hike is most splendorous during the winter months because of the beautiful views of snow-capped mountains, making it one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree in December. It does get chilly and windy, so be prepared with proper clothing.
✔️ Hall of Horrors Trail
A 0.6-mile loop trail close to Twentynine Palms, hiking the Hall of Horrors Trail is one of the most unique things to do in Joshua Tree, especially if you add exploring the slot canyon to the experience.
The trail is easy, short, and very scenic, with a canyon slot to explore amid the giant stacks of boulders in the Hall of Horrors area. This is also a popular spot for rock climbing, which puts it on the list of favorite attractions in Joshua Tree National Park.
✔️ Barker Dam Nature Trail
An easy 1.3-mile loop that leads to Barker Dam, it is a great hike, especially if it’s been raining and you love seeing animals.
The dam was built to retain water for livestock. If you go out early after a rainfall, there is a good chance you’ll get to see Bighorn sheep, Coyotes, and other wildlife drinking water.
The road to the trailhead is located east of Hidden Valley.
✔️ Contact Mine Trail
The Contact Mine Trail is a 3.9-mile out-and-back hike with an elevation of 700 feet that leads to a historic mining site.
The mine itself, which extracted gold and silver in the early 1900s, is quite rusty after being abandoned in the desert for almost a century, but nonetheless, a worthwhile historic site and a Joshua Tree must-see for history buffs.
✔️ Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Hidden Valley Trail begins in the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
It is a popular and easy 1-mile loop that leads to Hidden Valley, which is a small valley surrounded by rock walls that are said to have sheltered many Native Americans and early settlers.
During the Spring, the valley and the adjacent area fill with thousands of wildflowers, making the landscape one of the most beautiful things to see in Joshua Tree if you happen to visit at that time. Plus, you’ll find BBQ grills and picnic tables available as well.
✔️ Lost Horse Mine Trail
Lost Horse Mine Trail is a moderate 4-mile loop that will take you to yet another gold and silver mining area abandoned after the Gold Rush dwindled.
Located right on Key Views Road only a few miles past Cap Rock, it offers unique photo ops as well as glimpses into what mining in the desert was about in the 1900s.
✔️ California Riding and Hiking Trail
Taking on the California Riding and Hiking Trail is a challenge for the truly adventurous.
Running for 37 miles out and back with an elevation of 3156 feet, it is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the high-desert landscapes, jaw-opening rock formations, desert cacti, and uncanny Joshua trees in almost complete solitude.
Considered one of the best backpacking routes within the park, the trail runs from Blackrock Canyon Campground to the North Entrance Trailhead.
There are options for taking shorter legs of the journey, but the whole long trail offers the chance to connect with those that passed through the Yucca valley long ago.
Hiking this trail is considered one of the many spiritual things to do in Joshua Tree.
Be prepared for blizzards and strong winds on the upper desert terrain.
✔️ Willow Hole Trail
A moderate to challenging 7-mile out-and-back trail that will allow you one of the best close looks at the Wonderland of Rocks, a fantastic complex of towering monzogranite rock piles that is a definite Joshua Tree must-see attraction.
The huge stunning and sometimes bizarre formations attract hikers, rock climbers, and photographers who want to get close and personal with Joshua Tree’s quirky landscape.
✔️ Cottonwood Oasis Trail
A hike along the 7.4-mile out-and-back trail that leads to Cottonwood Oasis is one of the most unique things to do in Joshua Tree.
Canyons, arroyos, and 100 California Fan Palms hydrated by an underground spring in Lost Palms Canyon are just a few of the things you can see along the way.
Along the trail, you’ll see interpretive signs sharing information on the oasis and the life of Cahuilla Indians who once inhabited the region, too!
✔️ Boy Scout Trail
A challenging hike and one of the longer ones in Joshua Tree, Boy Scout Trail is quite popular because it offers a taste of the best the Mojave Deserts has to offer.
You’ll get to hike across an open desert full of Joshua Trees, then descend to the Wonderland of Rocks to continue onto washes and canyons.
You can choose to do the out-and-back 16-miler or just make your way up for 9.5 miles to the viewpoint. In both cases, the start-off point is the Keys West Trailhead.
✔️ Indian Cove Nature Trail
The Indian Cove Nature trailhead is located close to the Indian Cove Campground in the northern section of Wonderland of Rocks.
This easy 0.6 loop has a minimal elevation gain, making it a favorite for birders and wildlife observers who want to take a relaxed look at the flora and fauna in the area.
Be on the lookout for desert yuccas, wildflowers, birds, and the occasional LeConte’s thrasher and desert tortoise. A picnic area is available as well.
✔️ Desert Queen Mine Trail
This is a short desert hike that leads to the Dawn Queen gold mine, which operated from 1895 until 1961.
The mine is well-preserved and worth exploring whether you choose to see it from an overlook 0.7 miles into the trail or get close up by hiking further and crossing a canyon for a total of 1.6 miles out-and-back.
In both cases, you’ll pass by the ruins of an old stone homestead that has a bed frame inside.
3. Explore the unique rock formations
Although Joshua Tree National Park is mostly famous because of the unique trees that gave the park its name, what I loved the most about this park is its incredible and somewhat quirky rock formations.
The geology of the land that joins the Mojave and Colorado deserts created boulders and rock piles in unique shapes and sizes, making the landscape here a truly unique sight you won’t be able to get anywhere else in the world.
✔️. Skull Rock
As the name suggests, Skull Rock is a humongous boulder in the shape of a human skull.
This is a favorite and a must-see in Joshua Tree. It is very easy to reach as it is located on the main road with parking available. It goes without saying that Skull Rock is highly Instagrammable.
✔️ Arch Rock
Spanning more than 30 feet in a slot canyon, this Joshua Tree attraction is a towering arch that can be reached by following the Arch Rock Trail that sets out from White Tank Campground and then climbing over surrounding rocks.
Arch rock is a great spot for enjoying sunrises in the desert as well as stargazing, which puts it on the list of top things to do in Joshua Tree at night.
✔️ Split Rock
Splits Rock is a massive rock on the trailhead of the 2.3-mile Split Rock Loop. You’ll find it right by the picnic area.
A large crack splits the giant rock from top to bottom, which explains the name. Rock piles and formations can be found along the trail loop, making the hike doubly worth your while.
4. Go Camping
Camping in Joshua Tree is a fabulous experience that allows for some close and personal contact with the desert.
You’ll find many scenic campgrounds set around trailheads and massive rock formations which are great for pitching a tent or setting up your RV. Be aware that facilities are quite basic, with no power, water, or other typical features.
Camping is one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree at night and is mostly about going back to basics and immersing yourself in the desert.
Moreover, Joshua Tree is Dark Sky Territory. I’ve never seen so many stars and the Milky Way so clearly anywhere else in the world and that alone is reason enough to visit the park.
Hidden Valley, Ryan, and Jumbo Rocks camps are close to the most popular attractions, while Belle, White Tank, and Indian Cove are a bit more removed.
5. Go Offroading
If your jam is offroading, Joshua Tree has plenty of backcountry dirt roads for four-wheel drive vehicles, two-wheelers, and mountain bikers to explore.
Queen Valley Roads is a network of roads suitable for most two-wheel drives and bikes that will allow you to see Queen Valley, Joshua trees, and splendid rock formations all over.
On the other hand, Berdoo Canyon Road, Geology Tour Road, and Dillon Road do require four-wheel drives and high-clearance vehicles.
6. Horseback riding
Horseback riding is a gorgeous experience to have in Joshua Tree National Park.
With over 250 miles of equestrian trails leading to open lands and dry washes mostly in the Black Rock Canyon area and those close to the West Entrance, I assure you won’t run out of places to explore the desert the old-fashioned way.
7. Mountain biking
Mountain biking is another fantastic way to explore Joshua Tree National Park, with enough miles of biking trails to keep you pedaling away.
Queen Valley Road, Lower Covington Flat, and Bighorn Pass Road are some of the most popular and scenic biking roads in the park.
You’ll find the occasional bicycle stand where you can lock yours and continue to explore on foot if you wish.
Joshua tree is one of the best spots in the world for stargazing, with clear skies free of clouds and pollution.
It is not unheard of to see the Milky Way from this designated International Dark Sky Park.
Skyviewing in the middle of the desert is an experience I found magical and also one of the most romantic things to do in Joshua Tree.
Cap Rock is a great stargazing point, by the way, but if you have the time, I highly recommend camping or booking a hotel in the area.
9. Rock climbing
Rock climbing amid Joshua Tree’s unique rock formations and humongous boulders is a favorite, with more than 8,000 climbing routes, 2,000 boulders, and numerous natural gaps.
Climbers of all levels love visiting here for the traditional crack, slab, and steep-face climbing on the menu.
10. Bird watching
Joshua Tree is an excellent spot for bird sighting and watching, especially during September and October when the yearly bird migration is taking place.
Resident species remain in the park year-round, including the greater roadrunners, mockingbirds, cactus wren, Gambel’s quail, Le Conte’s thrashers, and others, so even if you don’t visit during the migration period, you’ll still be able to see tons of birds.
11. Visit the Oasis of Mara
This oasis is one of the rare spots with water in Joshua Tree.
Legend has it that the Serrano people were lured there because a shaman told them it was likelier they’d have baby boys here.
They were to plant palm trees whenever a little guy was born, which led them to plant 29 palms in the first year.
Today, this former Serrano dwelling was included in the protected parkland and is well worth a visit for cultural and historical reasons.
12. Enjoy the view in Keys View
Keys View is a lookout point about 2,000 feet above Joshua Tree. It offers stunning views of the park as well as incredible sunrises and sunsets.
13. Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden
As the name suggests, Cholla Cactus Garden is full of this unique type of fauna.
Located on the east side of Joshua Tree, this is a great spot for sunrise, sunset, and nighttime photography.
14. Drive the Geology Tour Road
An 18-mile road that is only accessible for four-wheel drive vehicles in some spots, Geology Tour Road provides access to lookout points, hiking trails, and rock climbing paths. It takes about 2 hours to complete.
15. Check out the Ocotillo Patch
Ocotillo Patch is a scenic pull-off on Pinto Road offering mind-blowing panoramic desert views and interpretative displays with information.
16. See the Wall Street Mill
Wall Street Mill is one of the best-preserved gold mills in Joshua Tree.
Once belonging to miner Bill Keys, it is accessed by a two-mile out-and-back hike from Barker Dam. Along the way, you’ll have great views of The Wonderland of Rocks.
17. Visit Knob Hill Ranch
This private ranch is a fantastic retreat that hosts ranch vacations that include guesthouse rentals, horseback riding, delicious ranch meals, and stunning mountain views.
Must-Do Tours in Joshua Tree National Park
⭐️ Rating: 4.5/5 (358 Reviews)
Starting in Palm Desert near Palm Springs, this half-day tour is ideal for those who have limited time and want to see the best Joshua Tree has to offer in a short time.
You will get to drive through the Mojave Desert, see Hidden Valley and Keys Views, look out for wildlife, and take two optional hikes to get a deeper insight into the park.
⭐️ Rating: 5/5 (244 Reviews)
If you want to explore Joshua Tree the offroad way, this tour is an incredible choice as you’ll be driving with an expert who knows all the ins and outs of the park.
Get to see gorgeous views most visitors don’t get to, explore the backcountry, and get far away from the usual crowds.
⭐️ Rating: 5/5 (199 Reviews)
This self-driving tour is ideal if you want to explore Joshua Tree on your own but have no experience driving in the desert and want to make sure you’re looked after.
You will get access to an audio that will help you navigate the area as well as tell you everything you need to know about what you’re looking at.
⭐️ Rating: 5/5 (51 Reviews)
Go hiking at Joshua Tree National Park alongside an expert and naturalist who will give you a deeper insight into the flora, fauna, and overall geology of the park.
⭐️ Rating: 5/5 (58 Reviews)
Rock climbing in Joshua Tree is a magical experience, but if you’re new to the spot, joining this tour for beginners is ideal to get started in order to find the best spots for newbies and learn the ins and outs from an expert.
What is Joshua Tree best known for?
Joshua Tree National Park is best known for being home to thousands of unique Joshua Trees and amazing rock formations.
How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park
👉🏻 Where is Joshua Tree National Park?
Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California in the United States just north of Palm Springs and east of Los Angeles.
👉🏻 Map of Joshua Tree National Park
For your convenience, here is an official downloadable map of Joshua Tree National Park.
👉🏻 Closest Airport
The closest airport to Joshua Tree is Palm Springs Airport (24 miles)
👉🏻 What is the fastest way to get to Joshua Tree National Park?
The fastest way to get to Joshua tree is to fly to Palm Springs, then either rent a car or take an MTBA bus or an Uberx.
👉🏻 What is the most affordable way to get to Joshua Tree National Park?
Depending on where you´re coming from, the most affordable way to get to Joshua Tree is by driving or else flying to Palm Springs, where you can take a bus to the park.
Things to Know Before Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
There are a few things you should know before visiting Joshua Tree so you can make the most out of your time here.
📌 Park Entrance Fee
Joshua Tree National Park Entrance Fees are as follows:
💰 US$30 — 7 day entrance permit for all passengers entering in a single, noncommercial vehicle
💰 US$25 — 7 day entrance permit per motorcycle
💰 US$15 — 7 day entrance permit per person who enters by foot or bicycle
📌 Hours of Operation
The park is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. Note that campers are free to remain (or leave) the park 24/7.
📌 Cellular Service
Very few areas in Joshua tree National Park have cellular phone reception due to the rugged, remote terrain.
Nearby towns have full cellular phone coverage. Downloading a map of the park is highly recommended!
Even though dogs are allowed in Joshua Tree, their activities are pretty restricted, so bringing them alone isn’t recommended.
Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails, in the backcountry, or in buildings.
They must remain on a leash at all times, at least 100 feet away from roads, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
📌 How much does it cost to visit Joshua Tree National Park?
Joshua Tree National Park Entrance Fees are as follows:
💰 US$30 — 7 day entrance permit for all passengers entering in a single, noncommercial vehicle
💰 US$25 — 7 day entrance permit per motorcycle
💰 US$15 — 7 day entrance permit per person entering by foot or bicycle
📌 Do you need reservations for Joshua Tree National Park?
No reservations are needed to enter Joshua Tree National park and most activities and campgrounds are first come, first serve. Some do allow reservations in advance, however.
How to get around Joshua Tree National Park?
The best way to get around Joshua Tree is by car or RV, especially if you want to make the most out of your visit.
You can hike, bike, or ride a motorcycle to go from one attraction to another if you happen to arrive by bus, but you won’t be able to access everything.
What is the best time to go to Joshua Tree National Park?
The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is April through May for blooming flowers and comfortable weather.
The best deals for visiting Joshua Tree can be found from September to November
From November to February, you will find considerably fewer crowds, although blizzards and cold winds are likely.
Summer months are extremely hot in the desert. Only early morning and late afternoon hikes are possible from June to mid-September.
Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
There are different lodging options for staying in Joshua Tree, whether you wish to camp inside the park or stay in a hotel in one of the nearby towns.
👉🏻 Inside Joshua Tree National Park
⛺️ Black Rock Campground
Set within one of the park’s densest Joshua Tree forests, Black Rock is one of only two campgrounds with running water.
With 100 individual sites, Black Rock is a quiet and family-friendly campsite.
⛺️ Jumbo Rock Campground
Jumbo Rock is the biggest campsite in Joshua Tree National Park, located close to Skull Rock. It is a family-friendly camp that features 124 sites.
⛺️ Cottonwood Campground
One of only two campsites in Joshua Tree with flush toilets, Cottonwood is a superb option if you’re aiming to do some stargazing and wildflower viewing.
Set on the south side of the park at an elevation of 3,000 feet, Cottonwood Campground is close to the visitor center and several popular rock attractions.
⛺️ Ryan Campground
Ryan Campground offers the unique experience of viewing beautiful sunsets while sitting atop a towering boulder as well as stargazing at night.
Ryan has 31 reservable sites close to the park’s center with easy access to popular Cap Rock and Mount Ryan.
⛺️ Indian Cove Campground
Set on the edge of Twentynine Palms, Indian Cove Campground’s nearness to rock climbing routes makes it a favorite for those whole love that activity.
Non-climbers also enjoy the vibrant spring blooms, which include Mojave yuccas and cacti. Desert tortoise sightings in the Spring and early Fall are likely. Indian Cove has 91 sites and 13 tent-only grounds available.
⛺️ White Tank Campground
A small campground located close to popular attractions, it only has 15 sites, which are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. White Tank is ideal for boulder climbing and stargazing.
⛺️ Hidden Valley Campground
Popular with hikers who want the perks of sleeping under the desert sky while staying close to the park center and hiking trailheads, this small ground only has 15 sites on offer.
Belle Campground has 15 campsites where you can experience the best that Joshua Tree camping has to offer.
You’ll get to sleep right under the stars and amid Joshua trees and cool rock formations in one of 18 of their campsites.
👉🏻 Outside of Joshua Tree National Park
🏡 Fairfield Inn & Suites
2-star hotel in Twentynine Palms with ample, well-equipped rooms, pool, and gym.
🏡 Flying Point Homestead
Cozy, boho-desert-style house in Twentynine Palms with spacious rooms and great views.
🏡 Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites
2-star hotel in Twentynine Palms with ample, well-equipped rooms and a swimming pool.
🏡 Cherokee House
Spacious, cozy, artsy rental home in the town of Joshua Tree.
🏡 Casa de Frank
Cozy, well-equipped apartment rental in the town of Joshua Tree.
🏡 Eclectic Joshua Tree
Spacious, eclectic house with a patio situated near downtown Joshua Tree and the center of the park.
🏡 Westin Desert Willow Villas
Resort and villas in the town of Palm Desert with a swimming pool and golf course.
Where to Eat in Joshua Tree
🍽 Joshua Tree Saloon
Joshua tree Saloon in the town of Joshua Tree is a lively dining option perfect for grabbing a cold beer and a hamburger or fish tacos after a few hours of hiking.
🍽 Joshua Tree Country Kitchen
Joshua Tree’s original diner serves up hearty home-style cooking and friendly service.
🍽 Joshua Tree Coffee Company
Great coffee house with outside sitting serving fresh, organic hot and cold brews.
🍽 Crossroads Cafe
A fantastic cafe in Twentynine Palms that serves home-style breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, wine, and beer.
🍽 Natural Sisters Cafe
A healthy dining option with outside seating in Twentynine Palms. They serve hearty food with a healthy twist and organic alternatives.
🍽 Pappy & Harriets Pioneertown Palace
Lively honky tonk in Pioneertown serving BBQ, hamburgers, fries, and salads. Live music and outside seating are available.
How many days do you need in Joshua Tree National Park?
Many people visit Joshua Tree as a day trip from Palm Springs or other nearby cities but in my opinion, staying at least 2 days within the park is better, with 3 days being ideal in order to truly soak up everything it has to offer.
💡 What can you do in Joshua Tree if you only have one day?
If you only have one day to explore Joshua Tree National Park, here is a suggested itinerary that includes some must-see attractions and trails, as well as some lesser known so that you can get the best out of your time exploring the splendid desert terrain.
Start out as early as possible and stay as late as you can. Due to the hundreds of campsites, doors are always open for those leaving after day closing hours.
- Barker Dam 1.3-mile nature trail
- Skull Rock 1.7-mile nature trail
- Cholla Cactus Garden
- Sunset at Keys’ View
- Hidden Valley 1-mile loop
- Arch Rock Trail 1.2-mile nature trail
- Wall Street Mill 2.4 miles
- Lost Horse Mine 4 miles
- Key’s Ranch tour
- Queen Valley Road detour
💡 Are 2 days in Joshua Tree enough?
Two days in Joshua Tree National Park are great to get a nice dose of desert goodness, hiking, and exploring. Here are some suggestions for a 2-day itinerary in Joshua Tree.
- Cholla Cactus Garden
- Ocotillo Patch
- Picnic lunch at Skull Rock
- Jumbo Rocks
- Arch Rock Trail 1.2-mile nature trail
- Hidden Valley Nature Trail 1-mile nature trail
- Ryan Mountain 3-mile nature trail
- Barker Dam 1.3-mile loop
- Late lunch at Joshua tree Saloon
- Explore Pioneertown
💡 How do I spend 3 days in Joshua Tree?
3 days are ideal to get the most out of Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding areas.
- Barker Dam 1.3-mile loop
- Desert Queen Mine
- Skull Rock Trail 1.7-mile nature trail
- Arch Rock Trail 1.2-mile nature trail
- Sunset at Cholla cactus Garden
- Ryan Mountain Trail 3-mile nature trail
- Hall of Horrors and slot canyon 0.6-mile loop
- Cap Rock Trail 1-mile loop
- Sunset at Keys View
- Lost Horse Mine
- High View Nature Trail
- Drive to Landers
- Integratron sound bath
- Joshua Tree town museums
- Dine at Pappy and Harriet’s
Things to Do Near Joshua Tree National Park
📌 The Integratron
Located in the nearby town of Landers, this legendary building was designed by ufologist George Van Tassel in a place that is believed to be a geomagnetic vortex. His aim was to make it a center for time travel and rejuvenation
Today, The Integration serves as a relaxing and healing sound bath, and even though it does sound a bit out there, this was one of the most unique things to do near Joshua Tree for me.
📌 The Giant Rock
As the name kind of suggests, the Giant Rock is a humongous free-standing boulder in the Mojave Desert located near the town of Landers. It occupies 5,800 square feet and rises the equivalent of 7 floors.
📌 Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art
The open-air Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum is an eclectic collection of sculptures created by Nora Purifoy, an artist who moved to the desert because LA was too expensive.
He spent the last 15 years of his life creating sculptures, buildings, and seemingly random art from recycled material.
📌 Simi Dabah Sculpture Garden
Another open-air desert museum, the Simi Dabah Sculpture Garden is located on the outskirts of Joshua Tree town, displaying the works of a self-taught welder.
Simi Dabah has been creating welded-steel sculptures made from scrap for the past 40 years. Entrance to the open-air museum has no cost, making it one of the best free things to do in Joshua Tree.
📌 The Art Queen and the World Famous Crochet Museum
Set behind La Matadora and Beauty Bubble art stores in the town of Joshua Tree, the Art Queen is a tiny crochet museum that is completely packed with crochet goodies like dolls, teddy bears, dogs, stickers, and much more.
📌 Krblin Jihn Kabin
When visiting Joshua Tree, I recommend taking some time to check out the homestead of an imaginary character.
According to artist Eames Demetrios, this man that never existed constructed a parallel world with an imaginary alphabet.
Putting science fiction aside, the well-preserved homestead and furnishings are worth taking a look at.
📌 Keys Ranch Tour
A must thing to do while in the Joshua Tree area is to explore the Keys family ranch, which is surprisingly well preserved more than 100 years after they arrived as a young couple to build a home and a life in the Mojave Desert.
A tour around the Keys Ranch will give you a profound look into settler life in the desert.
Driving into Pioneertown feels like stepping back in time to the wild wild West.
Having served as a movie set for several productions, this tranquil town has come alive as a fun cowboy California town with shops, restaurants, and motels that have sprung up in the past years following the western ambiance.
📌 Joshua Tree Music Festival
JTMF is a biannual eclectic festival held in May and October.
The family-friendly event showcases a music lineup of different genres, wellness workshops, art displays, and yoga classes. Children’s activities are also featured, so this is a wonderful option for things to do in Joshua Tree with kids.
📌 Desert Hot Springs
The town of Desert Hot Springs, as you might guess from the name, is home to seven natural springs which have attracted visitors for centuries.
Today, the California Hot Springs resort is a popular site and well worth trying out if you’re in the mood for pampering yourself.
Another attraction in this cozy southeastern California town is Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, which offers an insight into the Puebloans who inhabited the region centuries ago.
📌 Slab City
Four miles east of Niland, California, Slab City, or “the slabs” as it is commonly known, is a place where you feel like you’re worlds away. This was one of the most interesting things to do near Joshua Tree for me.
The people that live here have decided to escape the world (almost literally) to settle in what they call the last free place on earth, with no laws as we usually know them.
A mix of artistic hippies, snowbirds, and people who simply got tired of living in the “normal” world, their main code consists of leaving each other alone.
📌 Mecca Hills Wilderness
California is not lacking in quirky destinations, and the Mecca Hills Wilderness is definitely one of them.
Located near the town of Indio about an hour from Palm Springs, it is home to dramatically painted hills, a colorful canyon, and a striking palm-fringed oasis.
📌 Mojave National Preserve
Mojave National Preserve is a whacky-looking place that houses the biggest reserve of Joshua trees, sand dunes, lava beds, and other seemingly otherworldly landscapes.
Exploring Mojave National Preserve is like stepping into a new world, with fantastic features that are highly Instagrammable.
📌 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
This state park is a hidden gem in California worth visiting if you have the time.
With the perfect mix of desert landscapes, hidden oases, and slot canyons, Anza Borrego features more than 100 miles of trails spread out over 640,000 acres on the Colorado Desert.
📌 East Jesus Sculpture Garden
East Jesus is a community close to Slab City that features the same defiant and free attitude as Slab City.
However, residents here have followed founder Charlie Russell’s steps. The Burning Man artist established an art camp intended for off-the-grid people just outside the boundaries of the Slabs.
East Jesus began with Charlie and his exuberant art car sculptures, but today it encompasses 30 acres featuring a huge sculpture garden, an artist live-work space, workshops, and a music room.
Cities Near Joshua Tree
Several big cities are close enough to consider a getaway from Joshua Tree when you’ve had your fill of deserts and want to explore further.
🚙 Las Vegas, Nevada: 185 miles, 3 hours
Las Vegas is one of the cities that is relatively close to Joshua Tree National Park, thus making it a nice base city for visiting the park if you’re in the mood for neon lights, gambling, and wonderful shows after exploring the desert.
🚙 Los Angeles, California: 145 miles, 2.5 hours
Los Angeles is a fantastic option for spending a weekend if you can spare the time.
Tons of attractions such as the iconic Hollywood sign, The Broad Museum, Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, and of course, Disneyland await you when you’re ready to pry yourself away from the desert.
🚙 San Diego, California: 180 miles, 3 hours
San Diego is 3 hours away from Joshua Tree park but worth a weekend trip to explore the coastal city’s attractions.
Parque Balboa, the San Diego Zoo, and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve are just a small sample of everything San Diego has to offer.
🚙 Palm Springs, California: 50 miles, one hour
Palm Springs is not only about luxurious Hollywoodesque mansions, killer shopping, and superstars vacationing.
This idyllic city has a lot on the menu in the way of culture and nature too. Being so close to Joshua Tree, it is worth a day trip to the Palm Spring Air Museum, Moorten Botanical gardens, Palm Springs Art Museum, and a climb up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for some stunning mountain, desert, and ocean views.
This is my favorite place to visit before or after Joshua Tree because of its quirky and artsy vibe that completes the desert experience.
Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
✔️ BYOW (Bring Your Own Water).
✔️ Follow Leave no trace.
✔️ When two roads diverge, take the one less traveled to avoid crowds, especially during high season.
✔️ Plan for your pet. Most hiking trails and roads don’t allow pets. If possible, leave them back home.
✔️ Take the time to experience a sunset in the desert.
✔️ Let someone know where you will be, with specific leaving and arrival dates.
✔️ Take a first-aid kit.
✔️ There is barely any phone signal around Joshua Tree, so make sure to carry a map.
Things to do in Joshua Tree National Park: Frequently Asked Questions
Is Joshua Tree National Park worth visiting?
Joshua Tree National Park is definitely worth visiting to see up close its incredibly diverse terrain, unique flora, and stunning desert views.
What is the weather like in Joshua Tree National Park?
Summers are extremely hot and winters are cold, with the weather mostly clear and dry year-round.
What are the best guidebooks for Joshua Tree National Park?
Some of the best guidebooks for Joshua Tree National Park are James Kaiser’s Joshua Tree: The Complete Guide (Color Travel Guide), Robert Miramonte’s Joshua tree Rock Climbs and Joshua Tree Bouldering, and Best Easy Day Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.
What is so special about Joshua Tree?
Joshua Tree National Park is very special because of its collections of Joshua trees, stunning rock formations, and splendid desert views. The terrain and geology of two deserts coming together are quite unique.
What is the spiritual meaning of the Joshua Tree?
For Mormon settlers who crossed the Colorado Desert in the 19th century, the unique trees reminded them of the biblical character with his arms stretching up to the sky in prayer begging for their survival.
What is the story of the Joshua Tree?
During the 1850s, Mormon settlers crossing the Colorado Desert came upon Joshua trees and decided to name them “Joshua” after the biblical character because their upward-pointing limbs reminded them of arms stretching up to the sky.
Why is Joshua Tree colder than Palm Springs?
Joshua Trees’ air pressure is lower than that in Palm Springs, which translates to lower temperatures. Also, it is windy, which makes it chilly sometimes, especially at night and during the early morning.
Can you swim in Joshua Tree?
There is no swimming whatsoever in Joshua Tree National Park as there are no swimming holes or lakes.
Water is scarce and available on a seasonal basis, so all of it in dams and oases are reserved for wildlife.
What is the coldest month in Joshua Tree?
The coldest month of the year in Joshua Tree is December, with highs averaging 59 F and lows 36 F.
Final Thoughts: Things to Do in Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is a unique destination where it is possible to get in close contact with desert life.
Beautiful quirky trees and fabulous rock formations that are surrounded by varied desert landscapes and stunning vistas make this national park in the southwestern USA an incredible spot for hiking, rock climbing, stargazing, and camping, among other great things to do in Joshua Tree.