Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California at about 150 miles east of Los Angeles. Before being declared as a National Park was a U.S. National Monument since 1936. In 1994 was declared a U.S National Park. It covers an area of 790,636 acres or 1,235 square miles – an area which is larger than the state of Rhode Island. A large part of the park, some 429,690 acres, is a designated wilderness area, an area of high altitude desert with bizarre geological features.
Here are not so many roads but there are a lot of hiking trails with spectacular scenery. You can go to Joshua Tree National Park through the entrance and visitor’s center in Cottonwood Springs near Palm Desert, California or you can access the high-country entrances at the Village of Joshua Tree or near the town of Twenty-Nine Palms. The rocks that form the Joshua Tree National Park were formed 100 million years ago as a result of the cooling of magma beneath the surface. Groundwater is responsible for the erosion that created the spheres from rectangular blocks.
You will encounter high plateaus, sandy basins composed by a strange collection of desert plants including thousands of strange looking Joshua trees. Here, boulders are scattered everywhere like sometimes they were the toys of some giants, whose house was once Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree, is formed by some of the best rock climbing in the USA. The gigantic rocks are composed of rough granite with plenty of holes and cracks where you can perform interesting climbs. The routes are short, the rocks rarely reaching 230 feet in height. There are thousands of piles of rocks around Joshua Tree providing a million climbing opportunities for beginners and expert climbers. If you would like to try some rock climbing, there are several outfitters and guides in the area that offer climbing experiences for everyone from novices to experts.
Inside the park you’ll find numerous trails some of them shorter like Hidden Valley, Indian Cove, Cholla Cactus Garden, some of them much longer like Boy Scout Hiking and Equestrian Trail, Lost Horse Mine, Lost Palms Oasis, Forty-nine Palms Oasis. Hidden Valley trail, offers you the chance to view the beauty of the park without straying too far into the desert. You can find the Geology Motor Tour in the south of the park. It provides a self-guided tour for those visitors with a four-wheel drive vehicle. There are sixteen stops on the tour showcasing the region’s geology.
Here you can also camp. There are nine established campgrounds in the park, but only two of them (Black Rock Canyon and Cottonwood) provide water and flush toilets. As expected, a fee is charged per night for each camping spot. You can also find a few motels in the village of Joshua Tree and larger selections in nearby Yucca Valley and Twenty-Nine Palms. In Joshua Tree Village you can find only a few stores, gas stations, bars and restaurants because is a small desert village.
Inside Joshua Tree National Park you can discover over 250 species of bird including resident desert birds such as the Greater Roadrunner and Cactus Wren as well as Mockingbirds, Le Conte’s Thrasher or many transient species that stays in the park only one or two seasons. A USGS Bird Checklist of “what, when, and status” has 239 species listed for the Joshua Tree park.
If you want to enjoy a nice weather visit the park between October and March when the desert temperature is quite pleasant. Remember to carry water, as the desert heat and lack of moisture can be quite dangerous if you are unprepared especially in June through August when the heat becomes unbearable. Also take with you a hat and pair of sunglasses.
You may know that 429,690 acres from the park’s total land area of 789,745 acres are designated wilderness and managed by the National Park Service. National Park Services prohibits tourists make fire randomly or leave residues behind in any area of the park. You can’ go cycling in wilderness areas because you’re not allowed, but with a permit obtained in advance for travel in the backcountry you can ride a horse.
Joshua Tree is located at 30 minute drive from Palm Springs, the exclusive winter getaway resort visited by movie stars and wealthy socialites. In Palm Spring are classy restaurants, designer shops and beautiful golf courses this making it very different from the wildness area of Joshua Tree Park. At about 50 miles east of Joshua Tree in the middle of the desert is located probably the smallest village and the most isolated town in California, called Amboy with a population of 8 people.
Joshua Tree National Park is also a good location for those who love the sky, for those who love astronomy. Joshua Tree park is well known for its dark skies, which are largely free from southern California’s extreme light pollution. The park’s elevation and dry desert air, combined with the relatively stable atmosphere in southern California, provides excellent astronomical observing conditions.