No matter the time of year, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-see if you find yourself in Southern California. The park, which is just east of Los Angeles, is best known as a rock-climbing and hiking mecca as well as stargazing oasis visited by over 2.8 million people annually. This list provides you with must-see points within the park.
With so many visitors each year Joshua Tree National Park tends to have a line at each entrance. If you enter the park from the south entrance, off Interstate 10 coming from Palm Springs, it will save you time by not sitting at the more popular gates.
The first stop of must-see sights in Joshua Tree is the Cholla Cactus Garden. There’s an easy walk-through trail that showcases the unique human-sized cacti in the foreground and the gorgeous desert scenery of JTNP in the background. While the Cholla cacti are gorgeous, they are also dangerous — visitors are required to stay on the trail, and pets are not allowed on this trail.
Barker Dam Trail is close to a mile loop that goes past the old dam of a former cattle operation, Keys Ranch. While hiking, be sure to look not only where you’re walking but also into the rock formations above you because the distance of the trail and location provides a great opportunity for spotting wildlife of all kinds. While we were hiking, we saw a bighorn ram while walking among the Joshua Trees on the trail. There were also two adolescent coyotes ambling across the road as we left the entrance to Barker Dam Trail.
Keys View is another must-see as it provides breathtaking views over the Coachella Valley. It is a drive-up lookout point with ramps/walkways that are easily maneuvered. There are educational points that explain the history behind the beautiful landscape and surrounding areas that can be seen from Keys View.
Ryan Mountain might be one of the most famous points in Joshua Tree National Park. And the parking lot depicts that. If you are interested in hiking the 3-mile round trip trek to cover the almost 5,500 elevation mountain then it should be the first stop upon entering the park.
Arch Rock, rightly named for the arch formation that is resemblant to Arches National Park. The hike is less than a mile round trip and fairly moderate terrain. The trailhead is at a campground and the parking lot can fill up quickly. To get the most picturesque view of Arch Rock will require a bit of climbing.
No matter where you go in Joshua Tree National Park you are guaranteed to see beautiful views of the iconic plant, rock formations, and maybe even some unique wildlife. While planning where to go in JTNP is important, it is also crucial to bring enough food and water for any outdoor adventures planned as there are not many stores within the park. Other important items to bring are sunscreen, comfortable hiking shoes, sunglasses, and a mask.
If you are one of the 2.8 million people that are planning on visiting Joshua Tree National Park hopefully this list of must-see stops is beneficial to you. Our biggest piece of advice is to bring a camera and an appreciation for the beauty that the two deserts in Joshua Tree National Park have to offer, especially if those trips can be planned around sunsets or sunrises, which are gorgeous in the park!
Michelle Bufkin is a freelance communication specialist who enjoys a variety of outdoor activities — from agriculture to adventure sports.