A Quick Guide to Joshua Tree National Park

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Twisted and contorted Joshua Trees stretch for as far as the eye can see in the aptly named Joshua Tree National Park, California. Large jumbled boulders dot the desert landscape. An odd coyote runs through the campground in the shadows as the campfire crackles and the stars twinkle overhead.

I love Joshua Tree National Park, it’s one of my favorite parks in the country. I spent at least a month living in and around Joshua Tree National Park during my year-long west coast road trip, and have returned a few times since then.

If you are a rock climber, you owe it to yourself to visit this desert paradise. But even if you don’t climb, there is still plenty of things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, whether you just want to go camping, enjoy the stargazing, go hiking, or escape the city life. Learn more in this quick guide to Joshua Tree National Park.

A Quick Guide to Joshua Tree National Park travel, north-america, california

Headstone Rock

Where is Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park, or simply JTree as it is often called, is located in Southern California, just a few hours from the sprawling city of Los Angeles, and it may just be one of the best places for stargazing near Los Angeles since it is far away from the light pollution.

Weather in Joshua Tree National Park

JTree is best visited in the winter months or during the shoulder season, it is one of the best National Parks to visit in Spring, to be honest. It can be incredibly hot here during the summer months, which makes it somewhat agonizing… A few years after my first visit to the park, I returned with my girlfriend in June and we were sweating to death as we camped out that night in my pickup truck camping rig.

The average temperatures range from a low of 37 and a high of 60 in December and January to an average high of 100 and a low of 69 during the month of July.

A Quick Guide to Joshua Tree National Park travel, north-america, california

J Trees

See this for more average temperatures.

In any case, visiting around February to March or October and November tends to have the most pleasant climate. When I was living there for a month, it was early March through early April, until the time the temps began to rise and the climbing community started moving on.

During the dead of winter can be a good time as well, but expect the night time temperatures to be quite a bit cooler in those desert climates.

Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

JTree is an absolutely amazing place and one of the best places to climb if you are solo and just looking to hang out and find partners while you are there. There are tons of climbers that hang around these parts in the winter months and shoulder seasons and it is super easy to meet people.

A Quick Guide to Joshua Tree National Park travel, north-america, california

It is a great community, for sure, with ample climbing opportunities that surround you. I ended up running into many of the same people that I got to know at Joshua Tree later on down the road in Red Rocks, Squamish, and beyond.

If you’re looking to be part of the climbing community you will definitely want to head to the Hidden Valley Campground.

It can at times be quite difficult to obtain a spot in the campground–your best bet is to head there in the morning before people have headed out for the day or evening when everyone is back and just walk around asking if they know of anybody looking to share a spot. You can have two vehicles at each site, and plenty of people are open to sharing their camp with you if they have space. As a bonus, it will also allow you to split the cost.

A Quick Guide to Joshua Tree National Park travel, north-america, california

Mi casa!

Joshua Tree was also where I got my introduction to crack climbing and absolutely shredded my hands. Definitely not the best place to learn how to do it–I was relegated to the slabs for weeks after that–so definitely do tape up your hands while there!

Joshua Tree was probably the coolest climbing community I came across during my lengthy travels, and I would highly recommend a stop.

What’s Around Joshua Tree

If you’re planning to spend a long stretch of time in JTree, then you’ll also probably want to get away once in a while… At least to head into town for grocery shopping or the internet.

There is no cell service in the park so it is an excellent place to just disconnect from it all. But if you want to connect, I’d just head into town and visit the local Starbucks on occasion when I wanted a rest day and a place to relax, update the blog and post photos.

A Quick Guide to Joshua Tree National Park travel, north-america, california

Keys View

In town, you can also visit Coyote Corner to use their paid showers… A sometimes necessary activity, of course, as there are no showers (or water, for that matter) within the park itself.

Don’t forget to grab a date shake from Palm Springs if you’re in the area, they are delicious! There are a number of date farms throughout the area. I went to the Windmill Market in North Palm Springs for a date shake and cheap tacos on more than one occasion while living in Joshua Tree National Park. I highly recommend it!

If you’re looking to explore a little further out, I’d also recommend heading down to the Salton Sea area, for a stop at Salvation Mountain and Slab City.

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A Guide to Joshua Tree National Park

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A Quick Guide to Joshua Tree National Park travel, north-america, california


Head Writer and Adventurer at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West, and then across all of Central America and South America. When he isn't on the move, you can find him living as an expat in Colombia. He is also the author of the best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget that will help you travel more for less. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

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Comments 6

  1. I’m right around the corner and still have yet to camp at Joshua Tree.. I’ll have to make a visit soon, very soon.. Thanks for sharing Ryan.

    1. Post

      You gotta get to it then! It’s an incredible place to spend a night under the stars, that’s for sure… Thanks for popping in and leaving a comment, Andrew.

  2. that must have been amazing living around Joshua Tree and OUCH that looks really painful!! thanks for linking to our blog post. I’m loving looking around your blog. 🙂

    1. Post
  3. Hi Ryan,

    Loving the blog! That picture is rough man, your hand was all torn up. Kudos to you for grinding it out despite the pain. I love the images, and the story too. The park looks awesome. I am due for more States travel and California is about the first place I’d visit when I do that trip. Well done, and great to meet you 🙂

    Tweeting from Savusavu. Thanks Ryan!


    1. Post

      Thanks Ryan for popping in and leaving a comment! Great to make your acquaintance as well… Look forward to hearing more about your island hopping travels, good stuff.

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