The best things to see and do in Joshua Tree National Park
“Most people spend four hours in the park,” says West. But Joshua Tree’s abundance of jaw-dropping geological and ecological sights mean one could spend days exploring the otherworldly landscape.
Hiking & Climbing: There are thousands of rock-climbing routes sprinkled throughout the park, making it a world-class destination for climbers and boulderers of all skill levels. Most of it is centered around the Hidden Valley area, but if you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of professional guides who can help you find less-crowded sites.
Wildlife spotting: Joshua Tree is more known for its famous flora than fauna, but there’s plenty of wildlife in and around the park. Birding is especially popular, with native species like roadrunners, raptors, and tons of migratory flocks as well. Bring binoculars and lots of patience!
There are plenty of big desert predators as well: bobcats, coyotes, snakes, and more. It’s crucial for visitors to be aware of their surroundings and use caution when in the wilderness.
Stargazing: Joshua Tree National Park is a Silver Tier International Dark Sky Park, which means nighttime can be pretty extraordinary. Even with its overall remote location, the western part of the park gets a fair amount of light pollution from nearby Palm Springs. West recommends sticking to the central part of the park, “especially along Pinto Basin Road… [it’s] perfect for seeing the Big Dipper, full moons, Milky Way, and shooting stars.”
Scenic routes: Sara Combs from The Joshua Tree House has written a whole book about Joshua Tree with her husband Rich, but she shares three of her favorite underrated trails: Willow Hole Trail, Pine City, and North View Trail. Skull Rock is a favorite for macabre Instagrammers, as is Wonderland of Rocks, which is, well, pretty wonderful. There’s also a plethora of trails to ride horses and mountain bikes if you prefer something speedier than hoofin’ it yourself. The winding roads through the park are perfect for motorcyclists as well—just watch for desert tortoises crossing the road.