Julie United States 10 Comments

With its desert scenery, hiking trails, rock climbing routes, hidden oases, scenic drives, and trees that look like they have been plucked from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, Joshua Tree National Park is a joy to explore. In this guide, learn about the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park with tips to have the best experience.

Interesting Facts about Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park gets its name for the Joshua trees, which are found throughout the park and the Mojave Desert.

Joshua Tree Photo

What is a Joshua Tree? The Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia, is a member of the agave family. These spiky trees may have served as inspiration for Dr. Seuss’ Truffula trees, mentioned in The Lorax. Joshua trees are an important part of the Mojave desert system, giving food and shelter to reptiles, birds, mammals, and insects.

Two ecosystems meet within Joshua Tree National Park: the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert.

Of these two deserts, the Mojave is higher and cooler. At about 4,000 feet, it can be quite chilly here in the winter months. It is in this desert, and this part of the national park, that you will find giant piles of smooth boulders and Joshua trees.

The lower Colorado desert makes up the eastern side of Joshua Tree National Park. The landscape looks vastly different here, with cholla cactus, ocotillo, and grasslands.

The San Andreas Fault is located southwest of Joshua Tree National Park. This fault was instrumental in forming the landscapes of this park. There are several parallel faults that run through the park and have caused earthquakes here.

Joshua Tree officially became a national park on October 31, 1994. In 2023, 3.3 million people visited the park, making it the 9th most visited park in the United States.

Geography and Maps of the Park

At almost 800,000 acres, this park is slightly larger than Rhode Island. That doesn’t put it on the top 10 list of US national parks when it comes to size, but Joshua Tree NP is still rather large, and there is a lot to do here.

Most of the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park are located along Park Boulevard. This road runs from the West Entrance Station to the North Entrance Station, right through the heart of the park. This is where hiking trails travel around and through enormous piles of boulders, forming awesome places to go rock scrambling and rock climbing.

As you head away from Park Boulevard, the crowds lessen as you venture farther into the wilderness. Drive Geology Tour Road, hike the lesser known trails to hidden oases, see fields of cactus, and explore the backcountry roads.

One of the best things to do in Joshua Tree is to drive to Keys View. The San Bernardino Mountains form the southwestern border of the park, and this viewpoint sits high up in these mountains. The view is breathtaking.

There are three main park entrances, two on the north side of the park (called the West Entrance and North Entrance) and one on the south side of the park near Cottonwood Spring. There are also access points into the park at Black Rock Campground, Indian Cove, and near Fortynine Palms Oasis. You can also enter Joshua Tree on Berdoo Canyon Road.

On the map National Park Service map below, I labeled some of the most popular things to do in Joshua Tree National Park. Park Boulevard is the white line on the map.

Joshua Tree Map

Map of Joshua Tree National Park | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Below is a big list of things to do in Joshua Tree National Park. This is an extensive list and covers most of the sights, viewpoints, scenic drives, and hiking trails in the park. It is a LOT to do, and for most people, this list is too big to tackle on a typical visit here. However, I am listing all of these sights, just so you know what there is to do in this park.

Later in this guide, I narrow down the list of things to do in Joshua Tree National Park into the top 10 experiences.

Go Hiking

Without a doubt, hiking one (or more) of the many trails is one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park. Hikes range from short, easy nature trails to more challenging hikes that summit the highest peaks or include sections of rock scrambling.

Here are 9 essential hikes to do in Joshua Tree National Park.

Arch Rock Trail. 1.8 miles, easy, 1 hour. On this trail, you get to see two of the most iconic rock formations in the park: Arch Rock and Heart Rock. The scenery is some of the best in Joshua Tree and you get to do some rock scrambling. This is one of our favorite hikes in the park.

Ryan Mountain. 3 miles, 1,000 feet of ascent, strenuous, 1.5 to 3 hours. This short, tough hike takes you to a panoramic viewpoint over the heart of Joshua Tree National Park.

Ryan Mountain View

View from Ryan Mountain | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Cap Rock Nature Trail. 0.4-mile loop, easy, 30 minutes. This short but enjoyable nature trail is flat and great for all ages and ability levels. Along the hike, learn about the plants that live and thrive in the Mojave Desert. This is also a great place to photograph the Joshua trees.

Cap Rock Nature Trail

Cap Rock Nature Trail | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Skull Rock Trail. 1.7-mile loop, easy to moderate, 1 hour. This is one of the best, short hikes in the park. For most of the hike, you are traveling past enormous boulders and unique rock formations, such as Skull Rock. This is another hike that is great for all ages and ability levels. Kids, and kids at heart, will also love rock scrambling near Skull Rock.

Skull Rock Joshua Tree

Skull Rock | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Fortynine Palms. 3.2 miles, 775 feet of total ascent, moderate to strenuous, 2 to 3 hours. Hike out to a hidden oasis and get a great view over Twentynine Palms.

Mastodon Peak. 2.5-mile loop, moderate, 1 to 2 hours. This hike starts at Cottonwood Spring and leads up to a panoramic viewpoint over the southern area of the park. You won’t see Joshua trees here but you do get to see a lot of ocotillo.

Mastodon Peak

Mastodon Peak | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Warren Peak. 5.5 miles, strenuous, 2 to 3 hours. For panoramic views across the San Bernardino Mountains to San Jacinto and the Santa Rosa Mountains, put this hike on your list. It is located on the western end of the park and it was the quietest trail that we hiked in Joshua Tree National Park.

Warren Peak

The view from Warren Peak | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Hall of Horrors. 0.8 miles, easy to moderate, 1 to 2 hours. This short hike was one of our favorite experiences in the park. It’s so great that I’ll mention it again later in this guide. On this trail, you will hike around two massive piles of boulders with the option to rock scramble and hike through a slot canyon.

Barker Dam Nature Trail. 1.25-mile loop, easy, 30 to 60 minutes. When Barker Dam is filled with water, this is a beautiful hike. If it is dry, then skip this hike as there are much better things to do in the park. We recommend getting an update at the visitor center about the water level before taking the time to do this hike.

Barker Dam Trail

Barker Dam Nature Trail | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Explore Hidden Valley

Distance: 1.0 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Time: 30 to 60 minutes

Hidden Valley is one of the most picturesque areas of Joshua Tree National Park.

This small valley is located in a “bowl.” Giant stacks of boulders form the outer perimeter and the trail makes a loop around the inside of this bowl. For the entire hike, you are surrounded by rocky walls and desert plant life. It’s a short, beautiful walk.

This trail is short and easy, so it is great for all ages.

Hidden Valley Joshua Tree

Hidden Valley | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Nearby is a picnic area with barbecue grills. This is a very popular spot to visit and it can be tough to get a parking space here midday.

Tour Keys Ranch

For 60 years, Bill and Frances Keys lived on this ranch. They raised five children in this harsh environment, cattle farming and mining. This ranch is now on the National Historic Register Site.

On a ranger-guided tour, you can visit their house, the school, and see the mining equipment. We planned to visit this ranch but our tour was cancelled the day before our visit.

Tours are typically held from October to May and have a fee in addition to the park entrance fee. Learn more on the National Park Service website.

Enjoy the View from Keys View

Keys View is one of the best viewpoints in Joshua Tree National Park. From this overlook, you have a panoramic view of the Santa Rosa Mountains, San Jacinto Mountain, Coachella Valley, and Palm Springs. The San Andreas Fault, which runs from San Francisco to the Gulf of California, runs through the valley below.

On a clear weather the day, the view is awesome, but it can be hazy, particularly in the warmer months.

Keys View

Keys View | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Keys View is located at the end of Keys View Road. From the parking lot, it is a 0.2-mile loop to walk to the viewpoints.

See Skull Rock

Skull Rock is one of the most photographed rocks in the park. This rock, at the right angle, resembles a skull. It is located on Park Boulevard and can be seen right from the road.

Skull Rock

Skull Rock | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

This is a popular area to visit in Joshua Tree. From this same spot, you can rock scramble on the giant boulder piles located next to Skull Rock or take your pick from one of several hiking trails.

Tim in Joshua Tree NP

Next to Skull Rock you can rock scramble up onto the rocks for views like this one.

The Skull Rock Trail is a 1.7-mile trail that loops around the area, connecting Skull Rock with the Jumbo Rocks Campground. The Discovery Trail is a 0.7-mile loop that connects Skull Rock and the Split Rock Trail.

Skull Rock Trail Photo best things to do in Joshua Tree

Skull Rock Trail | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Go Rock Climbing

Joshua Tree National Park is a world-renowned rock climbing destination. There are more than 8,000 rock climbing routes in this park.

Experienced rock climbers can climb the routes on their own. If you are new to rock climbing, you can take lessons or rock climb Joshua Tree with a guide. 

For more information about rock climbing, visit the National Park Service website.

Hike the Hall of Horrors Trail

Distance: 0.8 miles | Total Ascent: 100 feet | Difficulty: Easy to Moderate | Time: 1 to 1.5 hours

This experience is so great that I’m mentioning it again (it also is listed above in the best hikes to do in Joshua Tree).

The Hall of Horrors trail loops around several giant stacks of boulders. But what makes this hike so thrilling is the rock scrambling and searching for the hidden slot canyon. 

If you want to hike the slot canyon, head to the far stack of boulders. There are two slot canyons in this pile of boulders that run parallel to each other. They can be tricky to find and you will have to do some rock scrambling to get to the entrances, but it’s also tons of fun. For full details on how to do this hike, including a map of the location of the slot canyons, check out our Guide to the Hall of Horrors.

Hall of Horrors Rock Piles

The Hall of Horrors trail circles around two large rock piles like this one.

 Tim in Joshua Tree

Tim squeezing through one of the slot canyons.


Hall of Horrors Joshua Tree best things to do in Joshua Tree

At the far end of one of the slot canyons, you can rock scramble/rock climb up these rocks. From the top, you get awesome views of the hiking trail and nearby area.


Hall of Horrors View best things to do in Joshua Tree

Hike to Fortynine Palms Oasis

Distance: 3.2 miles | Difficulty: Moderate | Total Ascent: 775 feet | Time: 2 to 3 hours

There are several oases to visit in Joshua Tree and this one is our favorite.

To get here, you will need to do some hiking. The trail starts on the northern border of the park, near Twentynine Palms. You will hike up and over a rocky mountain to get to this hidden, beautiful oasis. Along the trail, you also are treated to panoramic views of the town of Twentynine Palms.

Fortynine Palms Oasis

Fortynine Palms Oasis


Twentynine Palms

View of Twentynine Palms from the hiking trail | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Heart Rock

Heart Rock is located on the Arch Rock Trail. This was once a “secret spot” in the park, but now there is a maintained trail with numerous trail signs leading to this rock.

As you hike the Arch Rock Trail, look for the small, brown trail signs that point towards Heart Rock. From the main Arch Rock Trail, it is a short, easy walk to get to Heart Rock.

Heart Rock Joshua Tree

Heart Rock | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Take a Photo in Front of Arch Rock

Arch Rock Trail is named for this arch of rock. From the main trail, look for the sign pointing towards Arch Rock, or follow the line of people. The arch is located right next to the trail but it can be easy to miss, if you are not looking for it.

Arch Rock is popular photo spot and you will have to do some rock scrambling to get up to it. Your photographer will have to rock scramble up onto the rocks on the opposite side in order to get your photo.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Arch Rock | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Arch Rock is beautiful, but I think the most spectacular part of this trail are the rocky formations that sit just to the right of Arch Rock. Climb up onto the rocks for this view:

Joshua Tree National Park

PARKING FOR HEART ROCK AND ARCH ROCK: Arch Rock Trail is located next to White Tank Campground, but you can only park here if you have a campsite here. The parking lot for this trail is located on Pinto Basin Road, and on Google Maps it is called “Arch Rock Nature Trail.” There is a hiking trail that crosses Pinto Basin Road and heads east to join up with the Arch Rock Nature Trail loop. The hiking stats above include the Arch Rock Nature Trail loop and the access trail to and from the parking lot.

Split Rock

Split Rock may not be as exciting as Heart Rock or Arch Rock, but it still deserves a mention, since it is another popular sight to see. This cracked rock is located at the trailhead for the Split Rock Trail. You can either drive up and take a photo or do the full hike.

Split Rock best things to do in Joshua Tree

Split Rock | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree Travel Guide

Drive to Eureka Peak

This off-the-beaten-path destination was another one of our favorite experiences in Joshua Tree National Park.

Eureka Peak is located on the far western end of Joshua Tree National Park. To get here, you need a 4WD vehicle. Most of the road to get here (Lower Covington Flat Road) is an unpaved, sandy road and in some spots, the sand can be quite deep.

From Black Rock Canyon Campground, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to drive here. For most of the drive, you will see hundreds of Joshua trees and, in our experience, not another person. Once you make it to Eureka Peak, enjoy the panoramic views of the San Bernardino Mountains and the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Eureka Peak Joshua Tree

Eureka Peak | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Drive Geology Tour Road

Geology Tour Road is the most popular 4WD road in Joshua Tree National Park. It is well maintained by the National Park Service, but since some sections of the road are washboarded and/or have deep sand, a 4×4 vehicle is recommended if you want to drive the full loop.

Standard vehicles can handle the first few miles of the road (until Squaw Tank at marker number 9). Beyond this point, 4×4 vehicles are recommended by the National Park Service.

Geology Tour Road best things to do in Joshua Tree

Geology Tour Road

Along this 18-mile loop are 16 stops that correspond with this guide on the National Park Service website. As you drive this loop, learn about the geology of the park and how the landscapes were formed.

If you stop at all of the stops, it can take 2 hours to drive the full loop.

Berdoo Canyon Road

Berdoo Canyon Road connects Geology Tour Road with Dillon Road (located south of Joshua Tree National Park).

This rugged, rough, unpaved road heads through Berdoo Canyon, cutting through the San Bernardino Mountains. It is about 15 miles long and to drive this road, you must have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle and experience driving on 4WD roads. There are several sections where you will have to drive over obstacles in the road, such as large boulders or very rocky, rugged sections of road.

Berdoo Canyon Road best things to do in Joshua Tree

This is just one short stretch of road. There are many rocks and boulders like this along the road and having prior experience driving roads like this is highly recommended.


Berdoo Canyon best things to do in Joshua Tree

Berdoo Canyon Road Joshua Tree

Berdoo Canyon Road, as it approaches Geology Tour Road | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

This road dates back to the 1930’s when a construction camp was established, to construct an aqueduct that ran from Arizona to Los Angeles.

Driving Berdoo Canyon Road, and then continuing on Geology Tour Road, is the most adventurous way to enter Joshua Tree National Park. The canyon is beautiful and looks different than anything else you will see in Joshua Tree National Park.

Cholla Cactus Garden

The Cholla Cactus Garden is one of the most unique sights in Joshua Tree National Park. This large cluster of cactus is fun to visit and fun to photograph.

Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla cactus are found throughout the deserts in the American southwest and there are many different species. At the Cholla Cactus Garden, the teddybear cholla is what you will see. They look soft and fluffy but they are covered with hundreds of thorns.


Cactus best things to do in Joshua Tree

Cholla Cactus best things to do in Joshua Tree

We visited the Cholla Cactus Garden in the early afternoon but I hear it is a beautiful place to visit both at sunrise and sunset.

Go Horseback Riding

253 miles of equestrian trails weave through the desert landscapes and canyons of Joshua Tree National Park. These trails are located throughout the park but many of them are clustered around Black Rock Campground, Eureka Peak, Covington Road, and the west entrance.

For more information, visit the National Park Service website.

Cottonwood Spring Oasis

If you want to see a beautiful oasis without having to hike to it, the Cottonwood Spring Oasis is the one we recommend. From the parking area, it is a 2-minute walk to get to this oasis.

Cottonwood Spring best things to do in Joshua Tree

Cottonwood Spring | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

If you want to go farther, hike to Mastodon Peak for 360° views of this part of the park.

You also have the option to hike the Lost Oasis Trail to the Lost Oasis. We did not do this. From what we read online, it’s a long, unexciting hike to get to the oasis and once there, a difficult hike/rock scramble into the oasis. Many people who hike this trail turn around without seeing the oasis, since it is so difficult to get to.

Oasis of Mara

The Oasis of Mara is located behind the Joshua Tree National Park visitor center in Twentynine Palms. A paved trail loops around this oasis, so it’s easy to visit.

It’s a nice option if you want to see an oasis without hiking or driving out to Cottonwood Springs. However, this small patch of national park land is located in Twentynine Palms, so it lacks the scenery that you get deeper within the national park.

Oasis of Mara best things to do in Joshua Tree

Oasis of Mara

Go Stargazing

Joshua Tree National Park is an International Dark Sky Park. This is one of the best national parks to view the night sky and photograph the Milky Way.

Inside of the park, one of the best locations to view the night sky is the Cholla Cactus Garden (since is located so far from the nearby towns). Pinto Basin Road, between White Tank and the south entrance, has some of the darkest skies in the park, so the pullouts along this road are great spots to view the night skies.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: For the best experience, avoid visiting Joshua Tree National Park during a full moon. The brightness of the moon will reduce how many stars you will see.

Every year, a Dark Sky Festival is held at Sky’s the Limit Center and Observatory, which is located just outside of the park entrance, near Twentynine Palms. This event is usually held in the fall. Tickets go on sale in advance and typically sell out. Learn more here.

Skys the Limit Observatory

Sky’s the Limit Center and Observatory | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Top 10 Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Like I said, that is a long list of things to do in Joshua Tree National Park. Below I list our favorite things to do and essential experiences to have in the park.


How Many Days do You Need in Joshua Tree National Park?

Ideally, plan on spending a minimum of two days in Joshua Tree National Park. This gives you enough time to visit the highlights, hike a few trails, go rock climbing or take a lesson, and go on the scenic drives.

If you only have one day in Joshua Tree National Park, spend your time on Park Boulevard. Visit Hidden Valley, hike the Hall of Horrors Trail, see Skull Rock and go rock scrambling, enjoy the view from Keys View. If you still have time and energy, visit the Cholla Cactus Garden and/or the Arch Rock Trail.

With two days in Joshua Tree National Park, do everything above on day one. On day two, you can spend more time in the heart of the park, by hiking to Ryan Mountain, driving Geology Tour Road, and rock climbing. Or, venture off the beaten path, by hiking to Warren Peak and driving up to Eureka Peak or by visiting Cottonwood Springs Oasis and hiking to Mastodon Peak.

With three days, you can do everything listed in this guide, but it will be an extremely busy three days.

California Travel Guide

Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park can be visited all year.

Since most of this park sits at or above 4,000 feet, it can be cooler here than you might think. During the winter months, it can be downright cold.

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is during the spring and fall months, when temperatures are mild. In the spring and fall, daytime highs range from the mid-50’s to the mid-70’s. Rainfall is extremely low during this time.

From late-February through May, it’s possible to see wildflowers and cactus blooming in Joshua Tree National Park (this peaks the months of March and April). This varies from year to year and depends on rain amounts and temperature. During our visit in February, we could see blooms forming on some Joshua trees.

Summers can be hot, but even though Joshua Tree is farther south than Death Valley, it doesn’t get the same scorching temperatures. In July and August, the hottest months of the year, daytime highs approach 100°F with nighttime lows in the low-80’s. Rainfall is low.

During the winter months, expect daytime highs in the high-50’s to low-60’s and freezing temperatures at night. At the higher elevations, snow is possible.

We visited Joshua Tree National Park at the end of February during a cold spell. Daily highs were only in the 40’s and it was below freezing at night. It snowed the day before our visit, so you might notice some snow in our photos. If you plan to visit in the winter, dress warmly!!

Joshua Tree National Park appears in our Best US National Parks in January and Best National Parks in February articles. For more information about the best times to visit the national parks, check out our Best National Parks Month-by-Month Guide.

Joshua Tree Oasis

Fortynine Palms Oasis | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is located in southern California.

Several nearby cities make great places to start or end a road trip to this national park. Here are the distances and driving times from nearby destinations to the Joshua Tree National Park visitor center near Twentynine Palms:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: 185 miles, 3 hours
  • Los Angeles, California: 145 miles, 2.5 hours
  • San Diego, California: 180 miles, 3 hours
  • Palm Springs, California: 50 miles, one hour
  • Phoenix, Arizona: 280 miles, 4.5 miles

How to Get Around Joshua Tree National Park

For the best experience, plan on renting a car or driving your own vehicle. There is no shuttle service or public transportation in the park.

For most areas of the park, a standard vehicle is sufficient. You only need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle for a handful of roads in the park. These roads include Geology Tour Road, Berdoo Canyon, Covington Road to Eureka Peak, Old Dale Road, Pinkham Canyon Road, and Black Eagle Mine Road.

Best Views of Joshua Tree NP

Keys View | Best Things to do in Joshua Tree

Where to Stay & Eat

Due to its size and multiple entrances, there are several places to base yourself while visiting Joshua Tree National Park.

Inside of Joshua Tree

There is no lodging inside of the park but there are about 500 campsites. It’s best to reserve these in advance because they can sell out. Reservations are required for the campsites at Black Rock, Jumbo Rocks, Cottonwood, Ryan, and Indian Cove. There are first-come, first-served campsites at White Tank, Hidden Valley, and Belle Campgrounds. Learn more on the National Park Service website.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: There are no restaurants or grocery stores in Joshua Tree National Park. We packed a picnic lunch for the day and had dinner in town at night.

Outside of the Park

Twentynine Palms

Outside of Joshua Tree, the best area to stay in is Twentynine Palms.

This small town sits just to the north of the park. There are a bunch of hotels here as well as grocery stores and restaurants.

We spent two nights here and it has a very handy location. From town, it only takes a few minutes to enter the park through the North Entrance Station and it takes less than 30-minutes to drive to the heart of the park.

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites and had a good experience. The Flying Point Homestead gets rave reviews and the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites gets good reviews.

As far as where to eat, we had a great dinner at The Restaurant at The 29 Palms Inn. The Rib Co. was highly recommended to us as well.

Joshua Tree

This town also sits north of Joshua Tree National Park and is located very close to the West Entrance Station. The Cherokee House, Casa de Frank, and Eclectic Joshua Tree all get great reviews.

Palm Springs and Palm Desert

From this area, which is located southwest of the park, you will have a longer drive, but if you are looking to stay in a resort, or if you want check out Palm Springs or Palm Desert at night, this is an area to consider.

We spent several nights in Palm Desert at the Westin Desert Willow Villas. This place is wonderful and has outdoor pools, access to golfing, and it is just a short drive to the long list of great restaurants in Palm Desert.

Just be aware that it does take an hour and 15 minutes to drive into the heart of the park from here, so you are adding on more time in your car. But if you have a 4WD high-clearance vehicle, you can enter the park on the adventurous Berdoo Canyon Road, which is a lot of fun.

VERDICT: Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree have a better location with less driving, so this is the area that I recommend. But if you want to break things up, you can do what we did, staying in two different locations.
Tim and I spent three days in Joshua Tree National Park. Our first two nights were spent in Twentynine Palms, and from here we visited most of the sights on the northern and western sides of the park. At the end of our second day in Joshua Tree, we drove to Palm Desert. On day 3, we did a big loop from Palm Desert, entering on Berdoo Canyon Road and exiting by Cottonwood Springs. After visiting Joshua Tree National Park, we spent a day in the awesome Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is worth adding on to your itinerary, if you have an extra day.

Important Planning Information

Park Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. There is also an annual Joshua Tree Park Pass that costs $55. You can purchase your pass online in advance, which helps save time at the entrance booth. If you plan to visit Joshua Tree National Park along with other national parks, consider buying the America the Beautiful Pass ($80 and valid for all of the national parks for one year).

Hours of Operation: The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

Cellular Service: We had cellular service near the northern section of the park (Fortynine Palms and Black Rock Canyon) with very service throughout the remainder of the park. Do not rely on cellular service while you are in the park, whether that is to call or text family and friends, or look things up online.

Pets: Leashed pets are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and within 100 feet of the roads. They are not allowed on hiking trails, in park buildings, or the backcountry.

Get updates on road conditions and trail closures, as you plan your trip and just before your visit, on the National Park Service website.

Joshua Tree

Where are You Going Next?

If your visit to Joshua Tree National Park is part of a bigger road trip in the USA, here is more information to help you plan your trip.

HIKES IN JOSHUA TREE: Check out our article Best Hikes in Joshua Tree for great hikes to add to your to do list. We also have detailed hiking information about the Hall of Horrors Trail.

MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE: Learn about the best things to do and how to plan your visit in our Guide to the Mojave National Preserve.

ANZA-BORREGO DESERT: If you only have one day in the park and want to see the highlights, read our article How to Spend One Day in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We also have a detailed Guide to Hiking The Slot.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP: Go on a road trip from Las Vegas to San Diego, visiting Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, as well as Anza-Borrego Desert and the Mojave National Preserve.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.

Read all of our articles about California in our California Travel Guide and the United States in our United States Travel Guide.

If you have any questions about the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, let us know in the comment section below.


Things to Do Joshua Tree National Park


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Comments 10

  1. Avatar for Holly Watson-Evans
    Holly Watson-Evans

    Hi Julie! Have loved your website and posts since 2016!! THANK YOU- I absolutely use your guides and write ups to help plan my trips!!
    Just got back from Joshua Tree NP… Fun little trip. I met friends in San Diego and drove to Yucca Valley and stayed in a cute AirBnB there. About 15 minutes – to the west entrance. A couple of things we learned that might help others… (1) definitely be CAREFUL at the Cholla Cactus garden.. We saw a man there get too close and he had about 6 big furry cactus fingers stuck to him. He was miserable and definitely in a lot of pain. (2) I am not sure I would recommend driving down to Cottonwood entrance to see the small oasis (unless you were doing another hike there). Long 18 mile drive and not a lot going on there (IMO) (3) Samuelson Rock hike – we did not do this, but others have said it is fun (and like a scavenger hike with some history about John Samuelson) – but hot, so start early (4) Black Rock entrance- outstanding place for quick night hike to see amazing stars.
    Thank you again! I recommend your site to everyone I know planning trips!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Holly. Thank you so much for writing in with these tips and for recommending us to other travelers! I’m glad you had a great time in Joshua Tree and happy travels to wherever you go next. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for rita feals
    rita feals

    HI!!! THANK YOU for all the great info and help with planning! i am trying to plan for JTNP atleast 2 days then drive down the coast stoping at laguna crystal cove and …. still planning…ending up at huntingdon beach…
    would you recommend staying at 29 palms OR in the town of joshua tree?
    any advantage to either?
    thank you!!!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Twentynine Palms is the better town because you are closer to the main entrance into the park and have more options for hotel and food. Joshua Tree sits farther west and is a 15 minute drive from Twentynine Palms, so it’s a bit closer to the coast, but for visiting the national park, Twentynine Palms is the better town, in my opinion. Have a great time exploring California! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for AMY MAK

    Hi Julie. We used your site for all our National Park trips and very successful. Thank you. we are going to Joshua Tree next month and will stayed around Indio CA. if we only have one day can visiting the park do you think we have enough time to do all of these trails? Driving from Indio to west entrance started Hidden Valley trail, Keys View, Cap Rock trail, Hall of Horrors trail, Skull Rock and Cholla cactus Garden trails then exit south entrance. Thank you so much!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Amy. Yes, I think that is possible, as long as you start early. Since it will be December, it is the shortest month of the year so you will have limited daylight. If you happen to be running short on time, skip the Skull Rock hike and just see Skull Rock from the parking area, or hike a small part of the trail, just to make it to the Cholla Cactus Garden before it gets dark, because it is cool to see. Have a great time in Joshua Tree! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for AMY MAK
  4. Avatar for Jill

    I have been waiting for Joshua Tree to be published on your site! Planning a spring break vacation for Yosemite, Pinnacles, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree. Used your site for all of the above – except Joshua Tree. Searched the web high and low for JT resources. NONE are as reliable, thorough, fun as yours. The pictures you include are so helpful. I trust you guys – you’ve never let me down before and we’ve followed so many of your maps, tips, advice. Thank you so much! GREAT new release!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Jill. Thank you so much for your very kind words! It sounds like you are planning an epic road trip. If you have any questions as you plan your trip, feel free to write in again. Happy travels! Cheers, Julie

    2. Avatar for Jess

      Hi Jill,
      We are planning a similar trip in June to all these NPs, do you by chance have a trip itinerary already written up? No worries if not, but thought it was worth asking!

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