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If you love the sound of desert adventures, Joshua Tree National Park is your destination. The 794,000-acre site is based at the meeting place of two grand deserts: the high and cool Mojave and the low, dry Colorado desert.

Joshua Tree is an early highlight of our California Calling tour, known for its iconic trees, vast sunsets, epic scenery and unique geological wonders springing from the desert floor. Moreover, Joshua Tree National Park also boasts over 480km of hiking trails, so you can enjoy an authentic taste of natural wilderness.

If you're considering visiting the otherworldly beauty of this desert wonderland, here are six of the most exciting activities you won't miss.

Nature Photography

Perched Spotted Towhee along HIdden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
Perched Spotted Towhee along HIdden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

There's plenty of unique wildlife to spot as well as the weird and wonderful Joshua trees (which are everywhere in the park). It's a nature lover and photographer's paradise.

You might be lucky enough to capture a snap of the park's chuckwallas (three-foot-long lizards), American kestrels, red-tailed hawks and chipmunks. As evening approaches, Joshua Tree National Park is also famed for its stunning sunset scenes.

Later in the day, you might see black-tailed jackrabbits, coyotes and kit foxes. For the brave at heart, rattlesnakes and tarantulas also call Joshua Tree their home.

Rock Climbing

A rock climber rappelling from a rock spire in Joshua Tree National Park
A rock climber rappelling from a rock spire in Joshua Tree National Park

In addition to the park's diverse wildlife, there's no shortage of natural geological wonders. And what better way to explore Joshua Tree's rock formations than getting up close and personal?

If you're new to rock climbing, plenty of guided group tours (half or full-day) are available, suitable for all abilities. For beginners, locations such as Quail Springs and Indian Cove are perfect. For the more experienced climber, Hemingway Buttress and the Echo Rock Area offer an exciting challenge.

In fact, Joshua Tree boasts over 8,000 rock-climbing routes and 2,000 bouldering opportunities. And a bonus? Once you reach the top, you'll enjoy panoramic vistas and lifelong memories.

Star Gazing

Time-lapse star trails in the sky above Joshua Tree
Time-lapse star trails in the sky above Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is an official International Dark Sky Reserve. This means it's one of the best locations in the world for star gazing. The park's eastern side is particularly great for watching the night skies, as there's minimal light pollution from nearby towns.

There are some excellent workshops on offer where you can work on your time lapses or capture the beauty of the Milky Way.

For the true astronomical enthusiast, there are also full-moon hikes (accompanied by park rangers) and opportunities to spend the entire night in the park to practice your dark-sky camera techniques.

Yoga and Meditation

Yoga amongst the rocks of Joshua Tree National Park
Yoga amongst the rocks of Joshua Tree National Park

If all this exploring has left you needing a little rest, head to the town of Joshua Tree. This small yet creative town has a dedicated yoga studio (Instant Karma Yoga) and the Integratron, offering 60-minute sound baths. These sonic healing sessions will rejuvenate tired muscles after long days of hiking, driving or climbing.

And if that's all not enough, Naturalives Day Spa offers full-body deep-tissue massages. Bliss.

Geology Tour Drive

4x4 guided drive across Joshua Tree
4x4 guided drive across Joshua Tree

If you're driving through Joshua Tree National Park, check out the "Geology Tour Road". This is a 28km track with sixteen stopping points and plenty of information along the way.

Most vehicles are easily able to make the first 5km. After this, there's a turning point with signs recommending 4x4s. If you want to complete the entire trail (which is a fantastic experience), Joshua Tree Jeep Tours are available.

Make sure to pick up a brochure from the visitor centre before you head off, to know which geological formations to look out for!

Hiking

Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park illuminated by sunset
Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park illuminated by sunset

If you're travelling to Joshua Tree Park, hiking and walking are probably top of your list. With over 480km of trails, the only problem is deciding which one to pick.

Luckily, the National Parks Service has an excellent webpage for planning hiking routes. This is subdivided between easy walks and hikes (perfect for anyone looking for a shorter route), moderate treks and more strenuous trails for experienced walkers.

Popular highlights include the Cholla Cactus Garden, sunsets at Keys View and the "Hidden Valley", full of the park's iconic Joshua trees, boulders and rocks of all sizes.

If you're after something a little more challenging, try the Ryan Mountain trail (taking you to one of the tallest points in the park) or the Panorama Loop trail. At just over 10km, it's one of Joshua Tree's true hidden gems, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and geological formations.

If you'd like a guided tour, private and group hikes are also available in the park – with local guides offering a wealth of insider knowledge. Let them know what level of intensity you're comfortable with and what you'd love to see. Your guide can then curate a tailor-made Joshua Tree experience.

Tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park

  • Joshua Tree National Park is a real taste of desert wilderness. So, our number one tip is to bring water with you – and lots of it!
  • There are few places to fill up water inside the park, which is unsurprisingly scorched with little shade. So plan ahead and ensure you're not scheduling strenuous activities for the heat of the day.
  • Although it's possible to visit any time of year, the ideal months are late Spring (March and May) and late Autumn (October and November). Winter is also a special time, but temperatures drop quickly at night.
  • If you're driving into the park, arriving as early as possible is also best. The West Entrance from the town of Joshua Tree often has a lot of traffic, but the North Entrance (from Twentynine Palms) is usually quieter.

If you're planning an American adventure, explore our collection of USA motorhome tours. From California Calling to an exploration of America's incredible National Parks or the "Big One" 38-day adventure – there's something for everyone.

Peter Stannett Author avatar

Peter Stannett
Content writer

Peter is a content writer and SEO specialist, helping keep our content current and monitoring website traffic. His content covers all four corners of the globe, across topics like activities, advice, food, culture and history.