A Day at Joshua Tree Ntl Park

Hey Guys!

This post continues our trip from April 2018. We spent time in LA, Malibu, Palm Springs and JTNP. I’ve decided to do 3 separate posts instead of just doing one long one.

We flew in on a Mon and flew out on Sat. We spent our first day in Palm Springs and then our second day was spent at JTNP. This was my 2nd visit to the park but my hubby’s first.

I have another blog post that I did earlier this year about our first trip to the LA area in April 2017. It includes all of the same areas but in one post.

The drive from Palm Springs to the Joshua Tree entrance takes approximately 45 mins. We chose this entrance because it’s the closest one to Palm Springs. There are 3 entrances to the park:

• The West Entrance is located five miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village.
• The North Entrance is in Twentynine Palms, three miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Utah Trail.
• The South Entrance near Cottonwood Spring is an access point along Interstate 10, 25 miles east of Indio.

Read here to see which entrance some people prefer and why. We’ve only entered from Joshua Tree village and exited out of the south entrance and based on my experience, I prefer the West entrance over the South entrance.

Last year, when we visited, it was very hot but this year, it was a lot cooler. So, always check the temps before you head out. I also can’t stress enough to always carry plenty of water with you on your hikes. JTNP is a very dry place and you can dehydrate quickly.

Also, even if it’s hot during the day, the temps drop during the evening and you will need warmer clothing.


One of the first things you will notice when entering from this entrance is the unusual Joshua Trees, also known as the yucca palm. There are 3 subspecies of Joshua Trees and they can only be found in the Mojave desert. Image-1

The Joshua Tree was given it’s name by a group of mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.Image-1The largest Joshua tree on record was 80 feet tall and was estimated to be about 1000 years old. Joshua trees typically grow more than 20 feet tall and may take 60 years to come to maturity and can live more than 500 years….wow!

JTNP is not a huge park and can be done in one full day. We didn’t do a lot of the hikes but the one I would definitely recommend is the Barker Dam trail.Image-1Image-1

It’s a 1.2 mi loop that takes you by a man made dam that was built in 1900 by cattleman as a water storage for their cattle. It was raised in 1949 by rancher William F. Keys. An inscription at the top of the dam reads: “Big Horn Dam Built by Willis Keys, W.F. Keyes, Phyllis M. Keys, 1949–1950.”

It is now a gathering place for desert wildlife, including many species of birds and bighorn sheep. The dam is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are lots of hiking trails throughout JNTP.

They were doing trail maintenance when we visited so part of the trail was closed but you could still hike to the dam… you just had to go back the way you came instead of doing the loop.

The cacti were blooming once again during our visit.Image-1

As you get closer to the dam, coming from behind it, you can see an old cattle trough that was used years ago by the ranchers. Image-1

You keep walking past the trough a short distance and you will see the dam.Image-1

You continue walking past the dam until you see the water. Last year, the water was so still that I was able to capture some amazing reflection shots. This year the wind was blowing so the water wasn’t as still but, nonetheless, I was able to capture some nice shots.Image-1Image-1Image-1

The water was noticeably lower than our last visit. I’ve read that some people have visited and there’s been no water at all.

Last year, we missed the ancient petroglyphs so I was determined to mark it off my list this trip. We walked back the way we came and noticed a split in the trail and what appeared to be an information plaque…there are several on the trail.

So, we walked over and it was the location of the petroglyphs. Image-1

Sadly, they had been traced over with paint but there are other petroglyphs that can be found throughout the park.Image-1

At this same stop, there is another trail head that begins at the parking lot that leads to a well preserved, old gold processing site. It has remnants of a number of old cars that are slowly being absorbed back into the ground. It’s called the Wall Street Mill Trail and it’s approx 2 mi r/trip.

However, a second parking area, 0.3 miles up the trail, is located just off the unpaved Queen Valley Road. Starting from the first trailhead makes for a 2.15-mile round trip hike, which can be abbreviated to 1.55 miles by starting from the second trailhead.

We decided to pass on this hike.

After leaving this area, we headed to our next stop, Skull Rock .. It’s a cranial-shaped granite rock formation with 2 eye sockets created by erosion. It looks just like a skull!Image-1Image-1

We made several stops along the way to take pictures. There are several places you can stop and have a picnic lunch or use the restroom. Image-1Can you spot me in the pic below? 😉


The park has become a very popular place for rock climbers.



After Skull Rock, we headed to our next stop, Keys View. It’s the highest viewpoint in JTNP and offers panoramic views of mesas, mountains & Coachella Valley. There is a high concentration of Joshua Trees on the drive up to Keys View.Image-1

Once you arrive to the parking lot, you have to walk up a short but steep sidewalk to the viewpoint. The views were awesome!Image-1Image-1

Next on the list was a stop at the Arch Rock. It’s a .3 mi hike that can be found at the White Tank Campground. We missed this stop during our last visit so it was another stop I had to mark off the list.

If you’ve been to Arches National Park, you may be a little disappointed with this arch but I thought it was cool. 😉Image-1Image-1 This area was one my favorites. The landscape was incredible. Image-1Image-1Image-1

We saw several different kinds of lizards in the park but the most unusual one was spotted in this area…the chuckwalla.Image-1

After leaving this area, we continued our drive to the next stop, the Cholla Cactus Garden. This area has the highest concentration of cholla cactus in the park..almost 10 acres. There is a 1/4 mi hike that you can do through the garden and it’s very easy.

Just a word of warning, do not touch or get too close to these cacti .. the slightest brush against them will cause the spines to dive into your skin, clothes or shoes.

The cholla detaches its joints onto unsuspecting animals and birds as a means of dispersal; when these joints fall off they create new stands of cactus.Image-1Image-1Image-1

After leaving the garden, we continued our drive to the southern entrance to exit the park.  Click here for some very useful information about the time and distance it takes between the entrances and stops.

We were still 20 mi from the entrance and the landscape changed a lot. It goes to flat back to rocky and then flat again. We finally made it to the entrance and stopped at the visitors center. It was closed but thankfully the restrooms were still opened.


Last year, we stayed inside the park until it was completely dark so we could stargaze. The park is well known for this as it has no light pollution. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life!

If you do stick around to stargaze. , which I highly recommend, you will need to be prepared for the much cooler temps in the evening.

Last July, the park was designated a “Dark Sky Park” due to the fact that is has no light pollution. Click here for a list of more dark sky parks.

After exiting the park, we headed back to LA. We were once again staying in the West Hollywood area. The drive back took around 2.5 hours. On our way back to LA, we decided to stop off and grab a bite to eat.

So, we decided to stop at In-N-Out Burger. You can’t go to CA and not eat here. They have the most delicious burgers ever! We ate here last year too and let me just say, they are always busy!

My daughter tried her fries “animal style”…when you order your burger or fries this way, they add cheese and grilled onions. If you don’t like burgers, then don’t stop here because that is all they serve…burgers, fries, milkshakes, soda and coffee..but the prices can’t be beat.

Click here to read some very interesting ways to order your burger and fries.


After we finished eating, we continued our drive to LA and saw a beautiful sunset. What a great way to finish our day!Image-1

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed JTNP and that this post will help you plan your own trip to the park.

If you have any tips or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment. 🙂

My next post on the LA area and Malibu will be up soon.

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