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Entering the Mojave Desert, driving on dirt roads, and catching glimpses of the amber light playing with shadows on the mountainsides make you feel as though you’re traversing an entirely new world. The sight of rare Joshua trees instantly creates a sense of exclusivity, too, as if their branches are posing just for you. Heading through this desert floor is a dream come true for me; though I grew up in this very same desert, in a town not far away, the unique rock formations, unusual Joshua trees, and a widespread respect for this land make Joshua Tree stand out from the rest.
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Planning a visit to Joshua Tree National Park was several years in the making. While I moved away from the desert nearly a decade ago and had never visited the national park, there was always something that connected me to Joshua Tree. There is a sense of mystery and an inkling of home that come to mind at the mere thought of traveling to this ruggedly remote destination that calls to my adventurous nature. After spending many years thinking about the possibilities, looking at pictures on Instagram, and imagining being there, it was finally time to go see it for myself.
While Joshua Tree is known for many things—such as the special yuccas called Joshua trees that are only found in a few regions around the world, the protruding rock formations that beg to be climbed, the seasonal gardens that bloom, and the warm desert air that encompasses it all—to me, it screams of summer nights, carefree days, and the adventure of a lifetime.
A trip to Joshua Tree requires surprisingly little planning compared to other national parks, especially since the Black Rock Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis between June 10 and August 29. Roughing it in nature takes its own kind of planning, but when it comes to visiting this park, there are very few calls to make. After booking a flight to the nearest airport and reserving a rental car for the drive from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree, all that’s left to do is pack.
*Free entrance days can be found here.
North Entrance: The North Entrance is located about three miles south of the Highway 62 and Utah Trail junction in Twentynine Palms.
West Entrance: Located five miles south of the junction between Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village.
South Entrance: Settled near Cottonwood Springs, about 25 miles east of Indio along the I-10.
While the park is always open, the hours for the various visitor centers are as follows:
Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center
Location: Near the West Entrance, just south of Highway 62
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oasis Visitor Center
Location: Oasis of Mara in Twentynine Palms
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cottonwood Visitor Center
Location: Near the South Entrance
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Black Rock Nature Center
Location: Black Rock Campground
Hours: October through May, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Continue the journey by reading our day-by-day itinerary.
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…
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