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Getaway Guide: Joshua Tree - Part 1

Getaway Guide: Joshua Tree - Part 1

By Rachael Medina
Staff Writer August 08, 2019

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. 

Preparations 

California article
Joshua Tree National Park attracts nearly 3 million outdoor adventurers annually with its signature Joshua trees, unique rock formations, and gorgeous desert landscape.

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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. 

Packing List

Due to the extreme desert temperatures, campers must come prepared with the proper clothing, camping equipment, navigation tools, first-aid supplies, any necessary personal items, and ample food and water.

Protection

  • Extra gallon of water (in case the car overheats)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • First-aid kit
      • Bandages (in multiple sizes)
      • Neosporin (or other antibiotic ointment)
      • Antiseptic towelettes
      • Cactus spine removal tools (tape, comb, tweezers)
      • Safety pins
      • Moleskin or other blister bandages
      • Duct tape
      • Aspirin and ibuprofen
      • Allergy pills
      • Blanket
      • Extra snacks 
      • Extra water
      • Book of matches

Clothing

  • Light, loose-fitting, layered clothing
  • Pajamas
  • Quick-drying pants and shorts
  • Moisture-wicking shirts and undergarments 
  • Socks
  • Hiking boots
  • Sandals (for around the campsite)
  • Bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Wide-brimmed hat
Since Joshua Tree heats up during the day and cools down at night, make sure to bring clothes you can easily layer—plus plenty of sunscreen and a hat. 

Necessities

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Quick-drying towel
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lip balm
  • Credit card
  • Cash
  • Cellphone
  • ID
  • National Parks Annual Pass (if applicable)
  • Food (including salty snacks for hot days to replace electrolytes)
  • Water (at least 1 gallon per day; 2 gallons per day for hiking and climbing days)

Navigation

  • Map
  • Compass

Camping Equipment

  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camping pillow
  • Head lamp
  • Lantern
  • Matches
  • Cooking utensils
  • Camp sink or wash bin
  • Pot or pan
  • Biodegradable soap

Extras

joshua tree national park fees

Whether camping in a trailer or a tent, all Joshua Tree visitors must pay a fee for entering the park and setting up camp. 

Weekly Fees

  • Vehicle: $30
  • Individual (on foot or bike): $15

Annual Fees

  • Individual: $55

*Free entrance days can be found here.

The national park's namesake, the unusual Joshua tree is actually a type of succulent that only grows in the American Southwest.

Water Locations Inside Joshua Tree

  • Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms
  • West Entrance Station
  • Black Rock Campground
  • Cottonwood Campground
  • Indian Cove Ranger Station

Joshua Tree National Park Entrances

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.

There are numerous entrances to Joshua Tree and each one is close to a park visitor center, making it easy for travelers to get the information they need as soon as they arrive. 

Joshua Tree National Park Hours

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.

Staff Writer
Rachael Medina

Staff Writer Rachael Medina

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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