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Top Attractions to See in Joshua Tree National Park
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Top Attractions to See in Joshua Tree National Park

Whether you are looking for a little sightseeing adventure or the full experience, there are many things to do in Joshua Tree.

Palig Dzadourian

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5 min read

September 18, 2022

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The point where two distinct deserts meet, Joshua Tree National Park is a place full of wonder and rich with history. The Mojave and the Sonoran deserts have such striking differences in their ecosystems that any person could notice the sudden transition in landscapes. With its iconic trees, diverse wildlife, and signature rock formations, Joshua Tree National Park makes for one of the most impressive California sights to date. Whether you are looking for a little sightseeing adventure or a full experience of the mesmerizing atmosphere of the park, you will be able to find many things to do in Joshua Tree.

Camping in the Desert

Camping in the heart of the desert has got to be one of the best ventures you will get to experience.

Joshua Tree’s intriguing environment makes for some extraordinary scenic views; it is the perfect desert getaway. For all the campers out there, it is definitely worth experiencing at least once. If you are planning on getting the full Joshua Tree experience, you will need to spend at least 2 days here, as it is so huge that you will not be able to cover everything in a single day. One of the best things to do in Joshua Tree is undoubtedly spending the night under the limitless sky, cozied up in a tent, while you listen to the sounds of the desert unfold around you.

There are multiple campgrounds available for visitors, most of which are conveniently located near the areas where you would typically go exploring. Hidden Valley Campgrounds is arguably the most popular National Park campground there, as all 44 campsites are very easy to reach by day hiking trails, and are also close to the best climbing spots of Joshua Tree.

The only downside of this campground is that it is too popular, and it can be difficult to find an unoccupied site, especially as it operates on a first-come-first-serve basis. Not a problem, if you ask us. If you’re having a hard time finding an empty spot on this specific site, other campgrounds such as the Jumbo Rocks site and the White Tank Campgrounds are just as lovely and beautiful as the Hidden Valley Campgrounds. Setting up a tent and spending the night in the desert is one of the most popular Joshua Tree activities, so it is definitely worth checking out!

Cholla Cactus Garden

The backdrop of the sun reflecting off the needles of the Cholla cacti makes for an incredible picture.

The Cholla Cactus Garden is the place to go to if you are an avid lover of nature. Besides the distinctly shaped Joshua trees, there are plenty of interesting natural attractions to discover in this stunning park, and the Cholla cacti are a part of it. Despite it being a desert, the Cholla cacti are the only cacti to be found in this huge expanse of land. You can reach the garden by taking a simple walking trail to it; it is located on the road to Cottonwood Spring just beyond the Belle and White Tank campgrounds. If you are planning on driving through the park, you can also find an abundance of these Cholla cacti on the way to Interstate 10.

Bird Watching Spots

The diverse avian population at this national park is sure to bring immense happiness to those who hold a passion for wildlife.

If you are wondering what to do in Joshua Tree other than exploring the desert, there are a number of bird-watching spots available for those who are interested in exploring avian wildlife. The junction of the Mojave and Sonoran ecosystems includes several permanent water sources that draw birds from all over. These resident birds range from colorful hummingbirds to greater roadrunners, and even red-tailed hawks which make for a pretty diverse selection to discover. The best spots for bird watching are located in Cottonwood Spring, Lost Palm Oasis, and Barker Dam.

Stargazing Spots

Gaze up at the stars twinkling in the dark night sky of the Joshua Tree National park.

If the heat of the desert is something that you would rather not deal with, there are also visiting hours at night time that offer stargazing attractions. This is a unique opportunity to take in the dark sky dotted with shiny sparkly stars blinking down at you. Joshua Tree National Park’s remoteness makes it an ideal place to stargaze. The park has even been designated as an International Dark Sky Park.

For the optimal stargazing experience, it is recommended to head to the east side of the park where light pollution from surrounding cities is scarce, and nothing will be obstructing the views of the night sky. It is also best if you visit the park during winter, on nights with no full moon, as you will be able to see many constellations and stars this way.

Driving Tour of Joshua Tree

Hop in a car and start your engine, and drive through Joshua Tree Park’s vast landscapes while in the comfort of your vehicle. For those of you who would rather not risk driving through the desert alone, there are plenty of driving tours available that offer to take you to the park and around it.

Some of the tours require you to go to Palm Springs as the starting point of the trip, after which you will be headed to the Palm Desert and bear witness to the wonders of Joshua Tree Park within a well-air-conditioned vehicle. A guide will also be available to explain everything you need to know about the stunning park. The drive lasts approximately 4.5 hours, an ample amount of time to discover this national treasure. During the drive through the desert, you will even have the opportunity to get out of the car and hike up the trails found at the park if you so wish.

Downtown Joshua Tree

This small town located in Joshua Tree hasn’t changed a bit since it was established in the sixties, downtown Joshua Tree is a completely independent town, meaning any and all purchases you make go directly into the residents’ pockets, and not to companies or big corporations. Visit this charming town for a throwback to the 60s, to experience the atmosphere and unchanging aesthetics of a time long gone. 

Despite it being quite an old town, there are many attractions for curious visitors willing to check out this hidden gem, some of them including Sacred Space, a nationally certified deep tissue massage therapy for women, yoga classes, and the Wind Walkers Medicine Wheel where you will be able to witness some traditional cleansing rituals of the town.

Downtown Joshua Tree also has a functioning grocery store unlike any other you have seen in some major cities around the state, it is called Joshua Tree Health Foods and offers various products such as dairy products, herbs, veggies, and more.

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