Magical is the word that most springs to mind when visiting Joshua Tree National Park. The otherworldly terrain and plant life, coupled with the stillness and quiet of the landscape makes Joshua Tree feel like a landscape created by sorcery rather than nature. Claims of the supernatural and mystical abound here – sightings and claims of ghosts, aliens, ancestral spirits, and ancient gods. But as fun as all that is, what you are really going to see is the magic of the natural world. And what better way to visit than in a rolling home!
Wow, Joshua Trees
Joshua Trees are not truly trees at all, they are a variety of Yucca that can grow to almost 50 feet high. There is nothing in the world quite like them and the southern California desert is the only place they grow naturally. Not surprisingly, Joshua Tree National Park has a great many of them. You can find lone Joshua trees in many parts of the park, and whole forests of them in a few locations. Because the soil and landscape are so particular in this park, different areas of the park feature different dominant plants.
Sadly, the Joshua Trees could be an early victim of climate change due to their very limited range and high sensitivity to variance in temperature and humidity. Not only do they need a particular climate to grow in, but they are entirely dependent on a single species of moth for their pollination. The moral of this story is, be sure to see them while they are still here in abundance.
Gosh, look at those rocks!
After Joshua Trees, the park is most famous for its rock formations. The park is scattered with patches of dramatic stone formations that seemingly sprout out of the ground at random. Their strange shapes and rough surfaces make them ideal for beginner and intermediate rock climbers. You can find these formations in many areas of the park. Most of the campgrounds are situated next to one or more sets of dramatic rock formations. They look more like sandstone, but are in fact very hard granite-like rocks called gneiss.
The formations started as lava intrusions of molten bedrock forced up through cracks into the surrounding, softer rock. Over time, the softer stone eroded away leaving the long veins of much harder rock exposed. There they are slowly sculpted by wind and rain into smooth and crazy formations. The eroded surfaces coupled with their hardness is what makes them so great for climbing. Even if you are not into formal rock climbing, anyone can play around or on the lower rock formations in relative safety.
Camping in the park
Joshua Tree is very RV friendly. It has nice roads and a large number of parking spaces scattered among its many campgrounds. The one thing you won’t find in the park are electrical hookups, and generators are strictly limited to just a few hours in the morning, noontime, and afternoon. The larger parking areas at Blackrock and Cottonwood have water hookups and dump stations. The rest are pretty much boondocking only.
That said, the views are fantastic. Some of the coolest sites are surrounded by crazy rock formations or forests of Joshua Trees. If you can handle a few days of boondocking, I can’t think of many more awesome places to park your RV and feel like you have a home in the middle of the world’s craziest desert. When it comes to intimately experiencing a park in an RV, this is one of the very best.
There are many very cool, and relatively short walks in Joshua Tree National Park. While you could easily spend a couple of weeks exploring every corner of the park, a three-day weekend is enough to visit nearly all the highlights and get a good sampling of what the park has to offer. Even a single night stay makes for a good adventure where you can see quite a bit of the park.
Hidden Valley is one of the gems in the park. This short one-mile hike takes you into a tiny little valley surrounded by dramatic rock formations. The interior has its own special climate conditions that allow for a wide range of plants to flourish. Mind you, wide range by Joshua Tree standards is still not a lot, but its a great place to see many of the parks plants and animals all in one place.
Cottonwood Springs is another spot for a great hike. You can take a very short walk down to the springs themselves where you can see what happens when water springs up in the desert. Go quite a bit further down the trail and you can head to the magical, Lost Palms Oasis. Keep an eye out for lizards snakes and other critters that like to bask in the sun. Just be careful with the wildlife as some of them can be dangerous if provoked.
Bring your camera
There is never a shortage of amazing things to point your camera at here. The sunsets and sunrises are astounding. The different colors of morning and evening light illuminate the rock formations in unique and beautiful ways. The plant life is unique on earth and well worth snapping shots of, and if you are lucky enough to spot some wildlife, they are also well worth the effort. If you have nighttime gear, the night skies in Joshua Tree are among the best in the world. The rock formations silhouetted against the bright milky way of the late summer sky is a real wonder to behold.
Wear your sunscreen
This is a desert, so it is sunny most of the time and the sun is punishing during midday. Visiting in the summer without a good protection and a lot of water is a very bad idea. It’s not a huge park, but hikers have died exploring the backcountry without being prepared for the brutal weather conditions. Spring and Fall are the best seasons to visit for a balance of warm days and cool nights. If you are really lucky, you can visit the park in winter and catch the incredibly rare event of snow falling on the Joshua Trees. Even when it’s not snowing, it can get very cold in the night during the winter months. But don’t let that fool you, even in winter, the sun can cook you quite nicely if you aren’t protected.
What are you waiting for?
Joshua Tree National Park is a place that once you visit, you will never forget. Plan your adventure now with a great RV from Outdoorsy!
Renting your RV
Outdoorsy RV owners make up to $32,000 a year renting their RVs.List Your RV
Your next adventure starts here by searching thousands of available RVs for rent.Search Now