When you're in the city of Joshua Tree in San Bernardino County, California, there's no escaping the fact you're right in the heart of the Mojave Desert. There are even mini sand dunes and cacti on the side of the main highway running through the city. It has a climate to match its location too, and although the mild winters are a bonus, the soaring summer temperatures can get overpowering when they reach asphalt-melting highs of one hundred and ten degrees plus.
The Joshua Tree National Park borders the city to the south. The park's unique environment is amazing to explore. The enormous size and incredible age of the Joshua trees is truly something to marvel at, but when you're young and adventurous, you may well be thinking - seen one Joshua tree, seen them all. Even spending your evenings gazing up at the stars twinkling in some of the best dark skies in the US can lose its sparkle.
When you've exhausted all your other entertainment options like visiting the World Famous Crochet Museum, taking a sonic sound bath at the Integratron and have uploaded more photos to your Instagram account of you posing on the Murtle the Turtle Sculpture than you probably should have, it's time to find something else to do.
Pack up an RV, pick up your friends and head out of town. If you've got anywhere from three to five days, you can make a road trip from Joshua Tree to Boise in Idaho and see something other than sand for a change. Take the US 395 northbound towards Olancha and after just three hours on the road, those Joshua Trees will have been replaced by the towering Giant Sequoia trees of the Sequoia National Forest. If you or your friends start feeling homesick for the desert, you can always take a hike through the Coso Range Wilderness Area or go off-roading in the Olancha Dunes OHV Area. Carry on north along the US 395 and your road trip will take you alongside the Kings Canyon National Park and the Inyo National Forest. Both are a major change of scene to the dry and dusty Mojave Desert.
Plan some more stopovers on your road trip from Joshua Tree to Boise and you and your friends will be able to go canoeing or jet skiing on Lahontan Reservoir, cheer a cowboy's efforts as he rides a bucking bronco or cool off in a fun water park. After a couple of days on the road, you'll have totally forgotten what a grain of sand looks like.
Stop off in Nampa at the Roaring Springs Water Park to make one last big splash before you roll into Boise. The water park is a few miles east of the city along the I 84 eastbound. It's a great place to spend the day with your friends being totally crazy as you slide down all the fantastic rides. A few hours here and you'll have seen enough water to last you a good few weeks at least.
Challenge each other to the Corkscrew Cavern, the Cliffhanger, the Viper's Vortex or see who can make the fastest run down the Racing Ridge. It'll be a day of pure aquatic diversion or if you arrive late and at the weekend, you may want to go for the Slide Night instead. The rides are even more fun after dark. There are lots of food concessions so when you've built up an appetite, you can grab a pizza, a burger or one of those all-time favorites, a corn dog, to keep your energy levels at the max.
Water is one thing there's not too much of in the terrains around Joshua Tree, so as you head toward Boise on your RV road trip, pull in at the Jump Creek Recreation Area. You can reach the recreation area off the US 95 northbound after around a three-hour drive from Winnemucca. The turn-off onto Jump Creek Road is signposted a few miles south of the town of Marsing. The day-use site is managed by the BLM and only open to the public from six in the morning to nine in the evening.
The access road is manageable in a rig so long as you take it steady. There are two parking lots where you can leave your RV while you go hiking. From the top car park, you can take a short trek to the waterfall viewpoint. It's steep but worth the effort. From the lower car park, you can head out on a mile-long Jump Creek Trail that leads to the base of the waterfall and a swimming hole.
If you're making your road trip from Joshua Tree to Boise at the end of February, there's a fantastic event happening in Winnemucca you'll all want to attend. Winnemucca is a city in Humboldt County that you'll pass through on your way north and it hosts the biggest rodeo in the state of Nevada. The Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo is an annual five-day event that has visitors and participants shouting "yeehaw!" from their seats and saddles from the minute it starts until the final buzzer sounds.
The Ranch Hand Rodeo is held in the arena of the Winnemucca Events Complex and is an exciting combination of bronc riding, steer branding, dog trials, and roping contests. There's also a trade show where crafters sell their artisan wares which could be anything ranging from silver jewelry to handcrafted leather wear to wooden furniture or that ultimate road trip souvenir, an authentic cowboy hat.
Keep motoring north from Lone Pine for around four hours and you'll come across one place you'll definitely want to park up to spend time on the water. The Lahontan State Park contains a reservoir over seventeen miles long and has a campground right on the shoreline. Pitch up at the Silver Springs Beach Campground and while there may be sand there, step out of the rig in the morning and you'll totally forget the Mojave Desert even exists.
You'll be in the right place to take an early morning swim, weather permitting obviously, or enjoy some great boating and water sport activities with your friends. If you're carrying canoes or towing a trailer with a boat or jet skis, once you've launched, you'll have almost seventy miles of scenic shoreline to explore. If you don't have that type of equipment with you, you can always consider renting a boat or jet ski and having it delivered to the lake. Canoes and kayaks can be launched from the beach and there's a boat ramp for motorized craft at the Lahontan State Recreation Day-Use Area on the lake's western shore.
The Inyo National Forest is an incredible contrast to the scenery around Joshua Tree. Think alpine, not desert, as it's a landscape of pine-forested mountain slopes, lakes, streams, and waterfalls. The Lone Pine Campground is the ideal spot to pitch camp for the night. The campground is thirty or so miles north of Olancha right on the edge of the forest so you won't even need to go off route to get there. Turn off the US 395 in Lone Pine and follow the Whitney Portal Road for around six miles and you'll find an idyllic campground with over twenty-five campsites for RVs up to forty feet.
The campground is open all year so it doesn't matter what month you make your road trip from Joshua Tree to Boise, you can still pitch up there. During the summer you'll need to reserve your campsite via recreation.gov but in the winter it's first-come, first-served. Go exploring the forest with your friends while you're there, hike the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail, or just chill out together around your campfire in the evening.
Olancha is a fun stopping point on your road trip from Joshua Tree to Boise. Play a practical joke on your traveling buddies and tell them you're taking them for a dip in a hot spring, then pull up at the Dirty Socks Springs. The spring is named that way for a reason. Its high sulfur content means it literally smells like sweaty socks. There's a campground at the spring, but the stench can be a bit too much to tolerate for any length of time and even though you can swim there, just dipping your toes in to get rid of any lingering desert dust will probably be all the immersion you'll want.
If you and your friends are fans of the Silver Screen, while you're in Olancha, make a visit to the Museum of Western Film History. There are interesting exhibitions on some iconic Western stars as well as displays of movie posters and equipment. Get in some time off-roading at the Olancha Dunes OHV Area before heading to your campground. The dunes are located a couple of miles north of the town and cover just under a thousand acres, which is more than enough to let rip with your ATV.
Compare Boise to Joshua Tree and you'll soon find it is the complete opposite. The capital city of the state of Idaho, Boise is intersected by a six-lane highway and has enough high rise towers to give it an interesting skyline at night.
While Boise has plenty of cultural offerings like museums and art galleries, it's a city that likes its music too, and holds several big events throughout the year. The Treefort Music Fest is a five-day indie band event that takes place at the end of March or if you're there in the fall, the three-day Hyde Park Street Fair is a major gathering with food stalls and live music. Time your road trip to coincide with either and you'll finish it off in style.