Joshua Tree National Park is immense, nearly 800,000 acres, and infinitely variable. It
can seem unwelcoming, even brutal during the heat of summer when, in fact, it is delicate and extremely fragile. This is a land shaped by sudden torrents of rain, strong winds, and climatic extremes. Rainfall is sparse and unpredictable. Streambeds are usually dry and waterholes are few. Viewed in summer, this land may appear defeated and dead, but within this parched environment are intricate living systems waiting for the opportune moment to reproduce. The individuals, both plant and animal, that inhabit the park are not individualists. They depend on their entire ecosystem for survival.

Two deserts, two large ecosystems primarily determined by elevation, come together in the park. Few areas more vividly illustrate the contrast between “high” and “low” desert. Below 3,000 feet (910 m), the Colorado Desert, occupying the eastern half of the park, is dominated by the abundant creosote bush. Adding interest to this arid land are small stands of spidery ocotillo and cholla cactus. The higher, slightly cooler, and wetter Mojave Desert is the
special habitat of the undisciplined Joshua tree, extensive stands of which occur throughout the western half of the park.

Standing like islands in a desolate sea, oases, a third ecosystem, provide dramatic contrast to their arid surroundings. Five fan palm oases dot the park, indicating those few areas where water occurs naturally at or near the surface, meeting the special life requirements of those stately trees. Oases once serving earlier desert visitors now abound in wildlife.

The park encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California’s deserts. Rugged mountains of twisted rock and exposed granite monoliths testify to the tremendous earth forces that shaped and formed this land. Arroyos, playas, alluvial fans, bajadas, pediments, desert varnish, granites, aplite, and gneiss interact to form a giant mosaic of immense beauty and complexity.

As old as the desert may look, it is but a temporary phenomenon in the incomprehensible time-scale of geology. In more verdant times, one of the Southwest’s earliest inhabitants, members of the Pinto Culture, lived here, hunting and gathering along a slow moving river that ran through the now dry Pinto Basin. Later, Indians traveled through this area in tune with harvests of pinyon nuts, mesquite beans, acorns, and cactus fruit, leaving behind rock paintings and pottery ollas as reminders of their passing. In the late 1800s explorers, cattlemen, and miners came to the desert. They built dams to create water tanks and dug up and tunneled the earth in search of gold. They are gone now, and left behind are their remnants, the Lost Horse and Desert Queen mines and the Desert Queen Ranch. In the 1930s homesteaders came seeking free land and the chance to start new lives. Today many people come to the park’s 794,000 acres of open space seeking clear skies and clean air, and the peace and tranquility, the quietude and beauty, only deserts offer.

The life force is patient here. Desert vegetation, often appearing to have succumbed to this dry sometimes unrelentedly hot environment, lies dormant, awaiting the rainfall and moderate weather that will trigger its growth, painting the park a profusion of colors. At the edges of daylight and under clear night stars lives a number of generally unfamiliar desert animals. Waiting out daytime heat, these creatures run, hop, crawl, and burrow in the slow rhythm of desert life. Under bright sun and blue sky, bighorn sheep and golden eagles add an air of unconcerned majesty to this land.

For all its harshness, the desert is a land of extreme fragility. Today’s moment of carelessness may leave lasting scars or disrupt an intricate system of life that has existed for eons. When viewed from the roadside, the desert only hints at its hidden life. To the close observer, a tiny flower bud or a lizard’s frantic dash reveals a place of beauty and vitality. Take your time as you travel through Joshua Tree National Park. The desert provides space for self-discovery, and can be a refuge for the human spirit.

Basic Information for Joshua Tree National Park

Operating Hours for Joshua Tree National Park

The park is always open. Visitor centers are open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park

Closest Airport to Joshua Tree National Park - Nearest major service is in the Los Angeles area

How to Drive to Joshua Tree National Park - Joshua Tree National Park lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles. You can approach it from the west via Interstate 10 and Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The north entrances to the park are located at Joshua Tree Village and the city of Twentynine Palms. The south entrance at Cottonwood Spring, which lies 25 miles east of Indio, can be approached from the east or west, also via Interstate 10.

Weather & Climate
Days are typically clear with less than 25 precent humidity. Temperatures are most comfortable in the spring and fall,with an average high/low of 85 and 50°F (29 and 10°C) respectively. Winter brings cooler days, around 60°F (15°C), and freezing nights. It occasionally snows at higher elevations. Summers are hot, over 100°F (38°C) during the day and not cooling much below 75°F (24°C) until the early hours of the morning.


Where to Stay at Joshua Tree National Park

Camping at Joshua Tree National Park
Belle Campground
Open All Year
3,800' elevation; 18 sites; no fee; no water

Black Rock Campground
Open All Year
4,000' elevation; 100 sites; $10 camping fee; water and flush toilets; horse camp

Cottonwood Campground
Open All Year
3,000' elevation; 62 sites, $10 camping fee; 3 group sites, $25 camping fee; water and flush toilets

Hidden Valley Campground
Open All Year
4,200' elevation; 39 sites; no fee; no water

Indian Cove Campground
Open All Year
3,200' elevation; 101 sites, $10 camping fee; 13 group sites, $20/$35 camping fee; no water

Jumbo Rocks Campground
Open All Year
4,400' elevation; 125 sites; no camping fee; no water

Ryan Campground
Open All Year
4,300' elevation; 31 sites; no camping fee; no water; horse camp

Sheep Pass Campground
Open All Year
4,500' elevation; 6 group sites; $20/$35 camping fee; no water

White Tank Campground
Open All Year
3,800' elevation; 15 sites; no camping fee; no water

Things to Do at Joshua Tree National Park

Activities and More Information
For a first-time visitor the desert may appear bleak and drab. Viewed from the road, the desert only hints at its vitality. Closer examination reveals a fascinating variety of plants and animals. A rich cultural history and surreal geologic features add to the attraction of this place. Joshua Tree National Park offers visitors endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. Depending on the number of hours you have to spend, your interests and energy, here are some ideas to consider:

If you have four hours or less, begin your tour at a park visitor center. Park staff will be happy to provide you with current information about conditions in the park as well as answers to your questions.

With limited time you may want to confine your sightseeing to the main park roads. Many pullouts with wayside exhibits dot these roads. There are 12 self-guiding nature trails. Consider experiencing at least one of these walks during a short park visit.

On clear days the vista from Keys View extends beyond Salton Sea to Mexico and is well worth the additional 20-minute drive.

If you plan to spend an entire day, there will be time to walk several nature trails. A ranger-led program will add enjoyment and understanding to your visit. Check at visitor centers and on campground bulletin boards for listings, or call ahead and reserve a spot on the popular Desert Queen Ranch guided walking tour. If solitude is what you are after, plan an all-day hike into the backcountry.

Some visitors like to experience the desert from the seat of a mountain bike. The park offers an extensive network of dirt roads that make for less crowded and safer cycling than the paved main roads.

Joshua Tree has gained international attention as a superb rock-climbing area. Many visitors enjoy just watching the rock climbers in action.

With more than one day in the park, your options increase. There are nine campgrounds and backcountry camping is permitted.

Books and topographic maps, available at park sales areas, give information needed for longer hikes. For “peak baggers,” the park has ten mountains greater than 5,000 feet (1,524 m) in elevation. Or make it your goal to hike to all the park oases. Other trails lead you to remnants of the gold mining era, a colorful part of the park’s cultural history.

Whatever you choose, your time will be rewarding. The desert holds much more than what is readily apparent to the casual observer. A note of caution: The desert, fascinating as it is, can be life-threatening for those unfamiliar with its potential dangers. It is essential that you carry water with you—even if you are only driving through. Cars break down; keys get locked inside; accidents happen.

US Park Joshua Tree National Park















Copyright 2009: All information on this website is deemed accurate. We are not responsible for any changes to the information. For more information, please contact us


Joshua Tree Info:
Basic Information
Where to Stay
Nearby Cities

Parks Near Joshua Tree:
California National Parks & Monuments
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Yosemite National Park