Joshua Tree National Park is a perfect destination for those who like nature but prefer to stay close to shopping, restaurants, and city conveniences. Its close proximity to Palm Springs allows for exploring the park during the day and enjoying city at night. There is a full range of lodging in Palm Springs but those who come just to visit the park stay at the park’s border, at town of Twentynine Palms, where plenty of budget friendly accommodation can be found. Many visitors come just for a day and see only attractions accessible from the paved road which leads to viewpoints, all campgrounds, and trail heads. To fully appreciate the park I recommend to stay longer and explore its trails.
Joshua Tree N.P does not offer breathtaking vistas but it is a very attractive and diverse park. It delivers miles of wild, unspoiled desert scenery. The park’s premier attraction is giant branching yucca known as Joshua trees. There is a popular belief that the tree was named by Mormons who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Even though this story is being questioned by many, I can easily see how it could be the case. Each of these trees reaches the sky in its own dramatic way!
Another great attraction of the park are interesting clusters of huge granite boulders, up to 100 feet high, often framed with Joshua trees and desert plants. They are very popular with photographers. They also provide endless opportunities for exploring, hiking, and climbing.
This desert park is dotted with six different oases where tall California palm trees grow in their natural surrounding. These lovely areas are further away from the main road of the park and are accessible on foot. Most of them offer interesting hiking trails.
Cholla Cactus Garden
For me, the most impressive attraction of the park was Cholla Cactus Garden, easily accessible from the road. This area is best to visit at sunrise or sunset when the sun rays make the cacti brightly glow. It is an amazing scene. Do not get fooled by their beautiful look. Do not touch or step on them! They will make you bleed.
The cholla, possibly the cutest cactus in the world, has been dubbed the “teddy bear cactus,” but this is not a teddy bear you want to hug! The spines on the cactus will latch onto your skin at the slightest touch. This defense mechanism is effective for desert survival, but it can be unpleasant for those who do not stay on the trail.
To get through the trailhead, take Pinto Basin Road to Cottonwood Springs and look for the Cholla Cactus Garden (and the trailhead to Lost Palms Oasis). Pinto Basin Road is 12 miles from Park Boulevard. The Cactus Garden is located on the road’s south side.
The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is spring when the average high temperature is around 85°F and the average low is 50°F and a large display of wildflowers is possible, depending on weather conditions.