Joshua Tree was the first National Park my husband and I went to together. It was March 2016 and we were in California for Spring Break so we took a day trip to the park. I don’t know what happened in each of us there, but as we drove away, we looked at each other and both knew, “We have to visit all 59 national parks.” Thus began our quest!
Joshua Tree National Park
Location: Southeastern California
Established: 1994 (designated a monument in 1936)
Size: 790,636 acres (just larger than Rhode Island) (map)
Visited: March 2016
Type of visit: Day trip
PQ and I were in California for Spring Break in March 2016 and wanted to get away for a day while my mom golfed and we took a break from March Madness. Joshua Tree National Park is 2 hours from Irvine and heading there in the morning is a reverse commute from those driving towards LA, so traffic wasn’t bad.
We first hiked the Lost Palms Oasis trail. Because of the name, we thought there was going to be a little lake oasis at the end of this 3.5 mile trail! There was no visible water but there was a grove of palm trees, making it clear that this area got more water than the surrounding desert. We then drove the park from south to northwest, stopping at the Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus Garden. This is a small patch of these interesting cacti and a short (0.25 mile) walk to stretch the legs.
Skull Rock is a neat stop along the roadside. Our next hike was advertised as a “bird-walk,” but we didn’t see any; maybe we just don’t have the necessary keen eye. We finished the afternoon at Keys View — it’s ideal for sunsets but we didn’t want to stay that late.
Joshua Tree National Park Fun Facts
1. This park is comprised of two deserts.
The higher desert is Mojave Desert and the lower one is Colorado Desert. The plants in the lower desert can’t grow in the high desert and vice versa. You’ll find the iconic Joshua Trees in the high desert (north/western area of the park).
2. The name “Joshua Tree” was assigned by Mormon settlers traveling through the area in the mid-19th century.
They said the tree reminded them of Joshua raising his hands to the heavens.
3. The park is on the Pacific Flyway.
This makes it a resting area for more than 240 species of migrating birds.
4. Joshua Tree National Park is one of the darkest places in the world.
It is the 10th National Park to be certified as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. It is, however, the closest Dark Sky to a large metropolis area – Los Angeles is only a two-hour drive away.
5. The Teddy Bear Cholla is more dangerous than it sounds!
The Teddy Bear Cholla’s (a.k.a. Jumping Cholla) joints will stick to anything that gets too close. Biologically speaking, it attaches to animal fur to disperse itself, but the cholla doesn’t differentiate between humans and animals, and the spines hurt. Make sure to stop 20 miles north of the Cottonwood Visitor Center to learn more about these unique cacti and stretch your legs, just stay a few feet away from them!
As our first National Park, Joshua Tree will hold a special place in our hearts. We modeled our Save the Date after the vintage Joshua Tree poster!