Even as I write this I am still on an adventure high after my weekend away at Joshua Tree National Park. Since moving to San Diego, visiting Joshua Tree has been high on my list. But like a lot of things, it fell into the “later” category and I never went. But because I’m moving, I figured Joshua Tree National Park would make the perfect weekend getaway with some close girlfriends. And I was right!
We decided some good ole fashioned camping would be perfect for some girl bonding in the desert. And also makes for cheaper accommodation!
How to Spend a Weekend in Joshua Tree National Park
Camping Inside the Park
There are many campgrounds available inside the park, but they operate on a first come, first serve basis. If arriving on a Saturday, it is recommended to show up no later than 10am or else all campgrounds might be taken. Arriving first thing when the park opens (8am) is better.
We arrived around 10am, and were sweating bullets until we thankfully found an open campsite at Belle Campgrounds.
Hours: 8am – 5pm
Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southeastern California, and straddles the Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert.
- From Los Angeles, CA: Roughly 3-hour drive
- From San Diego, CA: Roughly 3.5 hour drive
- From Las Vegas, NV: Roughly 3-hour drive
- From Phoenix, AZ: Roughly 3.5 hour drive
When to Go
Joshua Tree National Park is open all year long, but the busy months are September – May. Due to the heat, June – August tend to be less favorable. Unbeknownst to us, Spring is an extremely popular time to visit because all the lovely wildflowers are in bloom!
What to See
Naturally, most people go to Joshua Tree National Park to see, well, the Joshua trees. They are pretty awesome! Like my friend commented, “they kinda look like a palm tree wannabes”. These unique trees only grow in southwestern United States, and are quite an amazing sight. I had seen photos before my trip, but was still blown away by the landscape as we drove into the park. I think I said “OMG, I love it!” about 10 times, maybe more.
What I wasn’t expecting to marvel at was the absolutely incredible rock formations. These things looked like something from another planet! You’ll see vast desert plains speckled with Joshua Trees, and then all of a sudden there are these giant boulders stacked up on top of each other. It’s almost like someone had scooped up all the boulders in the park and stacked them into piles. So peculiar, but such an amazing sight!
Viewpoints and Trails
Joshua Tree National Park has some amazing viewpoints and trails, and I’d honestly say you can’t go wrong. Upon entering go to the Visitor’s Center and the park rangers can provide recommendations depending on what you’re interested in.
Here are some of my recommendations:
- Keys View – Definitely go for gorgeous views of the Coachella Valley. We also made many stops for photos and exploring while driving through the park.
Some nice short hikes (about 1 mile loops) are:
If you can help it, do not miss a sunrise or sunset in the desert. It is such an amazing experience. Because of the clear skies and low light pollution, you’re able to see such unique and vibrant colors.
My favorite of all was Jumbo Rocks for sunset. I would highly recommend this. You can climb right up to the top of the rocks, and sit back and watch the sky put on a show. If you decide to do this, definitely dress warm, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Once the sun goes down it gets chilly.
During my visit the sun rose around 5:30am, and all three of us somehow managed to crawl out of our tent half asleep. It was so beautiful watching the sun rise over the mountains.
After the sun rose we immediately jumped in the car and headed to Country Kitchen for some hot coffee and fluffy blueberry pancakes!
Where to Eat
There are no food options inside the park, however there are many cute eateries outside. Since I was only there for a weekend, I couldn’t try all of them, but favorites were Country Kitchen for breakfast and Crossroads Café for lunch or dinner.
For all the coffee lovers out there, you can’t miss trying a pour over at Joshua Tree Coffee Company!
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Have you been to Joshua Tree National Park? Love to know in the comments below!
I really want to visit Joshua Tree when I finally make it over to SD! It looks so beautiful!
It is! You should definitely go!