Joshua Tree National Park
Washington National Parks

National Parks

Joshua Tree National Park

Rock Climbers at Joshua Tree National Park © Mike Leco /
J-Tree, as rock climbers from around the world call it, contains some of the best rock climbing in the USA.

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California about 150 miles (250km) east of Los Angeles. It contains over 1200 square miles of high altitude desert with bizarre geological features and a unique ecological weather. It was named for the strange looking Joshua Tree that flourishes in the area. Joshua Tree attracts thousands of rock climbers from around the world but attracts few sightseeing tourists. This is one of those hidden treasures that have not been spoiled by overuse.

Joshua Tree National Park encompasses the arid mountains and high desert plateaus just east of Palm Springs, California. You can access the area through the entrance and visitors center in Cottonwood Springs near Palm Desert, California or through the high-country entrances at the Village of Joshua Tree or near the town of Twenty-Nine Palms. There are only a few roads that wind through the monument, but there are plenty of wide-open spaces and hiking trails with spectacular scenery.

Joshua Tree's scenery looks out of this world

The scenery in Joshua Tree looks like something from another planet. You expect to see dinosaurs and outer space creatures roaming this desert landscape. It reminded me of Bedrock, home of the Flintstones cartoon characters. The high plateaus are flat, sandy basins filled with a strange collection of desert plants including thousands of bizarre looking Joshua trees. Everywhere you look; you see piles of gigantic boulders strewn across the landscape like some discarded toys of giants. Barren rocky mountain peaks rise all around.

J-Tree, as rock climbers from around the world call it, contains some of the best rock climbing in the USA. The gigantic rocks are composed of rough granite with plenty of holes and cracks to make interesting climbs. There are thousands of piles of rocks around Joshua Tree providing a million climbing opportunities at all levels of difficulty. Throughout the park, you see children scampering over boulders and experienced rock climbers tackling some intensely difficult climbs. If you would like to try some rock climbing, there are several outfitters and guides in the area that offer climbing experiences for everyone from novices to experts.

Joshua Tree village offers a relaxed atmosphere

There are a few motels in the village of Joshua Tree and larger selections in nearby Yucca Valley and Twenty-Nine Palms. Joshua Tree Village is one of those small desert towns with just a few stores, gas stations, bars and restaurants plus an odd assortment of characters that escaped civilization by moving into this inhospitable Weather. Yucca Valley and Twenty-Nine Palms are sizeable communities.

The best time to visit

Coyote © Mike Leco /
On most weekends the campgrounds fill up fast with rock climbers, but during the week they are practically empty aside for the occassional coyote foraging for food left behind.

The best time to visit Joshua Tree is between October and March when the desert temperature is quite pleasant. Avoid the area from June through August when the heat becomes unbearable. You can camp, hike, backpack, rock climb or just drive through and enjoy the scenery. Remember to always carry water, as the desert heat and lack of moisture can be quite dangerous if you are unprepared. Wear sun-block and a hat in every season.


Located near luxurious Palm Springs

Joshua Tree is just a 30-minute drive from Palm Springs, the exclusive winter getaway resort for movie stars and wealthy socialites. This luxury resort city with its classy restaurants, designer shops and beautiful golf courses is a sharp contrast from the austere beauty of Joshua Tree Park. Los Angeles and San Diego are within 3-hours drive.

About 50 miles east of Joshua Tree in the middle of the desert and at least 35 miles from any other civilization is the village of Amboy, Population: 8. It lies along a deserted stretch of historic Route 66 and is probably the most isolated town in California.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco /
Photo Description: Joshua Tree National Park