To be honest, I was not so sure what to expect while visiting this national park. I read about it a lot, knew about the places to visit, still somewhere in my mind I was not sure what to expect. But surprisingly I loved the experience. Of course, I did not visit in the summer. The Winter weather and the atmosphere were so amazing, I ended up spending two days in Joshua Tree National Park. Something about Joshua made me fall in love with the place. It’s not like you are climbing any mountain for a view or visiting a beach- a simple walk or hike among the trees can be so peaceful- I had no idea before visiting Joshua. There are so many things to do in this National Park that you should do and visit.
Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a 1-mile-long scenic loop trail. The trail is easy with some steps and uneven parts in places. The trailhead is located at the Hidden Valley Campground and Picnic Area, right off Park Boulevard. Once upon a time, cattle rustlers used the Hidden Valley to hide their herd. Now it's a story in books. Though there are not so many Joshua trees in this area, still the rock formation and the boulders are spectacular. Also, the ‘Giant Burrito’, a monolith popular to hikers and climbers, is also located here. If you want to go for a longer hike, go for the Hidden Valley-Baker Dam Connector Trail and then head towards the Baker Dam Nature Trail, which will add around 2.5 miles to the total hike.
Arch Rock trail is an easy 1.2-mile (round trip) hike that will take you to the arch-shaped rock amongst the boulder formations. This trail is a popular one and needs a little bit of scrambling up. You will be able to see Heart Rock within a very short distance from Arch Rock, but you have to look for it. This one is really easy to miss. To reach the trailhead you have to park your vehicle at the Twin Tanks Day Use Area and look for the signs that say Arch Rock trail. From the White Tank Campground, this rock is very close.
Cholla Cactus Garden
Cholla Cactus Garden is a must-stop in this national park. This garden is quite different from any other part of Joshua. Located on the side of Pinto basin road, this boardwalk trail is only 0.25 mile long and will take you through a large mass of teddy bear cholla. Cholla Cactus and the mountains on the backdrop create an amazing scene that you do not want to miss especially during the golden hour and sunset. Cholla Cactus bloom during spring to be precise in March or April and that’s a great time to visit this garden.
Baker Dam is a short 1.3-mile loop trail. The trail is short but beautiful with huge Joshua trees scattered in the landscape. If you decide to continue the loop beyond the Dam, you will be able to see some of the largest Joshua trees in the park.
When I first saw the picture of ‘skull rock’, I did not even believe it. This rock is amazing and the resemblance to a human skull is really incredible. It’s really hard to believe that this rock formation is naturally sculpted by nature over thousands of years. I almost thought it was man-made. This rock is really easy to find and the area surrounding the rock is also beautiful. If you are looking for a hike, Split Rock Loop Trail (around 2-mile) is nearby, which will lead you to some of the gorgeous rocky vistas.
One thing I like most about Joshua Tree National Park is that the sunrise and the sunset. You will be able to see some of the most amazing colors in the sky. Especially with all the Joshua tree and the golden pink color in the sky- it's amazing to watch. The campgrounds here are really amazing, especially during the winter. I did not believe it when the website said it gets full easily in winter. To my surprise, the park was full. We were not able to get a single spot. When I saw the campsites, the campfires surrounded by people and enjoying their time, I literally regret my decision not to reserve a campsite in advance. So, if you are planning to stay at this park in winter, you should book a campsite way ahead of time via this link: Recreation.gov - Camping, Cabins, RVs, Permits, Passes & More. Overall, the park had a festive vibe. People were enjoying, some people were bouldering and rock climbing. This place is a heaven for rock climbers. You will see many experienced climbers tackling some of the straight-up rock surfaces. Other than climbing, you can still do a lot of other things like cycling, bird watching, horseback riding, etc. Though Joshua Tree National Park is open year-round, I would recommend coming here in fall, winter, and spring to enjoy the fullest and take the advantage of cool weather. In case of hot weather or you do not want to go for a hike, you can drive the scenic route through the park and enjoy.
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