Fuchsia, gold, red and blue blooms are still alive in Joshua Tree National Park because of elevations that reach more than 5,800 feet in places.
You can see chollas, beaver tail, Canterbury bells, pincushion, creosote bush and brittlebush through at least mid-April. Even better, the entrance fee is waived on two weekends, April 15-16 and 22-23, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the national park system. Camping fees are still in effect.
Expect lots of people on those dates, which coincide with Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. The park, north and northeast of Interstate 10, is open 24 hours a day, so plan to arrive early and maybe use one of the less busy entrances through Twenty-Nine Palms or Cottonwood Spring. Be prepared to camp outside the park if campgrounds fill up.
Capture images like this picturesque sunset at Joshua Tree National Park.
Ways to enjoy your visit
Each entrance has a visitor center where you can buy maps, climbing guides and gifts, plus chat with staff. Get your bearings before entering this 792,510-acre desert wilderness.
The other-worldly shape of the massive quartz monzonite outcroppings, mauve sunrises and sunsets, expansive views, big horn sheep and desert tortoises, plus the namesake Dr.-Seuss-like Joshua trees make the park a shutterbug’s paradise. Palm Springs filmmaker Steven Salisbury is among a number of photographers drawn to the unique surroundings. “The surreal beauty of the natural landscape brings feelings of creative inspiration and connection to earth,” he says.
Keys View is a ranger-recommended spot to see the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains, Palm Springs and Salton Sea, then witness beautiful sunsets. At night, without light pollution from cities, the sky seems to teem with stars.
VIDEO: Watch the stars fly by at Joshua Tree National Park.
Hidden Valley Trail
This popular, family friendly hike offers stunning wildflower scenery and informative plaques to give first-time visitors an overview of the park. Avoid crowds by arriving before 8 a.m. In the Day Use Area, find the trail head at the restrooms, then go between the rocks along a well-groomed loop of less than a mile into the valley. You’ll find shady spots and picnic areas.
Chollas Cactus Garden
Chollas grow throughout the region but the “garden” is a dense population of them. It’s an easy, level, 15-minute stroll. When light is low, photographers like to capture its rays through the needles. Pack tweezers and keep your distance from the cacti, in case of an accidental spike.
Sites are available at nine developed campgrounds; reservations are available at only two: Black Rock Canyon and Indian Cove. Others are first come, first served. Equestrian camping is allowed under strict regulations.
Joshua Tree is a world-class climbing destination, with 8,000 routes and 400 formations, offering traditional-style crack, slab and steep face climbing. Climbing stores in Joshua Tree Village are well-versed to answer questions and provide equipment. Guides and maps can be purchased there or at the park visitor centers.
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Scaling Joshua Tree
Climbing season runs through April at Joshua Tree National Park.
Lost Horse Mine
This is a 6-mile loop hike; the mine is 2 miles in, with informative plaques. Many people turn back after seeing the mine. You may see a big horn sheep and other wildlife. There’s little to no shade.
Wall Street Stamp Mill
Gold ore was crushed here during the Great Depression and beyond. This National Historic Site is near Barker Dam. Ask rangers for the location. See an abandoned building and old vehicles, plus a wind-powered water pump. It’s a 2.5-mile roundtrip, level, sandy walk, with no shade.
You might be lucky to see a young Bighorn Sheep at Joshua Tree National Park.
Throughout the park, remember to wear a hat, use sunscreen and carry water. Watch for rattlesnakes. Pets are not allowed on trails.
For camping information, maps, pet regulations and more, visit www.nps.gov/jotr or call 760-367-5500.