The highlight of our time down in Southern California was Joshua Tree National Park. As much as we enjoyed exploring colorful and quirky Palm Springs (travel diary here), we absolutely loved Joshua Tree!
Joshua Tree National Park is interesting in that the northern part of the park is the Mojave Desert with the famous Joshua trees and yucca plants. In the southern part is the Colorado Desert where the Joshua trees disappear and you see pockets of cholla cacti and other Sonoran vegetation. Two days were definitely not enough to cover the entire park, but we tried to explore as much of the park as we could!
We started the morning with a moderate to strenuous short hike up to Ryan Mountain (3 miles round trip). When we reached the top, were were rewarded with fantastic views of Joshua Tree. There were also plenty of little nooks and rocks to perch on to have a snack and rest.
Skull Rock was right off the main road. It’s not so much a trail, but a huge jungle gym of rocks and boulders to climb on for all ages. If you want to do some actual bouldering or rock climbing, you should check out other spots that are more challenging and have less crowds.
Hidden Valley Trail
Really nice easy nature walk (about a mile loop) to see some of the Joshua Tree vegetation.
This view point is the best for a Joshua Tree sunset, and you will not be disappointed! We went a little bit early to stake out a spot.
Lost Horse Mine
For day 2, we had a later start, but still managed to fit in a hike to the Lost Horse Mine and back (about an easy to moderate 4 mile roundtrip). It was fun to read about the history of the mine and explore the ruins. Parking was a bit of a pain during the holidays when we visited, so we spent almost half an hour looking and waiting for parking (we almost gave up…).
Cholla Cactus Garden
We visited the garden right before sunset, which made for some pretty pictures with the beautiful cholla cacti. It’s closer to the southern entrance of the park, so plan accordingly. Cholla cacti, also known as jumping cacti, attach onto and hook into anything that brushes up against it, so the park had huge signs warning visitors to stay on the trail to avoid any injuries. As Phil has had plenty of encounters with these “jumping” cacti growing up in Arizona, I, on the other hand, have not. And of course, I was so focused on not brushing up against these cacti that I unintentionally stepped onto an arm that had fallen to the ground. Just last month, I accidentally sat on a cactus in Arizona. I guess I have the worst luck with these desert plants… Thank goodness for my super patient husband!
We have fallen in love with Joshua Tree and can’t wait to come back for another visit!