Located in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts in Southern California is a stark geological landscape littered with unruly Joshua trees and massive boulder piles. A Golden eagle may fly overhead or a roadrunner will certainly pass you by. Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park!
The Joshua tree is thought to have been named by Mormon pioneers, traveling through the area, after the biblical figure Joshua. They thought the scraggly limbs of the trees looked like someone raising their arms toward heaven. Although the Joshua tree does not have growth rings like a normal tree, it is estimated that the trees are somewhere between 500 to 900 years old. A member of the Agave family, the trees heavily depend on perfect timing of the germination of their seeds and spring rain to grow.
While the trees do not look like a great resource, American Indians used the leaves for food and goods. They discovered the leaves could be woven into baskets and sandals, and that they could eat the flower buds and seeds. The trees also serve as refuge to many birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects throughout the desert ecosystem. With over 800 plant species, the wildflowers are especially abundant and spectacular in spring.
It’s hard to imagine camping overnight in a place as arid and unrelenting as the desert but it does cool off after dark. But one wonders what might appear…can you say snakes and coyotes? This is also a rock climbers oasis with so many sizes of piles of boulders to scale and hikers love the many trails to explore. And with its high elevation, low humidity and distance from the pollution of Los Angeles, this is a prime spot for those wanting to catch a clear glimpse of the heavens.
The bizarre landscape formed more than 100 million years ago from the cooling of magma beneath the surface. Ground water helped form those round stones and flash floods unveiled piles and piles of them throughout the park. Joshua Tree only became a National Park in 1994 after existing as a National Monument since 1936. Covering over 1235 miles, with a great amount preserved for wildlife, it actually is made up of two deserts, the Mohave and below 3000 feet, the Colorado.
A trip to Joshua Tree National Park is considered a life-changing experience for some. Magical, spiritual and inspiring? You decide. The wide-open vistas with the drastic, stark terrain can seem like another planet and it’s one of the more quiet National Parks that can be explored with very few people around (!). Next time you’re in Southern California, consider taking a trip just past Palm Springs. It’s an extraordinary place to roam.
74485 National Park Dr, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Fees vary for monthly, daily and individual passes.
The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Remember to check ahead on the weather as summer temperatures can be over 100°F (38°C) and other seasons can cause great fluctuations in temperatures. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and appropriate clothing should be worn.
Visit the website for a map and directions to all of the park entrances.