This was my birthday celebration trip. We are an outdoor family, so it was the most appropriate place for us to celebrate another year of existence. There’s just something about being in Nature with the most beautiful sunset that sends a subtle reminder that life is good.
Joshua Tree National Park is located in the Mojave Desert. It’s approx. 2 hours east of LA and North East of San Diego and is the habitat for 813 higher plant species, 46 reptile species, 57 mammal species, and over 250 bird species.
Fun Fact about this park is that the Joshua Tree has been the inspiration behind the illustrations in Dr. Seuss books, like The Lorax and the Truffula trees. If you are a Dr. Seuss fan, make sure to travel to the park at least once in this lifetime.
This National Park has three main entrances: North, South and the West Entrance. Since we drove from central California, we entered the park through the West Entrance. Though there is much to see, be sure to plan where you want to start whether hiking or other activities based upon your entrance.
General admission is $25 per vehicle, but since we are government workers, we get free access to all the National Parks and more. Another option for those who are not military is to purchase an America The Beautiful National Park to gain access to all national parks all year long. If you enjoy nature and national parks like we do, this is definitely worth the investment.
Entering from the West Entrance, we stopped at the Ranger Station to take pictures at the Sign, get maps, suggestions from the rangers, and of course rules and regulations of the park. Note to any of you who have a drone or Go Pro – drones are not allowed at the Park, if found using it you’ll be fined a large amount.
Tip: Prior to entering the park, make a stop at the visitor center for a National Parks Passport. I did not know about this prior to the trip. It’s a fun and exciting way to collect stamps at various National Parks. We will be doing this from now on!
kids friendly Hikes At Joshua Tree
- Skull Rock and Jumbo Rock: If you’re entering the park from the Westside, the skull rock is approx. 30-45 minutes’ drive. On our drive there we saw Joshua Trees covering the side of the road. Zeke also got a chance to see a coyote on the side of the road, which was the highlight of his day and he spent the rest of the morning asking me questions. I know absolutely nothing about the coyote, so I was just as curious as he was! This Trail is about a mile and a half with a clear pathway for young children to walk, admire the wildflowers on the road, and skip rock like mine enjoyed doing.
- Ryan Mountain: This is the most difficult hike in the summer months. Approx. 3 miles at an elevation of 5546 ft, but it was worth it! The view was peaceful and incredibly serene. Tips: bring lots of water to stay hydrated on this trail. This hike would be best in the fall/winter month to prevent heat exhaustion.
- Cholla Cactus Garden: This 0.2-mile long trail/garden is filled with wildflowers, cacti and the perfect stopping point for snacks and a water break since the sun is really hot.
- Hidden Valley: This campground is located along park boulevard and is surrounded by large boulders and Joshua Trees. The campground is first come first serve.
- Key view: This popular destination, is nestled right on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Key views provide gorgeous views of the Coachella Valley and are worth the 20-minute trip to see.
Places to stay in Joshua Tree
- Airbnb: For this trip, we booked a small studio house in the Mojave Desert. This location was private with an incredible view and only 7 minutes’ drive from the Joshua Tree West Entrance.
- RV campground: If you’re traveling via RV then there are great RV campgrounds that will suit your needs.
- Palm Springs: This is still a great option, but it is 45 minutes away.