JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Our tips and tricks for getting the most out of your trip
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park, known for its whimsical cacti and beautiful boulders, hosts over 2 million visitors a year. Spanning across 800,000 acres, this desert hot spot is most popular amongst rock climbers, campers, and hikers of all experience levels.
Open every day from sunrise to sunset.
There are two entrances to Joshua Tree National Park; the West entrance (in Joshua Tree via Park Blvd) and the North entrance (near Twentynine Palms)
The North entrance will give you a quicker and more direct route to the Arch rock trail (at White Tank) and the Cholla Cactus Gardens.
The West entrance will give you a quicker and more direct route to the Barker Dam/Wall Street Mill trailhead(s) as well as Jumbo Rock (location of Jumbo Rock campground and Skull Rock).
Entrance fees are as follows:
$30 per vehicle for a 7 day pass
$25 per motorcycle for a 7 day pass
$15 on foot entrance for a 7 day pass
$55 for an annual pass
$80 for an annual, interagency pass
The road through Joshua Tree is a two lane highway with a speed limit of 30mph.
All of the trailheads are at least a 30 minute drive from either entrance of the park.
Joshua Tree has numerous campsites; Belle, Blackrock, Cottonwood, Hidden Valley, Indian Cove, Jumbo Rocks (our fav), Ryan, Sheep Pass and White tank. All site books up quickly. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made here.
There are no locked gates at either entrance. If you're arriving after sunset you will still be able to make it to your campground.
There is no reception in the park.
Keep to the trails as most injuries, deaths, and missing person cases are on account of people venturing off course who become disoriented, incur injuries after a fall, and/or suffer heat stroke before help is able to locate them.
The general rule of thumb when hiking JTNP is when you're halfway through your water supply, turn around.
Do not interact with any wildlife as it disrupts the ecosystem.
Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails.
There are no restaurants, markets, or accommodation inside the park. The closest are in town, about a 15 minute drive from the West entrance.
Arch rock is located at White Tank.
- There is no parking lot for this trail.
- Enter the White tank campground on foot and keep left at the split in the road. The trail begins alongside campsite 9.
- This is a 1.2mi nature trail out and back hike.
- The arch itself is located .8mi into the trail.
- This is an easy hike with an 88ft elevation gain.
- Skull rock is located off the main road in the national park, just east of the jumbo rock campgrounds.
- There is no parking lot for this stop.
- It is not a hike, but makes for a quick photo op stop.
- Barker Dam is located about 30 minutes inside the park from the West entrance.
- There is a relatively large parking lot at this trailhead.
- The hike is a short, 1.3 mi nature trail loop.
- Water is most visible during the winter months and usually evaporates by late spring.
- Be sure to check out the petroglyphs located in the rocks toward the end of the loop.
- There are two bathrooms located at the trailhead entrance however, there are no sinks to wash your hands.
- This is classified as an easy hike with a 62ft elevation gain.
Cholla Cactus Garden
- The Cholla Cactus garden is a .2mi paved, loop hike
- There is a small parking lot at the trail head
- Closed toed shoes are highly suggested
- The best time of day to visit is either close to sunrise or sunset/golden hour
- The garden is located deep in the park, around a one hour drive
- This is an easy hike with only a 6ft elevation gain.
Wall Street Mill
- The Wall Street Mill hike is a 2.4mi out and back hike trailhead
- It is not marked, but is located near Barker Dam.
- You can use either the Barker Dam parking lot or the smaller, dirt lot near the trailhead, just northeast of Barker Dam.
- Along this hike you'll see ruins of old buildings, rotten out cars, and the abandoned mill that used to run in the park.
- Make sure you have plenty of water as this one tends to feel pretty hot
- This is an easy hike with an 88ft elevation gain.
Essentials for this trip
Milwaukee Demo Gloves
These gloves come in handy for more than demo projects. Quite useful when it comes to climbing the sharp boulders of JTNP, they won't wear easy and will protect your hands from both the elements as well as cuts and scrapes - available here
Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof hiking boot
These hiking boots are incredibly comfortable and have ideal traction for hiking. The ankle length is a must for extra support going over unpredictable rocks and hillsides and the waterproof feature keeps your feet dry during damp or wet conditions - women's available here and men's available here
North Face Down Jacket
While Joshua Tree is known for its sweltering triple digit temperatures in the summer, it does get much cooler in the evenings and drops to very low temperatures in the winter. Not to mention, it can get VERY windy year round. Protect yourself from the elements with this warm jacket by North face - women's available here and men's available here
UCO 6-piece mess kit
No matter how long of an outing you have planned, it's always smart to pack snacks when going out on the desert trails. This mess kit will keep your food fresh and hold it together, neatly. Plus, it fits nicely inside a backpack - available here
Alba Botanica SPF 45 Sunscreen
This is our favorite sunscreen! Mainly because of its rich, creamy texture and its incredible scent. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it protects you from harsh, UV rays either - available here
Sawyer Extractor Pump kit
While the chances of you getting bit by a rattlesnake or other venomous critters are slim, it's never a bad idea to be prepared - especially if you're deep in the park without cell reception when it happens - available here
Kershaw folding knife
This compact knife is the most versatile tool for not only the desert, but anywhere you may roam. If only to cut rope, open cans, or remove a Cholla (cactus) from the sole of your shoe, the possibilities are endless for this useful tool - available here
Stainless Steel Slant Tweezers
Another useful tool for removing cactus needles from your skin, clothing, shoes, etc. Should you have a brush with a cactus in your travels (and believe me, the probability is high that you will) these have the best precision when it comes to removing thorns - available here
Coleman Two Mantle Propane Lantern
This little lantern will give you the perfect amount of light amid a dark desert night at camp - available here
Petzi Tikkina Headlamp
With three different light settings this comfortable and adjustable headlamp gives you just the right amount of light you need, where you need it. But, what we really love is how easy it is to replace the AAA batteries it runs on - available here
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
A little bit of this ointment will relieve the driest of most delicate skin. Whether sunburned, windburned, cracked from the cold, or recovering from an injury on the trails, your body will thank you for having this on hand - available here
Yeti Water Bottle
Tired of ice melting? Keep your water extra cold even in the hottest of desert days with this insulated water bottle by Yeti. And rest easy knowing your hot cup of coffee won't cool in the winter mornings as you set out to explore for the day - available here
GearLight UV Black Light Flashlight
This UV black light is exceptionally helpful when it comes to spotting the most infamous predator of the desert. Whether you're wanting to see a scorpion in its natural habitat or avoid an unpleasant run in, carrying this light will make these glow in the dark creatures visible - available here