Joshua Tree National Park is a unique place with a surreal desert landscape, intriguing rock formations and skies bursting with stars. This park is one you won’t want to miss, and a long weekend in Joshua Tree is the perfect amount of time to explore the park and the surrounding area!
- Make sure you have enough gas in your tank before heading into the park, and keep a few gallons of water in the car. It’s also a good idea to have sunscreen and trail snacks on hand.
- You will have limited cell service within the park, so a paper map or downloaded digital map is essential.
- Getting an early start in the morning can beat the crowds in the park (and the heat), especially on weekends.
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Natural Sisters Cafe in the town of Joshua Tree to fuel up. Make a stop at the Joshua Tree Visitor Information Center to pick up a park map and ask the rangers any questions. Stop by the Roadrunner Grab & Go Deli next door to pick up lunch if you plan to stay in the park all day.
Drive south on Park Boulevard to head into Joshua Tree National Park. This scenic road runs throughout the park and has many pull-offs to admire the views and take photos. About 30 minutes inside the park, you will find the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, a scenic 1-mile loop trail offering all of the highlights of the park – desert vistas, Joshua Trees and huge rock formations. This is a great place to get a feel for what the park has to offer.
The nearby Barker Dam Trail is an easy 1-mile trail with massive boulders, a historic dam and ancient petroglyphs. Barker Dam is one of the few bodies of water in the park, so this trail is a great place to spot wildlife like bighorn sheep, birds and reptiles. Stop for a picnic lunch along the way and enjoy the views.
Drive 10 minutes to Skull Rock, formed by erosion into the unique and recognizable shape. The rock can be seen from the road, or from a short loop trail. If you are looking for another hike, the nearby Split Rock Trail winds for 2 miles through a boulder field sprinkled with yucca and cholla cacti.
On your way out of the park, stop at Keys View to enjoy the panoramic views of Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea.This lookout is a short walk from the parking area and is a very popular spot to enjoy stunning sunsets. Grab burgers or tacos for dinner at the quirky Joshua Tree Saloon, then head to your vacation rental to relax!
Now that you’ve explored the park on foot a bit, there are several options to see the park in a different way on your second day. Grab breakfast or an early lunch at Crossroads Cafe, then head to the Joshua Tree Visitor Information Center to learn more about available ranger tours. In addition to guided nature walks, there are ranger-led tours of the historic Keys Ranch, a mining homestead from the early days of Joshua Tree.
Traveling on horseback has always been a popular way to access Joshua Tree National Park, and you can experience the magic of the park from the saddle on a trail ride with Knob Hill Ranch. Another popular way to explore the park is by guided ATV tour, where you can ride sandy trails with knowledgeable guides.
The unique rock formations in Joshua Tree make rock climbing an irresistible activity. Novice climbers should head to Jumbo Rocks or Barker Dam for accessible bouldering. More advanced climbers with their own gear will love Star Wars Rock and Real Hidden Valley. Rock climbing tours with professional guides are a great way to get the insider tour of all the best spots.
End your day in the park with a walk through the Cholla Cactus Garden. This is the perfect place to enjoy the unique cacti glowing against the backdrop of a spectacular desert sunset. Stick around with some blankets to enjoy the dazzling display of stars. Joshua Tree is a certified Dark Sky Park, with open skies and low light pollution offering an unparalleled opportunity to see the night sky.
Take a leisurely day to explore the town of Joshua Tree and the surrounding area. Grab a coffee at Joshua Tree Coffee Company and stroll down the main street to discover local art galleries and stores. Joshua Tree is filled with unique finds – from vintage clothing to handmade pottery, you’ll find something special here. You can find great souvenirs at Coyote Corner gift shop and don’t miss the kitschy Crochet Museum. Stop for a quick lunch at the Joshua Tree Farmer’s Market, which is from 8am to 1pm every Saturday. And make sure to get a picture with the Murtle the Turtle statue!
Head to Pioneertown for an Old West experience if you’re in the mood for some nostalgia. Spend the afternoon exploring shops and restaurants housed in historic buildings used in classic western films from the 1940s and 1950s, and still in use today! For dinner, hit up Pappy & Harriet’s for live music and delicious food, or stop by the Red Dog Saloon for fresh Tex-Mex and a variety of events.
Our Joshua Tree vacation rentals offer luxurious lodging with amazing views, minutes from Joshua Tree National Park. Unleash your inner explorer at the park and come back to enjoy your own desert oasis at our vacation rentals, with comfortable accommodations, private backyards and outdoor living amenities. Pack your bags and head out for a long weekend in this beautiful desert paradise!