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How to Plan a Day Trip to Joshua Tree

Joshua tree is one of the most unique national parks either of us has ever seen.  The Dr. Seuss style trees, mountains, and overall landscapes make for some of the most beautiful and original views travelers can enjoy anywhere in the world.
Many people camp at Joshua Tree and spend a number of days in the park.  However, if you live in Southern California, a day trip is also quite feasible.  Camping is probably your preferred option, right?  It was ours as well.  However, considering that we planned our trip last minute, the campgrounds were completely booked!   As such, a day trip was our best option.  Here is your guide on how to plan a day trip to Joshua Tree:

Getting there

Again, if you live in Southern California, getting to Joshua Tree can be a simple drive.  A day trip from other parts of the US might not be feasible, but accessing the park can be quite simple by flying into either Las Vegas or LAX, renting a car, and driving out.

Joshua Tree has a number of entrances.  Before you decide which entrance to take, think about what you want to do in the park.  For instance, we knew we wanted to be at Hidden Valley during the day at at Jumbo Rocks for sunset.  This meant we entered at the west entrance and made our way toward the east.

There is a ton to do in the park, so it’s very important you understand both the layout as well as your options.  Be sure to grab a map and mark it up.

Our Itinerary

If you want to follow the path that we took (which we highly suggest), be sure to do the following:
  1. Arrive at the west entrance – This is the best area of the park to be in during the daytime.  The Hidden Valley is absolutely spectacular and is best enjoyed with sunlight. Do realize that you might be a bit jaded if you enter from the west.  The trees throughout the park are beautiful, but the size of them on the west is far superior to the trees throughout the remainder of the park.  We expected all of them to be as tall and grand as the trees lining the road near the west entrance, but found out quickly that is not the case.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
  2. Hidden Valley – Hike around Hidden Valley and enjoy some spectacular rock formations, massive Joshua trees, and beautiful views of the valley full of Joshua trees.  The rock formations here are literally like something from another planet.  We highly suggest you climb around if you feel comfortable.  Be sure to respect the park and know your limits.couples_coordinates_joshua_tree5
  3. Jumbo Rocks – Jumbo Rocks makes for one of the best sunset locations in the park and is also one of the most famous locations in the park in general.  This was the perfect place for us to break out our cooler, make some PB&Js and enjoy a sunset picnic.  Like we mentioned before, some areas don’t have as many large Joshua trees.  Jumbo rocks is one of those areas.  It is more renowned for the size of rocks (obviously!) and gorgeous landscapes.  We were able to find a few awesome trees that we were able to make some pretty cool sunset silhouette photos from.couples_coordinates_joshua_tree_day_trip
  4. Arch Rock – If you’re a big fan of the night sky, Arch Rock might be your favorite part of your trip to Joshua Trip.  Arch Rock is incredible for star gazing and creates some beautiful night sky images if you’ve got the right equipment.  Sure, it can be nice during the day.  However, we think this spot is best saved for last/saved for night.  So head over to the Arch Rock Trail and take a nice, short, night stroll to the Arch and enjoy some awesome night sky photography.

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On top of all of this, be sure to enjoy your drive through the park.  Be spontaneous – if you feel the urge to pull over and explore a random location, do it!  Joshua Tree is a trip best enjoyed spontaneously.  Also be cognizant of the fact that we did not include all of the exhibits/spots in the park in this blog.  We included what we believe to be the perfect day trip.  Our itinerary also flows quite well to avoid backtracking or driving around the park aimlessly.

Food

Bring your own.  Make a picnic!  Your for a day trip is to stop at a grocery store and get a bunch of goodies to pack up a cooler.  Joshua Tree can be scorching hot during the summer, so grab enough water to keep yourself hydrated during the day.  We felt quite nostalgic as we enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gold fish haha.  But hey, is there a better day trip meal than a good PB&J? No.  The answer is no.

Advice

Get gas before you enter the park.  You won’t be able to fill up inside the park and you will be doing a good bit of driving. Half a tank might suffice, but there is not reason not to have your tank full upon entry.

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