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4 Activities to Try in Joshua Tree National Park

by Eugenia Lazaris

Nov 10, 2017

© Michael Ver Sprill | Dreamstime

Travel Tips

Deep in the California desert lies a destination of unsurpassed natural beauty — Joshua Tree National Park, where outdoor recreation is perfect for family fun and bonding. The park shares two different ecosystems, the Mohave Desert and the Colorado Desert, creating a variety of landscapes to enjoy and explore. Named for the Joshua Tree, the unique yucca trees found throughout the park, it spans almost 800,000 acres of desert. Whether camping or visiting for a daytrip, the park has something to offer everyone in the family and is a great opportunity for families to enjoy some outdoor recreation together.

Family camping in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Photo: Meinzahn | Dreamstime

 

Camping

The park is home to eight different campgrounds, each with something different to offer. Jumbo Rocks Campground lives up to its name with enormous boulders scattered throughout the campground kids and parents alike enjoy climbing on. Some sites, like Black Rock Campground and Indian Cove Campground, can be reserved in advance, but most sites are first come-first serve. Group camping is available at three of the campsites and can accommodate groups as large as 60 people, making it a great spot for a family reunion. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance for these spots.

 

Hiking and Nature Walks

Joshua Tree has trails to match everyone’s skill level, from short and easy nature walks to challenging hiking trails for the serious outdoorsman. A family favorite is Skull Rock, located just outside of Jumbo Rocks Campground. It is a low-skill level trail so it’s perfect for kids and they love climbing on the skull-shaped rock that lends the trail its name. No matter what trail you and your family choose, go prepared. That means bring plenty of water, sun protection, a map, emergency food and a flashlight. Regardless of skill level, wandering off the trail and getting lost in the desert is a sure-fire way to ruin a family vacation.

Milky Way at night in Joshua Tree National Park.

Photo: Kojihirano | Dreamstime

 

Star-Gazing

Joshua Tree is a great place for viewing the night sky. The remote location, far from city lights, makes the landscape of twinkling stars and planets much easier to see than from the city. Although astronomy enthusiasts will have a ball with their professional telescopes, no equipment is necessary if you simply want to enjoy the nightly show. Constellations like the Big Dipper, Orion and many others are easily seen with the naked eye.

Antelope Squirrel in Joshua Tree National Park

Photo: Bernhard Richter | Dreamstime

 

Wildlife Viewing

The desert may appear harsh and inhospitable but it is, in fact, a living thing home to number of fun and unique species. The kangaroo rat is an adorable member of the local fauna that loves to introduce itself to visitors. If you are sitting around a campfire at night these cute little rodents with long kangaroo-like feet will come right up to you and check you out — they are just as interested in us as we are in them! The park is also host to coyotes, desert tortoises, jack rabbits, snakes and numerous bird species. Golden eagles can be seen soaring the skies in hunt of prey and roadrunners dart across the landscape.

 

Located about two hours east of Los Angeles, the park is open year-round but is best visited in spring when vegetation is blooming and the park is at its most colorful. The desert can get extremely cold in winter months, especially once the sun goes down, but the summers get brutally hot and unforgiving. The park has no natural water sources, so, no matter what season you visit, bring more water than you think you will need just to be safe.

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