Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a United States National Park that is located in the Southern California Desert. The park encompasses nearly 800,000 acres of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, conserving two separate desert ecosystems at different altitudes. The name of the park is derived from the distinctive Joshua Tree, a tall-growing variety of the yucca genus that grows prevalently within its boundaries.

Joshua Tree

Understand

History

The area enclosed by the park was declared a National Monument in 1936, a Biosphere Reserve in 1984 and finally a National Park in 1994.

The name Joshua Tree was reportedly given by a band of Mormons who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century, the tree's unique shape reminding them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky.

The profile of the Joshua Tree National Park (then a National Monument) was raised significantly in 1987 with the release of the best-selling U2 album The Joshua Tree.

Landscape

Two deserts, two large ecosystems whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation, come together at Joshua Tree National Park. Below 3,000 feet, the Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of the park and features natural gardens of creosote bush, ocotillo, and cholla cactus. The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the Joshua tree. In addition to Joshua tree forests, the western part of the park also includes some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California’s deserts. Five fan palm oases also dot the park, indicating those few areas where water occurs naturally and wildlife abounds.

Flora and fauna

While it may at first appear lifeless, the desert supports myriad of creatures that become active during the evening and early morning. Coyotes are commonly seen near the park roads making their rounds. Jackrabbits and the shy kangaroo rats emerge from their dens in the evenings to forage. Bobcats are less frequently seen, but a lucky traveler might catch one silhouetted against the moonlight. Birds in the park include burrowing owls, vultures, golden eagles, and roadrunners. Lizards, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes may be found among the rocks.

Climate

Days are typically clear with less than 25 percent humidity. Temperatures are most comfortable in the spring and fall, with an average high/low of 85 and 50°F (29 and 10°C) respectively. Winter brings cooler days, around 60°F (15°C), and freezing nights. It occasionally snows at higher elevations. Summers are hot, over 100°F (38°C) during the day and not cooling much below 75°F (24°C) until the early hours of the morning.

Get in

By air

Palm Springs International Airport (IATA: PSP) is the closest airport to the park.

By train

Palm Springs is also the nearest city with an Amtrak station; it is served by the Sunset Limited Los Angeles - New Orleans route.

By car

Joshua Tree National Park lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles. It can be approached from the west via Interstate 10 and Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The north entrances to the park are located at Joshua Tree Village and the city of Twentynine Palms. The south entrance at Cottonwood Spring, which lies 25 miles east of Indio, can be approached from the east or west, also via Interstate 10.

Fees/Permits

Entry fees increased on June 1, 2015, and are scheduled to increase again in 2017. Fees for entry are:

There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Joshua Tree National Park:

In 2016 the National Park Service will offer several days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 16-24 (National Park Week), August 25-28 (National Park Service's 100th birthday weekend), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

Get around

By car

The main roads through the park are paved and easily accessible to passenger vehicles. Several dirt roads through the park may also be passable by normal sedans, although conditions often require high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles; check at the ranger stations for current road conditions.

By foot

There are numerous trails throughout the park. Be sure to carry and drink lots of water while hiking.

By bike

Many of the park trails and roads are excellent for mountain biking; check at a ranger station for options.

See

Barker Dam

Do

Kitty in a Vise

Hiking

A great place to go! Trails within the park include:

Photography

The odd shapes of the Joshua Tree, as well as the dramatic geology and desert scenery, make the park a great place for photographers. As with many areas, photography is best in the early morning and late evening hours.

Rock climbing

The park is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in the world with more than 4,500 established routes offering a wide range of difficulty. Note that there are differing regulations depending on whether a climb is being done within the designated wilderness area or not; check with a ranger for current regulations.

Astronomy

Due to its dark night time skies and the relative clarity of its air, Joshua Tree National Park is a popular spot for amateur astronomy, stargazing, and astrophotography.

Learning

A number of classes are conducted in the park through the Joshua Tree National Park Association's Desert Institute. They include topics such as painting, photography, wildlife, wildflowers, and geology.

Wildflower Viewing

Springtime wildflowers come in numerous varieties and can produce extraordinarily colorful displays, especially following wet winters. The flowers can include vast fields of flowering shrubs or tiny flowering plants right at your feet.

Buy

Services within the park are limited, but food, gas, and supplies can all be purchased just outside of the park in the City of Twentynine Palms. Park visitor centers all offer book stores selling postcards, posters, and books of local interest.

Eat

There are no restaurants or stores in the park, but numerous options are available along Highway 62, north of the park, or in towns such as Twentynine Palms, located to the east and west of the park along Interstate 10. Joshua Tree Village has a variety of cafés and restaurants. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options in the Village. Every Saturday, year round, the Village holds a farmers market.

Drink

Water is available from all visitor centers and a few of the campgrounds, and the Oasis Visitor Center also sells beverages. Towns, such as Twentynine Palms, located outside of the park borders offer additional options for refreshment.

Sleep

Joshua Tree Monsoon

Lodging

There are no hotels within the park, but numerous hotels cluster along Highway 62 in the towns of Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree.

Camping

There are many camp grounds within the park, but they will often fill well before sunset, especially on weekends. Sadly, as of 2005 there are no longer any free sites, although costs are reasonable at $5–10 per night. All camp grounds are open year-round. Some sites may be reserved in advance through the National Park Service Reservation System.

Backcountry

Permits are required for all backcountry camping and can be obtained at the visitor centers. Backcountry campsites must be located at least one mile from the road and 500 feet from any trail. Camping in washes is not recommended due to possible flash flood danger. All water must be carried in as natural water sources are limited and reserved for the local wildlife population. Open fires are also forbidden, and all cooking should be done over portable camp stoves.

Stay safe

By far, the greatest danger in this park is the weather. Due to the high desert environment, it will be blazing hot during the day and temperatures may drop to freezing during the night. Do not hike without adequate water. One gallon per person per day is the minimum recommended amount. Wear sunscreen, dress in layers, and take all other precautions when dealing with a desert environment. Be aware that even a tiny amount of rain can cause flash flooding; avoid canyons and drainage areas during severe weather.

Other dangers within the park include rattlesnakes, abandoned mines, and the numerous prickly and thorny desert plants. In general, snakes can be avoided by being careful when in rocky areas. Mines can be found throughout the park, and while most have been sealed over, open mines can still be found. Do not enter mines - most of these areas are over 100 years old and are extremely dangerous.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, December 12, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.