Joshua Tree is an amazing park with great hiking and camping opportunities. A person could easily spend several days there. However, sometimes people may be passing through Joshua Tree quickly and might want to see just the park’s main features. Here are some features of and a day guide to Joshua Tree National Park.

Stop By One Of The Visitor Centers

Sometimes visitor centers may seem like an over-rated thing to do. I find them fascinating and a great way to learn about the area. When I visited Joshua Tree, I stopped by the Cottonwood Visitor Center to check it out. One of my takeaways from the visitor center was that the large boulders that Joshua Tree National Park is known for is caused by large bubbles of magma. Magma seeps through the cracks in tectonic plates, cools, and eventually rises to the surface. Stopping by the visitor center is a great way to learn about local wildlife, plants, Joshua Trees, and other sites that may be of interest. I’ve also learned about off the grid hikes in other parks from talking to the rangers.

See The Joshua Trees

What’s a trip to Joshua Tree without actually seeing Joshua Trees? Most of the trees are located within the northern half of the park. From the south entrance to the west entrance, it’s over 50 miles. So plan accordingly and make sure you have enough gas if you’re coming in through the southern entrance. Joshua Trees make for great photo opportunities and look amazing during sunsets and are great for use in astrophotography.  Stopping by the visitor centers are a great way to learn about Joshua Trees and how useful they were to Native Americans.

 

Wait For The Stars To Come Out

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places to do star gazing in Southern California. Head to the interior portions of the parks away from city lights and the park will be darker. The light is so minimal here that the star gazing is incredibly beautiful. During the summer months the Milky Way Galaxy is in plain view and is great to see and take pictures of. During other times of the year numerous other stars and constellations are also visible. If you can, plan on going to the park during one of the several seasonal meteor showers.

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Check Out Arch Rock

Coming up from the southern entrance and just a short distance past the Cholla Cactus Garden is Arch Rock. Arch Rock is a natural granite arch formation. The walk up to arch rock is short with surrounding trails in the area. Arch Rock is also a great place to stop and take photos. I was there during the day but this place is also a great place for photographers to play with lighting and capture incredible night shots of the stars.

Visit Cottonwood Springs

Cottonwood Springs is a palm tree oasis formed by springs caused by earthquakes. Cottonwood Springs is located near the Cottonwood Visitor Center and near the south entrance of the park. I actually only knew this place existed when I left the park and I didn’t get a chance to visit it. The area was used by Native Americans who have left artifacts behind in the area. The area also has a number of trails, is used for camping, and good for bird watching.

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The Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree. Cactus gardens can be surprisingly beautiful. Each spring for a few weeks many different species of cactus have beautiful vibrant blooms.

See The Cholla Cactus  Garden

About twelve miles south of the park’s north entrance is ten acres of Cholla Cactus. During the spring these cactus have beautiful magenta flowers. Beware, do not get to close to this prickly plant. The thorns on this plant are extremely sharp and difficult to remove from skin and clothing. Even if these plants aren’t blooming, be sure to check out this vast basin of cactus. Their white thorny appearance makes them quite a sight.

Visit Cottonwood Springs

Cottonwood Springs is a palm tree oasis formed by springs caused by earthquakes. Cottonwood Springs is located near the Cottonwood Visitor Center and near the south entrance of the park. I actually only knew this place existed when I left the park and I didn’t get a chance to visit it. The area was used by Native Americans who have left artifacts behind in the area. The area also has a number of trails, is used for camping, and good for bird watching.

 

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Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

Visit Skull Rock

A short distance from skull rock is another photo opportunity known as Skull Rock. Skull rock is a large granite boulder that has the appearance of looking like a skull. The natural erosion came from rain that accumulated and eroded the rock in just the right places. There is also a 1.7 mile trail at this area with many large boulders that can be fun for climbing.

Take A Drive Down To Keys View

Keys view is a panoramic viewpoint located about twenty minutes off of Park Boulevard. Keys View is located on the top of a ridge and looks down into the Coachella Valley. In the foreground you’ll be able to see the towns of Palm Desert and Palm Springs and towering up above them, the San Bernardino Mountain Ranges that are over 10,000 feet tall. During the winter months the peaks of San Gorgonio and San Jacinto are often capped with snow. Also visible is the famous, San Andreas Fault line.

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During sunsets the shadows in Joshua Tree are phenomenal and rocks turn a glowing red.

Watch The Sunset At Quail Springs

Quail Springs is located near the west entrance to Joshua Tree national Park. This area has incredible views of the San Bernardino Mountain Ranges and sits in a valley in the park. In the valley are towering boulders and Joshua Trees throughout. As the sun sets over the San Bernardino Mountains the rocks turn a golden red and the Joshua Trees cast some incredible shadows in the valley. If you’re feeling up for it, climb the rocks and watch the sun go down. If not, you can take a seat below the boulders and watch the Joshua Trees cast shadows as the sun goes down. This is a beautiful place to stop, take a break, have a drink, eat a snack, and watch the sun go down.

 

Take A Drive From The South Entrance To The West Entrance

Joshua Tree National Park is a vast park but taking a drive through the park from the south entrance to the west entrance (or vise versa) is a great way to see many of the park’s highlights. I was in Joshua Tree for two nights and one full day while camping in Cottonwood. During that time I took took a drive from the south entrance to the west entrance. The drive gave the opportunity to get an idea of the park as a whole as well using the opportunity to see the park’s main features.

Summing Up A Day Guide To Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is an incredible national park. These are just some of many things that a person could do if there was only time to spend just one day there. Are there any things that should be added to this list or have you done any other things? Please share them in the comments section below to add to the day guide to Joshua Tree National Park.