The conjunction of the Mojave and Colorado deserts in southern California gives way to one of America’s greatest green spaces, Joshua Tree National Park. Commemorated during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency in 1936, it did not gain national park status until 1994, making it the youngest national park in the country. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, visitors can take advantage of the park by stargazing, hiking, biking, and rock climbing. The steadfast warm climate makes it easy to plan a trip, although, the best time to visit is in the spring and fall when temperatures are milder.
Joshua Tree is quickly gaining recognition as a national park and shedding its image as a U2 album title, although having toured the US extensively, the band was clearly inspired by the incredible geography of the area. As such, the desert, rain, dust, and water appear as lyrical motifs throughout the record. You too (pun intended), can gaze up at the stars or hike one of the many routes as long as you remember to always adhere to the strict leave-no-trace policy.
An Explorer's Mecca
If climbing is your niche, Joshua Tree's options read like a Chinese food menu for climbers. There are over 400 rock formations and over 8,000 different routes to choose from, ranging from beginner to advanced in difficulty. If you prefer to explore with your feet firmly planted on the ground, hike up to Keys View, which offers sweeping overlooks of the San Andreas Fault. Salton Sea can be seen from atop the San Bernardino Mountain peak along with the desert ecosystem below.
Spend the Night
As temperatures plummet from the non-insular sand at night, so does the landscape. A mixture of pastel colors streak across the sky once the sun dips below the clouds, allowing the universe to unveil itself in dramatic fashion. Amateur astronomers and curious stargazers flock to see constellations and distant stars appear as flecks of brilliant color. If you're interested in astronomy, Joshua Tree is hosting a Night Sky festival in October so be sure to check it out if you can.
How to Do It
If you're visiting from across the country, the best way to reach the park is to fly into Palm Springs. Otherwise, it's a 2-3 hour drive from Los Angeles. There are three visitors centers and once you get settled, there are a number of ways to tackle the park depending where your interests lie. It's right outside Death Valley, so be sure to combine a trip to kill two birds with one stone.