Although this was my second trip to Joshua Tree, I find that I fall in love with the place more and more every time I come. It's one of those otherworldly places that make you feel like you're on the real-life set of the Flintstones, and you sort of wish that woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers would appear (friendly ones of course). The rabbits and coyotes I spotted will have to suffice in the meantime.
Joshua Tree is about a two and a half hour drive south from Los Angeles, and is home to the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. It's easily a day trip from Los Angeles, but I totally recommend staying for a couple of days, especially to experience rock climbing outdoors, as well as to enjoy its unique fauna and flora. Also when traveling, there's something to be said about fully experiencing a place from morning through nightfall.
My wilderness camping trip in Joshua Tree was for two nights and three days. During that time, we filled our days with hiking, exploring, rock climbing, and photography. From there we took a road trip to Salvation Mountain, explored Niland, the Salton Sea, and Palm Springs. Below are some tips for your Joshua Tree adventure!
- When To Go: Spring or early Summer, from March through early July are the best times. The weather is not too hot and the desert flowers are in full bloom, making for some great pictures.
- What We Packed:
- Tent + Sleeping Bags
- Food + Water + Portable Stove
- Climbing gear
- Clothes (Include jackets for night time. The desert gets chilly at night).
- Cameras + Portable Chargers
- Rent Supplies: If you prefer to rent camping supplies rather than bring/buy your own, Joshua Tree Outfitters has everything you need. It's located before the entry of the park, making it super convenient.
- Water: Make sure to bring a minimum of 1 gallon of water per day - it is the desert after all. We brought 10 gallons for 3 days, which was for drinking, cooking, and washing.
- Getting A Campsite: Arrive as early as you can in the morning to nab a campground spot, because it's first come first served. We arrived late on a Thursday morning, checked out about five different campgrounds, and each one was already full. We did notice some people sharing larger campsites, which is an option. We opted to go back country camping instead, and get the full wilderness experience. What was initially a tiny setback turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise! For more information on campgrounds, check out these guidelines from the website.
- Back Country Camping: If you're going to go back country camping in the wild, make sure to follow these guidelines from the park's website. Safety first.
- Maps: There's a general Joshua Tree guide map and newsletter available at the entrance of the park, which has an overall map of all the different locations, extra information, and images of the flora and fauna you may spot. The website also has more extensive maps for park maps, hiking trails, campground maps, rock climbing maps, etc. It may be helpful to download these onto your phone or print out at your convenience.
- Joshua Tree Outfitters: The go to spot to rent (or buy) all of your climbing gear, guides, and camping supplies. I especially recommend renting their Rock Climbing Guidebook and crash pad.
- Rock Climbing Guidebooks are super helpful in helping you locate all the best routes, from novice to expert grades. They map out all the climbing routes with maps, pictures, grades, and helpful tips. Check out this one, and this one.
- Major Rock Climbing Areas & Maps:
- Bouldering in Joshua Tree
- Hiking in Joshua Tree
- Stargazing in Joshua Tree
- Salvation Mountain by Leonard Knight
- Salton Sea (The largest lake in California).
Photography: Annie Cho
Joshua Tree National Park