Weekend Jaunt: Joshua Tree National Park
Visit this spectacular natural oasis.
Just three hours east of Los Angeles lies the desert oasis of Joshua Tree National Park. A haven for hikers, campers and rock climbers it offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. With miles and miles of trails, hundreds of rock climbing routes and star filled campgrounds it can be hard to know what to do in the park if you are working on a limited time frame. Here are a few must-sees in the park if you only have a weekend.
One of the first things that sticks out upon entering the park are the giant brown granite rocks that litter the land, aptly named Jumbo Rocks. From afar it's hard to judge just how gigantic they are, but as you drive down Park Boulevard their size becomes apparent. Dwarfing everything around them, these massive boulders are like a jungle gym for adults. Hidden in plain sight amongst the Jumbo Rocks is Skull Rock. Just off the main road this is a behemoth of a rock that winds have carved into a giant skull; make sure to stop and grab a photo.
If you are a rock climber heading to Joshua Tree you've surely heard of the Hall of Horrors, one of the most popular spots in the park for climbers featuring more than a dozen routes. Even if you aren't into working your way up the sheer face of the granite monoliths you can still marvel in the guts it takes to slack-line between North and South Horror Rock.
Ryan Mountain is a three mile hike with more than 1000 feet of elevation gain, but if you're feeling up to the task it offers some of the best views of the park. And although it may seem like a mirage, on clear days you can even see all the way to the Salton Sea, which is over 25 miles away.
Cottonwood is the southern most developed campground in the park, offering amazing views of the surrounding mountains and of course restrooms and a place to refill water bottles. There is also a short half-mile hike from the campsites to the Cottonwood Spring, a vital watering hole for the flora and fauna of the park. Spots in all the campgrounds can fill up quickly on weekends during peak season, so make sure to make a reservation at one of the two that take them; Indian Cove and Black Rock. If you get there and everything happens to be full don't be discouraged, there is BLM land right outside the southern entrance where you can pitch your tent for free.
And of course be sure to take a walk amongst the alien-like trees that the park gets its name from. The iconic Joshua Tree can be found all over the park, but head to Lost Horse Valley to find the most dense population.
So if you are looking for a park to visit within a days drive from L.A., San Diego, Las Vegas or even Phoenix; Joshua Tree is your place. Just be sure to go during the ideal periods of spring and fall as the temperatures during the summer are constantly hovering around 100 degrees.