November 11 – 13, 2014: Joshua Tree National Park was definitely in the top three list for places I was looking forward to visiting on this road trip. I had really high expectations and am very happy to report that it totally lived up to the hype!
The park spans two deserts, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, each with distinct desert ecosystems and unique rock formations. Oh, and Joshua trees!
We entered the park via the south entrance (in the Colorado Desert) and, about seven miles later arrived at the Cottonwood Visitor Center to retrieve a map and newsletter. From there we made our way to the Cholla Cactus Garden for a short .25 mile stroll through an absolutely gorgeous field of cacti. I’ve never seen anything like it – they were so surreal – with their ombré coloring, ranging from hues of brown to a yellowish-white. We then made our way to White Tank Campground which had about fifteen sites set amongst amazing rock formations. We stayed only long enough to do another short walk, about .3 miles, to view Arch Rock. From there we crossed into the Mojave Desert and saw our first Joshua tree! We stopped for the first night at the Jumbo Rocks Campsite where we climbed up the rocks to watch a beautiful sunset with reds, pinks, purples before playing Zigity, cooking up some tortellini for dinner, listening to music, seeing our first kit fox right outside Camper Dan, and admiring the stunning night sky.
After starting the day with Kopi Luak coffee (that we had purchased in Laos), the second day was spent exploring the rest of Joshua Tree National Park. We began with the Skull Rock hike from our campsite – a nice 1.7 mile loop to view rock formations; the most famous formation obviously looks like a skull. We then drove to Keys View where the highlight was viewing and learning about the San Andreas Fault. From there we headed to Barker Dam and then to Hidden Valley for hikes before driving out the west entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. We purchased some food to grill for dinner and then headed back into Joshua Tree National Park, via another road, to our campsite at Indian Cove Campground. The campground was almost entirely empty and surrounded by rock formations. We were unable to view the sunset because the rocks obstructed the view, but had an evening filled with hot dogs, s’mores, coyote sightings, and more excellent starry night skies.
The desert landscape is so drastically different from the east coast United States and I absolutely love it. The huge boulders and rock formations, the Joshua trees, the clear night skies. Joshua Tree National Park is surreal.
- Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park, California, United States
- Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree National Park, California, United States