Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Explore the Wonders of Joshua Tree

March 14, 2012, 1:17 pm

By: Heather Crowley

Take the 10 out east of Los Angeles and trek out to the desert, home to Joshua Tree National Park. Last year, the park celebrated its 75th anniversary and it is still going strong. Driving through Morongo Valley and Yucca Valley, you will start to spot a few of the majestic trees along the side of the road. That’s nothing compared to passing through the gates and seeing thousands of them dotting the rocky mounds in the distance.

After hitting up the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, pay your admission and grab a map. Don’t forget to pick up a fun souvenir at the bookstore! The Joshua Tree is the hallmark for which the park gets its namesake. The tough leaves and twisted limbs give them a storybook feel.

Joshua Tree National Park is a year-round rock climbing sanctuary. On any given day, climbers can be seen making their way up the side of the granite wonders scattered across the park’s desert landscape. With names like Hall of Horrors, one surmises these rocks aren’t for the faint of heart.

Don’t be fooled, there are climbs for enthusiasts of all levels! The ultimate climbing playground, there are 400 climbing formations and 8,000 different routes. Planning a trip for the winter or spring is a best bet before the temperatures start to soar.

Climb in temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s instead of the 105 mark, trust us, it’s better that way. If ropes, helmets and heights aren’t really your thing, try bouldering. Climb some of the small rocks using your hands and feet. Get a better view of the stunning trees scraping the sky from the top of the boulders. Be sure to bring along your best hiking boots so you can get a grip on the rock.

Take a hike through the trees that sprout out of the seemingly waterless sand. In total, there are 12 self-guided nature trails of varying difficulties. For an easy hike, take the 1.3-mile Barker Dam Nature Trail to explore the remains of the Barker Dam, a water tank built by early cattle ranchers.

Along the second half of the loop, visitors can observe ancient pictographs. The puzzling circles and lines still retain their brilliant reds and blacks despite seeing the desert sun year-round. Barker Dam is the perfect warm-up trail to prepare you for adventuring further in the park. Around every corner is a unique sight. Stop and watch the rock climbers, discover an oddly growing tree, view a centuries-old dam or explore pictographs.

Across the park, past treasures haunt the area and stands as relics to a time when the land was ripe with exploration. The Lost Horse Mine lies on the other side of Lost Horse Mountain. Take (what else would it be called?) the Lost Horse Mine Trail to get a closer view of the old structure. The spur off the main loop will take you closer to the relic. In total, the loop is 6.2 miles and gains over 500 feet in elevation.

If your car can handle it, try driving down some of the dirt roads to escape from fellow visitors. In the majestic desert, the only sounds present are the whispering wind. Joshua Tree is the ultimate winter getaway for outdoor lovers. 

Photo by Heather Crowley