My one-day guide to Joshua Tree National Park in California will have you wandering through cholla cactus gardens, hiking in the desert, and learning about the different ecosystems throughout the park. The desert becomes more beautiful each time I visit. My first impression of the desert landscape, I wasn’t impressed. Coming from the Great Lakes State of Michigan where the nearest body of water is no more than 30 miles away, no matter where in the state you are, I wasn’t so sure I liked the dry barren brown of the desert.
However, when I looked closer I could see the life that was all around me. I saw so much beauty and colors throughout the desolate land and wondered how I could ever think it wasn’t pretty. The deserts don’t have vibrantly colored in-your-face type of beautiful, but instead soft earthy tones the shades of green, tan, browns, and even purple.
Joshua Tree National Park is made up of two very distinct desert ecosystems. The harsh and unforgiving climates are surprisingly rich in biodiversity and home to many species. We had the best weather in November on our adventure to Joshua Tree. I spent a beautiful Saturday with Logan exploring the park and frolicking through cactus’, it’s a good life.
One Day in Joshua Tree National Park
How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park
I’ve been flying out to the Los Angeles (LA) area every 3-4 months for business the last couple of years. I counted, and it came to 14 trips in total out to LA. Not bad for someone who 3 years ago had never set foot in California huh?!
At the end of the workweek, Logan flew out to L.A. and we spent the weekend exploring east of the city. I finally took advantage of being that close! It was my last scheduled trip of the year with the holidays coming up and I wanted to make the most of being in California.
To get to Joshua Tree National Park download some audibles and fly into the Los Angeles International Airport LAX it’s around a 2.5-hour drive from there. Check rates on airports near LA to save you some bucks. Burbank Airport and Santa Monica Airport are both around the same distance/time to the park as LAX.
My recommendation is to rent a car from the LAX airport if you’re flying in. There are complimentary shuttles available for the different car services that will take you to the car lots.
PRO TIP* plan for a 1-2 hour car pick-up at the airport – ESPECIALLY AVIS. I’d suggest . LAX is one of the busiest airports in the United States so expect to be waiting in line to get the keys to your car. I highly recommend joining National’s Emerald Club to get expedited service & save time with their computer check-ins and key drop return.
If you’re leaving a car at your departure airport, save some money on airport parking.
Climate Change Impact on Joshua Tree National Park
As the temperatures of our planet continue to rise, the deserts are hotter, droughts are longer, and the survival of the park’s plants and animals is in danger of extinction. Sadly climate change is now affecting the very species that inspired the namesake of the park itself- the Joshua tree. The bursting Joshua trees and other yuccas indicated we were still in the Mojave as we continued our drive south.
Josha Tree Mojave Desert
Our journey began on the north end of the park in the cooler Mojave desert. As we drove into the park I saw a palette of earth tones emerge. A sense of calm and soothing tingled over me. I admired the desert as we hiked along the trails. I saw life thriving around me. Still beautiful despite being in the harshest of conditions. Along the trails were dry, cracked cacti and I could see the plants fighting to survive. Our planet is dying, not just in the desert but everywhere! The plants and animals in the desert don’t know when or if the next rain is coming to save them. To keep them alive.
The Joshua Tree
The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a member of the Agave family and a good indicator that you’re in the Mojave Desert. Sometimes you might also find it growing in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains.
As we drove further into the park, we stopped at Keys View. The view is so colorful! It was also being hammered by gale force winds so strong that I feared Logan was in danger of being blown off the very steep rocky cliff he stood upon. Thanks to gale and her forces, we weren’t able to stay long … or take many pictures. Which of course, was because the mountains at Key’s View are purple, pink, and beautiful.
Climate change affects more than just the loved Joshua Tree. Rainfall in the desert is crucial to the survival of the wildlife who live there like the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep. Severe droughts are forcing the animals up into higher, colder elevations where rainfall is more likely.
It was incredible to watch the transformation of desert life as we descended down through the park. We were driving with our windows down enjoying the breeze on the descend and I could feel the temperature rising as hot air began to hit my face. We said goodbye to the Mojave and watched as the desert transformed to show different species of plants and wildlife.
Cholla Cactus Garden
Some species have adapted It’s taken over centuries for the desert species to adapt and survive the harsh climate conditions of the park’s deserts. The cholla cactus garden is my favorite part of Joshua Tree National Park. My favorite dog of all time name’s Chala (cha – la) which sounds like cholla, so obviously.
Stone Adventures offers rappelling tours for the adventurous. If you’ve gone rappelling before you know how much fun it is, if you haven’t – find out:
Stone Adventures also provides rock climbing tours that cater to beginners, families, and adults in multiple time increments. My experience of rock climbing was one I’ll never forget. I can still feel a tickle of adrenaline just by thinking about it.
with Wandering Mojave
Here’s what to expect:
“After finalizing our meetup time and location we’ll start out on a Half-Day Hike that best matches your group’s interests, abilities, and objectives. We’ll focus on what is important to you or your group before you arrive so that I can design a customized route that exceeds your expectations.
These hikes may be either leisurely or strenuous, depending on what your group is in the mood for. The mileage and pace are almost always adaptable in real time. Apart from stewarding you safely through the terrain, I’ll discuss the flora, fauna, unique geology, and cultural history of the region. Plenty of time will be set aside for taking in views, having snacks, and discussing in greater detail the unique environment presented by Joshua Tree National Park. Routes can be designed for both experienced and novice hikers.”Tripadvisor – Wandering Mojave
By joshua tree alchemy
Here’s what to expect:
“Held in an intimate group setting, you’ll join us for a nature walk + soundbath and guided meditation in a magical cave. The nature walk portion is lead by a local guide, who is well versed in the beauty of the sacred land. The private location provides boulders and Joshua Trees. Historically, it is said that Serrano and Cahuilla Indians inhabited this land. A handful of petroglyphs remain visible throughout the boulders.
The property is well-maintained and gardened in areas of traffic. The guide will take you to a staircase boulder cave, where you will be greeted by a certified sound healer, who utilizes sounds to heighten meditative states. Here you will settle into the space, meditate, receive, and relax. Additionally, you’ll have access to hike, explore, take a dip in the pool, and center yourself in a majestic desert setting. Stick around and catch sunset. (Overnight accommodations are available for an additional fee). So much magic to see and experience.”Tripadvisor – Joshua Tree Alchemy