My one day guide to Joshua Tree National Park in California will have you wondering cholla cactus gardens, hiking, and discovering 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.
However, when I REALLY started looking, I saw so much beauty and life throughout the desolate land. Sure deserts aren’t vibrantly colored obvious in your face type of beautiful, but if you look a bit deeper than the surface, you’ll see it. 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 frolking through cactus, it’s a good life.
The Adventure Guide to Joshua Tree National Park
How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park
I have been flying out to the Los Angeles (LA) area every 3-4 months for business the last couple 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 work week, 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 it.
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 pickup once you have landed. 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 in’s and key drop return.
If you’re leaving a car at your departure airport, be sure to Fall Into Instant Savings Up To 60% Off at AirportParkingReservations.com For A Limited Time!
Climate Change Impact to Joshua Tree National Park
As the temperature of our planet continues to rise, the deserts will become hotter, experiencing more droughts, and threatening the survival of the parks plants and animals. These conditions will likely affect the species that have 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.
Once I took the time to really look, a palette of earth tones, calming and soothing rushed over me. As I looked even harder I could see life thriving, under the harshest of conditions. Fighting everyday to survive, never knowing when or if the next rain would bring relief from the constant heat. Our journey in the park started north, in the cooler Mojave.
The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a member of the Agave family and is a good indicator that you are in the Mojave Desert. However you may also find it growing in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains.
As we drove south through the park, we stopped to take in the breathtaking views of “Keys View”. Unfortunately in fear of being blown over the cliff by the gail force winds, we weren’t able to stay long.
It was incredible to watch the transformation of the desert as we drove through the park. Descending into the Colorado desert, you could feel the temperature rise, as we said goodbye to the Mojave. The variety of plants and animals are what make the Mojave Desert distinguishable from the Colorado as you drive throughout the park.
Climate change could affect more than just the beloved Joshua Tree. Rainfall in the desert is critical to the survival of the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep that call the park home. Severe drought will force the animals into higher elevations where more rainfall is likely.
Cholla Cactus Garden
These species have adapted over centuries in order to survive the harsh conditions of the two deserts. It’s truly a remarkable, magical place, the desert.