Because two deserts meet within the National Park (Mojave and Colorado), the vistas, vegetation, and weather change significantly. If you start your drive into the park from HWY 62, Joshua Tree’s main road, you are in the Mojave desert, and it’s much cooler. You’ll also see taller and greener plants (Joshua trees and Yucca). The further you drive down the main road (heading towards I10), you’ll enter the Colorado Desert. You’ll notice that the cacti in that area are closer to the ground (lots of Cholla), and it’s about 15 degrees warmer. The change in vegetation and weather is due to an elevation change.
List of views/ hikes from easy to hard:
- Keys View- Very short, paved hike. Amazing views of the valley. On a clear day you can see the Salton Sea- The drive to that part of the Park has a dense amount of Joshua Trees.
- Arch Rock is in a campground (available to the general public). Kids can climb around it and be kids, but they can do that anywhere in the park. It’s up to you.
- Cholla Cactus Garden (Closer to I10). If you make the drive to this part of the park, I highly recommend it. It’s probably a half mile loop, and it’s beautiful.
- Wall Street Mill- 3 mile round trip. Because of its proximity to Barker Dam, I recommend that you bring bug spray on this hike. For its distance, it has a lot of history, and it’s flat through and through. If you decide to hike this trail keep in mind there are two parking lots: at Barker Dam, and an unnamed dirt lot behind it. The first parking lot you’ll see is a paved round loop with two trails, one to Barker Dam, and another to the Mill. If you want to hike to the Mill, you are adding almost another mile to your hike by parking here. Barker Dam is a nice hike, but at this time of the year I doubt the water levels will be high enough to have wildlife (probably a lot of insects). If you or someone hiking with you has a good sense of navigation or knows the park well, I recommend following the Wall Street Mill trail to Keys Ranch. However, if you are not familiar with the area, I wouldn’t. It’s really easy to get lost.
- Barker Dam is a nice hike by the Mill, but I would ask the park ranger about the current conditions of the Dam. Given the time of the year, if the water has been stagnant you might find more insects than birds (no one likes mosquitoes. No. One.)
Neat places on the drive out and back
Dig up your own Cacti is a very neat place where you can pick and dig your own cacti for 25 cents. If you are driving to Joshua Tree from I10, it’s before you get to the city. I think it’s in Yucca, but I’m not sure. It’s on your right side. http://cactusmart.com/about I checked the website. It’s in Morongo Valley, before Yucca.
Hadley’s Fruit Stand: Half way to JT. Delicious date shakes. Same exit as outlets, casino, and Cabazon Dinosaurs.
Joshua Tree and surrounding area
Noah Purifoy outdoor museum: I think they just brought back all the biggest and better pieces back from LACMA. I went earlier this year; it’s free and amazing. Please go.
Crochet Museum: Ask a local and go. I won’t ruin the surprise. It’s a desert gem.
Integratron: This place is truly magical. It was built by this guy, George Van Tassel, who claimed UFOs told him to build this dome out of nothing but wood and put metal circles on the ceiling of the first floor. Long story short, the place sits on a natural geometric vortex. Because the building is made up of wood, the sound made by the quartz bowl is carried around the room through the metal wires that sit underneath you (and no, you are not on the wires yourself). It’s amazing, rejuvenating, and magical. they have public and private soundbaths. A few times a year they hold special events. Check it out for yourself. http://integratron.com/
Places to shove your face
Willie Boy’s: Restaurant/bar. They had a mechanical bull last time I was there (2011). I went there for a show, so I can't speak for their the food.
If you don’t want to make the drive out there is a restaurant/ live music place in town called Pappy and Harriet’s Palace. I am not sure if either allow children.
Observatory: There’s an observatory in 29 Palms if you happen to head that way for any reason. I’m not familiar with their schedule, so I would check before making the drive out there.
Stargazing: Even if you visit on a full moon, you should be able to see deep into the eye of the galaxy.
Also, I think you like casinos and everything LGBT like me, you should swing by Palm Springs. While you are there you should go to Tahquiz Canyon, an awesome hike with a very nice waterfall at the end. Because of the trail’s orientation, I recommend going before noon. Also, because the trail is within the reservation, there’s a small fee to hike the trail.
The desert is an amazing place. From afar it’s deceiving, but the closer you get the more amazing it becomes. Enjoy the many desert gems!
Great Falls National Park, Virginia
The first thing I did when I got off the airplane was rent a car. Despite the fact that they have taxis and the Metro, I went ahead and paid for my own whip. Not because I'm a big baller, but because it was cheaper than paying an Uber to take me out and about. And also because I wanted to listen to the Lion King soundtrack.
The drive to Great Falls is absolutely gorgeous, surrounded with trees, scenic viewpoints of the Potomac, and a ludicrous amount of mansions... not the snoody kind, the classy kind.
I wandered around this place for an hour or two and went for one of the numerous walk/hikes that are available and stopped to watch the river at one of its choppiest points. There were people kayaking and riding surfboards here, which was unfathomable to me. Just seeing these people living so fully was enough vicarious excitement to make me feel like I had done something exciting myself.
Edgar Allan Poe's Grave and Home
So, the next night at approximately 5 p.m. while my co-workers were looking at memorials and pounding beers, I decided to drive to Baltimore to visit my good friend Edgar Allan Poe. The drive was, again, phenomenal once I got out of the crazy city traffic. It took about an hour and a half to reach my destination.
At first, I was scared. I'm not going to lie. Whenever I get into big cities with a lot of foot traffic, I'm always afraid that someone is going to beat me up and kill me or whatever, so it could just be a personal problem. Maybe it wasn't scary at all for your average Joe. Either way, if you are like me and get nervous in places like Los Angeles, downtown Las Vegas, etc., you may be nervous here. Just a heads up.
Poe is buried in a church cemetery along with his family and a lot of other historical figures from the 1800's. The atmosphere here is worth the visit. It is a very serene, unusual place that you do not get the opportunity to see every day. You may have heard that he has two graves. I was expecting to find only his current grave here, but was stoked when I walked around the corner and found his original grave as well.
When you leave the graveyard, there are signs that direct you to his home, which is a .6 mile walk through a neighborhood. I started this walk, got almost to the end, realized how quickly it had gotten dark, and walked back to my car, then drove to the house. On the way back to my car, someone started driving in reverse right next to me, honking at me until they couldn't reverse any more due to a parked car. I think he thought I was a prostitute, but I'm not sure why. Anywho...
IMPORTANT: Check the website if you want to take a tour, because his home IS a museum, but it is open only on specific days and times. Even if you can't make it in, just being there is beyond cool.
Although it may not sound like a lot, it was a great time. I got to hang out with myself, do what I enjoy without necessarily being bound to the norms of sticking to one area, and put approximately 140 miles on that car.
What have you done in this area other than this? SHARE THEM WITH US!
Ok... I'm not a total non-tourist... and you know I love 'Murica. Here's a selfie with my boy Abe.
Ashley and Cecilia work hard, play hard, write stuff, read stuff... because they don't know what else to do with their lives.
I- We should buy something superficial
II- Buy odd clothing
I- An Unusual Social Event
I- We should go somewhere with dangerous animals
I- Somewhere with strange food
When we get ten total votes, the item with the highest number of votes will be our next expedition.
(One vote per reader, per category).