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!
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).