Going To Joshua Tree National Park

A statuesque Joshua Tree in the later afternoon.
A statuesque Joshua Tree in the later afternoon.

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park in the late afternoon is perfect for Southern Californians who want to capture photography of the shadows cast by the boulders and trees. It is also the ideal time to capture sunset photography, and avoid the heat that permeates this region during the summer and early fall. I am unique because I actually enjoy the arid climate, but visiting Joshua Tree during the warmer months is not for everyone. Another perk for Southern Californians is that this park is within driving distance of many major cities, and can be a day trip. Although, camping at Joshua Tree is definitely a must for people who want to spend more time admiring the scenery.

The Joshua tree obtains its name from the Mormons who traveled through the Mojave Desert, and thought these trees looked as if they were holding their arms up to the heavens, like Joshua did in the Old Testament. I did not go the Joshua Tree on a spiritual quest, but there is something otherworldly about being out in the vast expanses of desert looking at these trees, and admiring large boulders. It feels refreshing to be part of the land, and not just gawking at buildings and overly landscaped lawns. However, I grew up in the mountains and often camped in the desert, so I have to get away to places like Joshua Tree to feel a bit more like myself. Too much urban jungle can be stifling for a person who needs hikes and open vistas.

It surprises me how many people who live in Southern California say they have never visited Joshua Tree, or even Death Valley. Both of these parks are within driving distance, but I guess these places appeal to the more adventurous types who enjoy hiking and camping. However, Joshua Tree is much more tourist friendly than it was years ago. There are many shopping amenities close by, and signs to guide you wherever you want to hike. So if you are looking to get away from "the city", then I highly recommend a trip to Joshua Tree. I only spent a couple of hours there during my last visti, but some people drive through the whole park, and camp for a few days. The desert heat does not bother me, but going to Joshua Tree in winter and early spring might be preferable for those who are adverse to arid climates.

How Do I Get To Joshua Tree?

A markerJoshua Tree National Park -
Joshua Tree, CA 92252, USA
[get directions]

Use the map above for driving directions to Joshua Tree National Park. A scenic route to get to Joshua Tree is the drive up to the San Bernardino and through Big Bear, and then down the backside of the mountain to Lucern Valley. From Lucern Valley take Highway 247 towards Twentynine Palms, which is also known as Old Woman Springs Road. Apparently the road obtained its name from Old Woman Springs Ranch, which was named after the many Native American women that the first white settlers spotted there. The videos below show what this drive to Joshua Tree looks via the Big Bear Lake and Lucern Valley.

The Scenic Route: Driving Through Big Bear To Joshua Tree

Highway 247 eventually merges into Highway 62, which continues on into Twentynine Palms. However, visitors to Joshua Tree National Park only have to travel a short distance through the town of Yucca Valley before reaching the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. The part of the park where I took pictures was Hidden Valley.

The Road Leading Up To Joshua Tree

A boulder laden hill with blurry vegetation in the foreground. The downside of taking photographs from a moving vehicle.
A boulder laden hill with blurry vegetation in the foreground. The downside of taking photographs from a moving vehicle.
Joshua trees dot the landscape on the road up to the park.
Joshua trees dot the landscape on the road up to the park.
The Joshua tree with hills in the distance.
The Joshua tree with hills in the distance.
The Joshua tree on the side of the road.
The Joshua tree on the side of the road.

Here is a video showing the road that leads up to the park itself.

The road leading up to Joshua Tree National Park was quite exciting because we started rising in elevation, and I spotted more boulders and Joshua trees along the sides of the road. Finally, we reached Hidden Valley and it was time for a late afternoon walk.

Arriving At Joshua National Park

The large rock formation near parking area.
The large rock formation near parking area.
Sidewalk near the parking area with the rock formation nearby.
Sidewalk near the parking area with the rock formation nearby.

Nature and civilization intersect where this parking lot and sidewalk are near the rock formation.

The Joshua trees look like they are beckoning visitors with their arms to come frolic among the trees.
The Joshua trees look like they are beckoning visitors with their arms to come frolic among the trees.
The moon above the boulder formation.
The moon above the boulder formation.
Sun shining through the Joshua trees.
Sun shining through the Joshua trees.
This boulder looks like a lounge chair.
This boulder looks like a lounge chair.
A trail among the Joshua trees.
A trail among the Joshua trees.

When is your favorite time to visit Joshua Tree?

  • The Summer
  • The Fall
  • The Winter
  • The Spring
  • I Have Never Been
  • I Do Not Like Nature
See results without voting
 
Things To Pack:
 
Bottled Water
Sunscreen
A Digital Camera
A Cell Phone
Small First-Aid Kit
Snacks
Protective Clothing
Trail Guide
An Adventurous Spirit

There are many pictures of the beautiful Joshua trees, boulders, and cacti to share, but you can always watch the video below if you just want to see a small snippet.

Joshua Trees And boulders with pinon pine trees and other chaparral.
Joshua Trees And boulders with pinon pine trees and other chaparral.
Closeup of the green leaves on a Joshua tree.
Closeup of the green leaves on a Joshua tree.
A small cholla cactus.
A small cholla cactus.
Sun shining down on the cholla cacti and boulders.
Sun shining down on the cholla cacti and boulders.
The Joshua trees and rock formation are basking in the last of the afternoon sun.
The Joshua trees and rock formation are basking in the last of the afternoon sun.
I like how some of the rocks are sticking straight up.
I like how some of the rocks are sticking straight up.
The large boulders are captivating.
The large boulders are captivating.
Sun shining behind the boulders.
Sun shining behind the boulders.
Two branches on a Joshua tree with green leaves.
Two branches on a Joshua tree with green leaves.
Some dry brush in the foreground with Joshua trees nearby.
Some dry brush in the foreground with Joshua trees nearby.
The boulders often have oval shapes and stand upright.
The boulders often have oval shapes and stand upright.
The boulders are oval shaped the focal point of this capture.
The boulders are oval shaped the focal point of this capture.

The boulders at Joshua tree fascinate me the same way boulders do up in the San Bernardino Mountains. These monzogranite rocks were formed over millions of years, and are an endearing testimony to how long nature has been around. Joshua Tree is a truly magical place, and I love that living in Southern California means there are so many awe inspiring locales within driving distance. I would love to go to Tahiti, but since I cannot afford to do that, I like to enjoy things that are nearby: like Joshua Tree National Park.

Apparently these boulders are monzogranite rocks, which sounds like a more scientific name than granite rocks.
Apparently these boulders are monzogranite rocks, which sounds like a more scientific name than granite rocks.
Boulders on the hillside with a Joshua tree in the mix.
Boulders on the hillside with a Joshua tree in the mix.
Green chaparral brush grows among the boulders.
Green chaparral brush grows among the boulders.
A crack in the large rock.
A crack in the large rock.
A teddy bear cholla cactus in the late afternoon.
A teddy bear cholla cactus in the late afternoon.
I would not recommend petting the cholla cactus.
I would not recommend petting the cholla cactus.
The spines on the cholla cactus look "cuddly," but looks can be deceiving.
The spines on the cholla cactus look "cuddly," but looks can be deceiving.
The soft appearance of the teddy bear cholla cactus is another reason not to judge a book by its cover, so to speak.
The soft appearance of the teddy bear cholla cactus is another reason not to judge a book by its cover, so to speak.
A majestic pinyon pine tree.
A majestic pinyon pine tree.
The sun creates a silhouette of the Joshua trees.
The sun creates a silhouette of the Joshua trees.
Large boulders with a Joshua tree in the foreground.
Large boulders with a Joshua tree in the foreground.
A little rock is lodge between two boulders.
A little rock is lodge between two boulders.
Another view of the rock in between the two boulders.
Another view of the rock in between the two boulders.
The spines on the beaver-tail cactus have a purplish tinge.
The spines on the beaver-tail cactus have a purplish tinge.
Joshua trees next to boulders with various interesting shapes.
Joshua trees next to boulders with various interesting shapes.
The Joshua tree looks like it has hair on its trunk.
The Joshua tree looks like it has hair on its trunk.
Joshua trees in the amber sunlight of late afternoon.
Joshua trees in the amber sunlight of late afternoon.
The Joshua tree looks as if he is throwing his arms up in the air.
The Joshua tree looks as if he is throwing his arms up in the air.
The leaves of the Joshua tree look whimsical.
The leaves of the Joshua tree look whimsical.
The three Joshua trees in the foreground are under the moon.
The three Joshua trees in the foreground are under the moon.
The moon is in the blue sky above the Joshua tree.
The moon is in the blue sky above the Joshua tree.
A closeup image of the moon over the green leaves of the Joshua tree.
A closeup image of the moon over the green leaves of the Joshua tree.
The sun shining through trees and boulders.
The sun shining through trees and boulders.
Large boulders surrounded by Joshua trees and brush.
Large boulders surrounded by Joshua trees and brush.
Large boulders surrounded by dead and dry brush.
Large boulders surrounded by dead and dry brush.
I used a photo feature on my camera to make it look like mid-afternoon, even though I took this image around six in the evening.
I used a photo feature on my camera to make it look like mid-afternoon, even though I took this image around six in the evening.
Each day these small Joshua trees are growing taller. A hundred years from now they will be massive and stately trees.
Each day these small Joshua trees are growing taller. A hundred years from now they will be massive and stately trees.
The top of the Joshua tree looks like neon green in the foreground.
The top of the Joshua tree looks like neon green in the foreground.
Golden light on the Joshua trees.
Golden light on the Joshua trees.
The two moai shaped boulders are the focal point near the Joshua trees.
The two moai shaped boulders are the focal point near the Joshua trees.
Creosote bush near boulders.
Creosote bush near boulders.
The Joshua tree branches and green leaves in the foreground. Boulders are behind this tree.
The Joshua tree branches and green leaves in the foreground. Boulders are behind this tree.
Bushes are growing all around the sandy toned boulders.
Bushes are growing all around the sandy toned boulders.
The Joshua tree with sandy boulders behind it.
The Joshua tree with sandy boulders behind it.
The Joshua tree is pointing out that night is coming to the land.
The Joshua tree is pointing out that night is coming to the land.
Joshua trees and cholla cacti are growing all around in this valley with the mountains in the distance.
Joshua trees and cholla cacti are growing all around in this valley with the mountains in the distance.
An amazing boulder formation with a solitary large boulder next to it.
An amazing boulder formation with a solitary large boulder next to it.

One of the more entertain rock formations at Joshua Tree National Park is one called Zombie Woof Rock. Here are a few pictures of this interesting boulder formation, which I suppose looks a bit like a zombie.

Picture of me at Zombie Woof Rock
Picture of me at Zombie Woof Rock
Another pose in front of Zombie Woof Rock.
Another pose in front of Zombie Woof Rock.
Yet another pose in front of Zombie Woof Rock.
Yet another pose in front of Zombie Woof Rock.
The Joshua tree as a comparison to how tall Zombie Woof Rock.
The Joshua tree as a comparison to how tall Zombie Woof Rock.

Around sunset it was time to leave Zombie Woof Rock and head back to the parking lot. I took a few pictures along the way.

Walking on the trail with Joshua trees on both sides.
Walking on the trail with Joshua trees on both sides.
Boulders and dead trees along the trail.
Boulders and dead trees along the trail.
Joshua trees and chaparral grow through the park.
Joshua trees and chaparral grow through the park.
Joshua trees in the foreground are now in the shadow of twilight, but the mountains in the distance remain reddish with sunlight.
Joshua trees in the foreground are now in the shadow of twilight, but the mountains in the distance remain reddish with sunlight.
This Joshua tree looks like it is doing a side stretch.
This Joshua tree looks like it is doing a side stretch.
The Joshua trees next to the boulders with the red tinged mountains in the distance.
The Joshua trees next to the boulders with the red tinged mountains in the distance.
The large boulders next to a baby Joshua tree.
The large boulders next to a baby Joshua tree.
The little Joshua tree with the beginning of sunset.
The little Joshua tree with the beginning of sunset.
A second capture of the short little Joshua tree.
A second capture of the short little Joshua tree.
The view of the Joshua trees from the parking lot.
The view of the Joshua trees from the parking lot.
The moon above boulders at Joshua Tree National Park.
The moon above boulders at Joshua Tree National Park.
The view of Joshua trees doting the Hidden Valley.
The view of Joshua trees doting the Hidden Valley.

The Sunset Drive Out of Joshua Tree

The sunset drive out of Joshua Tree National Park was the penultimate way top off the afternoon.

Boulders adorn the hillsides.
Boulders adorn the hillsides.
Orange and yellow colors of the sunset sky.
Orange and yellow colors of the sunset sky.
 The Joshua trees are zooming by.
The Joshua trees are zooming by.
The silhouette of Joshua trees.
The silhouette of Joshua trees.
The view from the car of Joshua trees at sunet.
The view from the car of Joshua trees at sunet.
Sunset and the view of more Joshua trees.
Sunset and the view of more Joshua trees.
Gazing at Joshua trees during sunset.
Gazing at Joshua trees during sunset.
Boulders and sunset in Joshua Tree National Park.
Boulders and sunset in Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua tree with orange hues in the sky.
Joshua tree with orange hues in the sky.
Boulders on the hillside.
Boulders on the hillside.
The sunset illuminated the hills.
The sunset illuminated the hills.
Light orange colors in the sunset sky.
Light orange colors in the sunset sky.
The Joshua tree raises its arms to the sky.
The Joshua tree raises its arms to the sky.
Pink is in the sunset sky with the violet hued mountains in the distance.
Pink is in the sunset sky with the violet hued mountains in the distance.
The view of the Joshua trees as I am leaving the park.
The view of the Joshua trees as I am leaving the park.

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10 comments

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 11 months ago from US

This is a comprehensive hub with complete tour and insights about Joshua tree. I love The Joshua trees tree next to the boulders with the red tinged mountain, lovely.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 11 months ago from Southern California, USA Author

It took a long time to upload all the photos, but I think this write-up will give people a sense of how beautiful it is here. Thanks, prettydarkhorse!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 11 months ago from Nashville Tn.

This is an outstanding, picturesque hub about Joshua Tree. My sister lives in JT which has provided me with the opportunity to see this wonderous place several times. Great photos. Sharing and thanks.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 11 months ago from Southern California, USA Author

I really do love Joshua Tree. You lucky you can see this place so often.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 11 months ago from California Gold Country

I love it too. The rock formations are really fantastic You probably know that a lot of early Hollywood western movies were made there to take advantage of the spectacular background settings.

My uncle, aunt and cousins lived in Indio when I was a kid-- so we spent a lot of time visiting the desert.. it is a wonderful, splendid, cleansing heat in the summer.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 11 months ago from Southern California, USA Author

Yes, you are quite right about how the desert is a cleansing heat. Someone else was mentioning how many of the old movies were filmed out at Joshua Tree. Some used to be filmed up in Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. I wish they still filmed more movies locally, as being an extra can be fun when they need these. My sister was an extra in the Parent Trap remake.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 11 months ago from Houston, Texas

You are so fortunate in living so close to some of those magnificent national parks in California. Thanks for showing us Joshua Tree National Park with all of your photos and videos, particularly as it approached sunset. When my friend and I traveled from Houston to California & back seeing 10 national parks + some state parks along the way...Joshua Tree was one of them. We only saw it in the middle of the afternoon however. Those jumbo rocks are fascinating along with the trees & other vegetation. Love the photos of the glowing mountains towards evening! That rock where you posed is amazing. I still remember Skull Rock as also being very distinctive. Pinning this and also sharing.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 11 months ago from Southern California, USA Author

Oh thanks for your lovely comment, Peggy W. I want to go to Joshua Tree again soon, and we lucked out by going in the late afternoon. The light is so beautiful there during that time of day.


Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 8 months ago

This is so fascinating and Beautiful! I shared with my husband the video and breath taking photos. Interestingly enough, before we chose to stay in Kentucky and buy our home. I thought about moving to California near the Joshua Tree. My son's name is Joshua and I was looking for a *spiritual retreat* at the time. Thanks for the great tips and curious if a cell phone works out in the desert? I bet it gets cold anytime of the season? Thank you for your dedication and time spent pulling this informative piece together. Definitely shared & tweet


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 months ago from Southern California, USA Author

The place where I took these photos were in the Hidden Valley of Joshua Tree, which is only a few miles from the city of Twentynine Palms. Cell reception is pretty good in growing cities like this one. I was shocked to see the growth in the cities leading out to Joshua Tree in the last two decades. When I was a kid it was just an open stretch of road with a few small towns in between. The high desert, which Joshua Tree is considered, gets cold on winter nights. However, even in the winter the temperature is not that cold during the day. Probably in the 50s most days in January and February. The summer months can be in the low hundreds, but it is a dry heat unlike the low desert cities of Blythe.

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