One of the highlights from our Californian vacation back in January was definitely our visit to Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been wanting to visit the park since I saw it featured in a Runner’s World Rave Run a few years back. I thought the landscape was so unique + I always love finding new trails to explore. When I found out it was only about an hour’s drive from where we were staying in Palm Desert, I knew we had to make the trip.
This land used to be home to cattle hustlers, homesteaders + Native Americans. Secret pastures + watering holes were hidden among the rock formations. I would have loved to camp here, tucked in with the history + the rocks, to watch a sunrise or two.
I will say this: the visitor’s center was sparse, and there is no food or water available in the park (plus super limited cell reception) – so make sure that if you’re planning on hiking to bring your own food + plenty of water. Safety, folks! It was definitely in our favor that it was winter, so the sun wasn’t nearly as hot as it could have been, but I’d imagine this landscape to be pretty brutal in the summer. No need to allot much time for the visitor’s center, just swing in to grab a map + an extra bottle of water then head straight to the park.
Most of the trails in the park are about a mile long, which makes it easy to hike from several points in the park on the same day. We did loops at two different trailheads, along with a drive up to Keys View, the scenic viewpoint where you can look down over the San Andreas fault, along with Palm Desert + all its neighbors.
I was amazed by how many different languages we heard in the park (at least four)! Since Joshua Tree isn’t exactly high on the radar of most Americans, it surprised me to see so many international tourists. I suppose it’s probably because of the proximity to Los Angeles, which makes it an easy day trip for visitors? Anyway, I’m always down for a little linguistic eavesdropping so it was a pleasant surprise!
It was really fun to hike the the Cap Rock Trail, the one from the Runner’s World feature that inspired me to visit in the first place. It was an easy + flat half-mile hike, but you got up close to the rock formations and namesake trees. I’m happy to say that it lived up to my expectations (although this trail is a long drive from pretty much anywhere for only a half mile run) – absolutely beautiful.
If we had more time, we would have driven through the whole park to see the natural arch, the cactus gardens and some of the other features that were farther into the park. Since we just had an afternoon, we kept the visit fairly short + all in one area, but I still feel like we got a great cross-section of what this park has to offer. Surreal landscapes, rock formations + unique desert flora.
There’s something about a drive through the desert, isn’t there?