20 Joshua Tree National Park Travel Tips

Joshua Tree Travel Tips to Know Before You Visit

Planning an epic road trip through Southern California to Joshua Tree National Park? Well, you have certainly landed in the right place. In this Joshua Tree travel guide I am covering 20 travel tips you should know before planning your visit! 

Did you know that Joshua Trees are a species of Yucca? That makes the Joshua Tree a succulent plant, not a tree.

Hidden valley in Joshua tree national park

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1. Navigation Travel Tips in Joshua Tree

It comes as no surprise that Joshua Tree National Park has no cell phone reception. Therefore, you should not depend on your cell phone for navigation. Instead, I would suggest downloading the offline version from your Google Maps or Waze, using a Satellite GPS, and bringing a paper map. By doing this, you won’t have to worry about getting lost! 

road in Joshua Tree national park. woman standing in street

2. Download Trail Maps Beforehand

When visiting Joshua Tree, I learned that a handful of hikes did not have great markers, or even show where the trail started. This made it difficult for us since we did not download the trail map ahead of time. So another one of the most important travel tips I have for you in Joshua Tree is to download the trail map before getting to the park! 

A popular app you can use to get offline maps is Alltrails. This would have really helped us at Halls of Horror since there was no signage in the parking lot. 

3. You Need a Car in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree does not have public transportation running through the park, therefore, renting a car is your best bet. You can find Rental Cars here! Joshua Tree National Park is 792,510 acres, so there are lots to explore! 

Additionally, Joshua Tree does have some trails that are for only cars with 4×4. However, the most popular attractions most visit with One Day in Joshua Tree do not require it! 

Road trip sunset in Joshua Tree National Park

4. Get Gas Before Before Entering Joshua Tree

Another one of the top travel tips to know when visiting Joshua Tree National Park is that there are no gas stations inside the park. Therefore, it is important for you to fill up your gas tank before entering!

We noticed a handful of gas stations between the West Entrance (Joshua Tree Village) and the North Entrance (Twentynine Palms). Once inside the park, you won’t want to have to leave because you are low on gas!

5. Check Your Vehicle Before Hitting the Road

Since Joshua Tree is a road trip kind of park, you will want to do a routine check on your vehicle. This is because there are no service stations in Joshua Tree, and because there is also no cell phone service, getting a spare tire can be a little difficult. Speaking of which, you should make sure you have a donut tire and a first aid kit.

One day in Joshua Tree - Joshua Trees National Park Road Trip itinerary
Road Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

6. Bring Snacks and Water

At this point, you may be noticing a reoccurring theme in these Joshua Tree travel tips. Joshua Tree has a lot of beauty, but no goods or services in the park. So while you are venturing through this high desert, make sure to pack plenty of snacks and water because Joshua Tree has very little water and no food. Salty snacks are usually best.

Joshua Tree National Park is a part of both the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. There is very little to no shade in Joshua Tree. The National Park Service recommends having at least a gallon of water per person a day!

7. Don’t Visit Joshua Tree in the Summer

Joshua Tree National Park is open all year, but the best time to visit Joshua Tree is in the Fall, Winter, and Spring! Visiting during one of these seasons will offer cooler temperatures from the desert heat. During the summer months, the park’s heat can be unbearable at temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit! 

The busiest time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is in the Spring, specifically March and April.

During the winter, you do have the rare chance of seeing snow in Joshua Tree since it is considered a high elevation desert. Temperatures during the winter can be in the mid to high 30’s. It also gets pretty cold at night. 

barker dam trail joshua tree

8. Plan to see the Sunrise or Sunset at Joshua Tree

When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, plan to see the sunrise, sunset, or both while visiting the park. Because Joshua Tree is generally a day trip for most, the sunset might be the easiest! The three most popular places to catch the sunset in Joshua Tree National Park are Cholla Cactus Garden, Barker Dam, and Keys View. 

We watched the sunset at Cholla Cactus Garden and I can highly recommend it! 

One of the most important Joshua Tree travel tips to keep in mind for watching the sunset is to make sure to get to your destination early. This is because mountain ranges surround the park. So, Although the sun does not go down until 6 PM, the sun may already be covered by the mountain at that time.

Sunset at the Cholla Cactus Garden is a must with one day in Joshua tree National Park

9. Joshua Tree Packing Travel Tips

As mentioned above, Joshua Tree can get chilly in the morning and at night. I would suggest bringing extra layers, such as a light jacket and pants, in the car with you. 

For day activities, wearing lightweight, breathable clothing is best for Joshua Tree. Additionally, don’t forget your sunscreen! We got sunburns in the winter! Things like hats and sunscreen (my go-to for sensitive skin and mineral-based) are a great addition to bring with you! 

Here is my detailed Joshua Tree Packing List!

joshua Tree Travel tips when hiking around the park - view of Hidden valley trail

10. Joshua Tree National Park is Great for Day Trips 

Joshua Tree is a very popular National Park to take day trips to from other cities. Some of the most popular starting points for a day trip to Joshua Tree include Palm Springs, San Diego, Death Valley National Park, and Los Angeles. 

During our California road trip, we actually started in San Diego, then went to Palm Springs and did a day trip to Joshua Tree, then went to Death Valley, and ended in Los Angeles! 

Heading to San Diego? Check out my 3 Day Weekend in Day San Diego Itinerary!

11. Joshua Tree Lodging Travel Tips

Usually, it is always best to get your hotel inside the National Park to save on driving time. However, Joshua Tree does not have any lodging inside the park! There are towns outside the park and not too far from the entrance gates. Additionally, there are also 8 campgrounds located inside the park. 

The Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds are pretty competitive and are either first come, first serve or require a reservation. If camping is your thing, I would suggest checking out Jumbo Rocks Campground and White Tank Campground. You can find more campground information here!

Hotels Near Joshua Tree to Consider

Palm Springs is a very popular place to stay when traveling to Joshua Tree. It is about an hour away, but the city offers tons of food and resorts. If you are planning on visiting during the winter or spring, make sure to book in advance since Palm Springs is a popular destination.

Courtyard by Marriott Palm Desert: We stayed here overnight for our day trip to Joshua Tree. The room was large, clean, and had a balcony. It worked well for our day trip to Joshua Tree.

Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs: A popular resort 4-star resort in Plam Springs that is conveniently located to all. The hotel also has two dining options, a spa, and more.

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa: For those looking to spend more time in Palm Springs. The Omni is located in Palm Desert, south of Palm Springs, and is a lovely property. It is especially popular for families.

Located closer to the Joshua Tree National Park entrance are the Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, and Twentynine Palms. Here you will find more of those desert chic vacation homes to rent.

Barker Dam trail with a joshua tree
Arch Rock Trail in Joshua Tree. Woman in white dress standing between granite boulders.

12. Joshua Tree Entrances and Fees

Joshua Tree National Park has 3 entrances to the Park to choose from. The West and North entrances are generally the most popular.

  • The West Entrance is 5 miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village.
  • The North Entrance is in Twentynine Palms (located on Highway 62).
  • The South Entrance is by Cottonwood Spring and has an access point along Interstate 10. Check out the Cottonwood Visitor Center.

Admission to Joshua Tree National Park pass is $30 per vehicle, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for those on foot or bicycle. All are for 7 days in the park. It is $55 for an annual pass to Joshua Tree National Park. 

If you plan on visiting 3 or more National Parks, consider getting the America The Beautiful Pass. It is $80 USD and offers entrance into all of the National Parks for 1 year. 2 people can utilize the pass and it covers up to 4 people per car. 

Currently, Joshua Tree allows you to buy your pass electronically here. It needs to be printed out or saved on your phone when you arrive. You can also buy passes at the Joshua Tree Visitors Center.

Additionally, it is free to visit Joshua Tree National Park on the below dates. Keep in mind that these are some of the busiest times to visit.

  • Jan 16, 2023: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Apr 16, 2022: First Day of National Park Week
  • Aug 4, 2023: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • Sep 23, 2023: National Public Lands Day
  • Nov 11, 2023: Veterans Day

13. Plan Your Itinerary ahead of Time

One of the best tips I can recommend is planning out your day when visiting Joshua Tree. This way, you will reduce backtracking! I usually put all my “must-see” points of interest on google maps and then put them in order to what is nearest to one another. 

If you want to see how we explored Joshua Tree National Park, check out my One Day in Joshua Tree Itinerary!

Skull Rock is a must with one day in Joshua Tree

14. Consider Visiting Nearby Parks / Attractions 

Another great Joshua Tree Travel Tip is to actually consider seeing some things that are near or around the park.

One of the most popular places to visit outside of Joshua Tree National Park is Pioneer Town. This “Town” is an old western town that was built as a 1940s Hollywood set. It is so popular that more than 50 tv shows and films have used this location! If you have extra time, it is a really interesting and fun stop. 

Salvation Mountain is another popular place to consider visiting near Joshua Tree. You have likely seen this colorfully painted rock on social media. It was painted by local resident Leonard Knight in the California Desert and can be visited from sunrise to sunset. 

Other popular areas are Big Bear Lake, Palm Springs, Mojave National Preserve, The Joshua Tree Saloon, and Death Valley National Park.

Mesquite Sand Dunes day trip. Woman walking through dunes in red dress
Mesquite Sand Dunes Death Valley

15. Learn About Joshua Tree’s History

They have been able to trace people living in Joshua Tree National Park for at least 5,000 years! Of those people, Native Tribes, including the Cahuilla, the Chemehuevi, and the Serrano.

However, during the 1800s, many came looking for gold and ranches. By 1913 the Chemehuevi and the Serrano were gone. 

Then in 1936, Minerva Hamilton Hoyt fought to have the desert lands that are now Joshua Tree preserved. Her work led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make Joshua Tree a National Monument. In 1994, Joshua Tree became a National Park.

16. Keep a Safe Distance from Wildlife

This Joshua Tree travel tip might be a given, but I will say it anyway! It is important to keep a safe distance from wildlife in Joshua Tree. There is dangerous wildlife in Joshua Tree including 7 different species of rattlesnakes, scorpions, and spiders.

When climbing around the rocks, watch where you put your hands and feet. We only saw a crow and a rabbit during our trip, so it’s not like there are just tons of wild animals at every corner.

Hidden Valley Trail is a must with a day trip to Joshua Tree

17. Stay on Path and Follow the Rules

When visiting any park, it is always important to stay on the path and follow any of the rules of the park. Unfortunately, people have lost their lives at Joshua Tree from preventable accidents. Making sure to have enough water, watching out for flash floods, driving the speed limit, and staying away from abandoned mines will help keep you safe and have a great time in the park! 

Additionally, pets are not allowed on any of the trails (this park is not very pet-friendly) and make sure to dispose of waste properly.

18. Bring Your Camera, but Leave Your Drone

Joshua Tree is a fantastic park to photograph during the day and at night. Known as an International Dark Sky, you can get great astrophotography photos of the milky way and more!

I share what I bring in my camera bag here. However, Drones are not allowed in any national parks.

Even a point-and-shoot camera is great if you are not “that into” photography. You don’t even have to like photography to really appreciate the night sky at Joshua Tree!

Stargazing by the white tank campground in Joshua Tree
Stars in the White Tank Campground

19. Joshua Tree Hiking Travel Tips

Hiking and climbing boulders are the two most popular things to do in Joshua Tree National Park. Therefore, to assist in helping you plan an awesome trip, here are some of the most popular hikes, which are all relatively short! All hikes can be found on Alltrails. 

Avoid longer hikes on hot days in Joshua Tree, and make sure to tell someone where you will be hiking and what time you plan to be back – especially if you are hiking alone.

  • Hidden Valley – 1-mile loop
  • Barker Dam – 1.1-mile loop
  • Skull Rock (from Jumbo Campground) – 1.7-mile loop
  • Arch Rock Trail – 1.4-mile lollipop trail
  • Split Rock Loop – 2.5 miles 

20. Airports Closest to Visit Joshua Tree

You may be wondering what airport to fly into when visiting Joshua Tree and since you are here for travel tips, I figured it fit well!

Popular Airports to fly into near Joshua Tree National Park: 

  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) 43 miles 
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) 146 miles
  • San Diego International Airport (SAN) 160 miles
  • Las Vegas McCarran Airport (LAS) 180 miles
  • Check Skyscanner for flights!

Joshua Tree National Park Travel Tips Guide Wrap-up

This sums up the 20 Joshua Tree National Park travel tips to know for planning an epic trip! I hope you find them helpful! 

Have any questions about these Joshua Tree travel tips, or feel like I left something out? Let me know in the comments below! 

If you found value in this Joshua Tree National Park Travel Tips Guide, I’d appreciate it if you could share it below! 

Joshua Tree National Park travel tips
Photo of author

Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

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