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Joshua Tree is home to some of the best climbing in the United States with thousands of routes. Camping, hiking, backpacking, and cycling are all also superb among the incredible rock formations and rich desert ecosystems of Joshua Tree.
Relevant Guidebooks & Maps
Joshua Tree Rock Climbing Guide
From Claremont take I-10 east past Banning. Turn north on 62 to Yucca Valley. Follow 62 through Yucca Valley. In the small town of Joshua Tree turn right at the light on Park Boulevard. Follow this road to the right and into the park and to your destination. Just before the 62/Park Boulevard intersection is Arturo's - a classic OTL dining spot with great Mexican food. Yucca valley has grocery stores and fast food as well. The drive is about 1.75 hours without too much traffic. For Indian Cove keep driving past the town of Joshua Tree to the Indian Cove entrance. This does not connect with the rest of the park except by a long hike.
Just turned from a National Monument to National Park, Joshua Tree is one of the hidden gems of the Southern California desert. Its incredible rock formations and subtle desert ecosystems are a perfect place for a number of activities. Coyotes, rabbits, snakes, and other wildlife are common. The weather is perfect in the spring and fall and the sky is amazingly clear - especially after coming from Claremont. With the new National Park title, Joshua Tree is destined to change. "Improvements" are scheduled that will pave many dirt roads and change camping to a reservation system. For those interested in visiting Josh while its still relatively rustic and unknown, enjoy it while you can. As of January 1995, however, no changes were scheduled until after five years. While Joshua Tree has been visited by OTL primarily for climbing, there is lots more to be explored.
Camping: Camping exists throughout the park and is all free (after the $5 entrance fee). The most popular spot is Hidden Valley, especially for climbers. If Hidden Valley is full try Ryan, Jumbo Rocks, and Belle. An alternate location is in Indian Cove, which has a separate entrance. If all the campsites are full you can also backcountry camp. To backcountry camp you MUST park at the designated parking areas. From there you hike at least a mile and camp wherever. With large groups minimize impact by spreading out. The newspaper available at the entrance station has a list of all the parking areas and backcountry regulations. If you arrive after dinner Friday expect to backcountry camp, especially in fall and spring. Reservations are not allowed except for the group sites at Sheep's Pass, Indian Cove, and some other areas distant from the center of the park. For reservations call Mystics at 1-800-365-2267 (Josh code is 5674) well in advance.
Hiking: Great hiking exists throughout the monument. The Wonderland of Rocks presents a unique location for exploring endless "roadrunner" rocks. Marked trails can be followed from almost any of the parking lots in the monument, or scramble anywhere you heart desires. Longer hikes are possible - one goes from the north Wonderland of Rocks parking area (near Key's Corner) to Indian Cove. Another popular hike is to Ryan Mountain. Park at the designated area between Ryan campground and Sheep's Pass.
Biking: Bikes are allowed in the park, but only on the paved and dirt roads. Many road bikers use the relatively uncrowded park roads to cruise the vast park. Mountain bikers can utilize the miles of dirt roads that cross the park. The Geology Tour road offers a good ride as does the Barker Dam road. Do not ride off the roads.
Climbing: Check out our separate JTree Climbing Guide.
Weather in the desert is always a concern. Joshua Tree can be over 100 for much of the late spring, summer, and early fall. In the winter snow is common on the desert floor. Check the weather and plan accordingly. Stick to sunny routes in winter and shady routes other times. Water is especially important. None is found in the park so bring plenty. When camping in the backcountry don't sleep in the washes, especially when rain is forecast. Rattlesnakes and scorpions are common. If people want to explore make sure they go in groups and warm them about the increased difficulty of downclimbing. Monument headquarters - (619) 367-6376.
Edited by (in order): OTL Staff
Last updated: 05/22/2009