Joshua Tree National Park in California

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California encompasses parts of the higher-elevation Mojave Desert, where Joshua trees are found, and the lower-elevation Colorado Desert, home to cholla cacti.

The Joshua tree, or palm tree yucca, is so named because its form reminded traveling Mormons of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Here’s the same Joshua tree again, showing scale:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Seen together, Joshua trees resemble a forest as drawn by a little kid:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

We decided to camp out in an area called Jumbo Rocks, where we scrambled and wandered around as well:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

From a distance, the rocks look like the folds on a giant’s fleshy body:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

This is me posing in the nostril of Skull Rock:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

The Cholla Cactus Garden is amazing! I had expected something like a botanical garden with precisely planted and labeled plant specimens. Instead, it’s an area thick with these distinct cacti that look dip-dyed:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Joshua Tree National Park in California

There is sort of a trail that winds through the chollas, allowing you to get really close to them. They are beautiful but very prickly:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

At Keys View, you can look out over Coachella Valley to the Salton Sea and the San Andreas Fault. On a really clear day, you can supposedly see all the way to Mexico:

Joshua Tree National Park in California

Having now spent a bit of time in the Mojave, Colorado and Sonora Deserts, I’m definitely on Team Mojave. Joshua Tree National Park was an incredible experience, and I’d love to return at a different time during the year, exploring and camping in some different areas.

13 thoughts on “Joshua Tree National Park in California

  1. Joshua Tree was my first desert love. I learned orienteering and rock climbing there. What a special place! If you haven\’t been to Southeast Utah yet, there are no words to describe it\’s beauty. My heart aches just thinking about it. I always prefer the desert over a beach.

  2. Danielle, I’ll take the desert over the beach and a lot of other kinds of places. On this trip, we checked out Zion and Grand Staircase-Escalante, but I already want to return to Utah to explore more. What a beautiful place!

  3. Hi Danielle. I enjoyed your photos. My wife and I moved from LA to Joshua Tree in 2005. It’s a magical place, as you discovered, from the amazing night skies to the other-worldly rock formations, plants and animals. Since you’re in the design field, I also wanted to let you know that there is a growing art/design community establishing itself here. Lots of “refugees” from corporate America are moving here and establishing small businesses or discovering that they can work remotely. And housing is cheap compared to many other places. With +/- $50,000, you can buy a cabin on five acres of gorgeous Mojave desert and create your own world — only two hours from LA. Plus, there’s an active and growing art and music scene. Lots of great people relocating here. Come back and see us again some time or tell a friend!

    John Schuster

  4. Wow, interesting! While we were out there, we joked about what it would take to move our lives to the area, although I’m not sure that I could handle the desert 24/7.

  5. That was our concern too. The summers are hot (though about 15 degrees cooler than Palm Springs). The summer nights are velvety and lovely. The rest of the year, the weather is just about perfect. When it’s too hot in summer, we head to the beach in North County San Diego, where it’s usually about 30 degrees cooler!

  6. To tell you the truth, I think I’m too much of an urbanite and Northeasterner to be able to live in such a place, but I’ll gladly visit again!

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