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April 5, 2021

Joshua Tree Travel Guide

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Joshua Tree Travel Guide

Joshua Tree National Park is a place that I have wanted to visit for many years. When I was a portrait and wedding photographer I would see other photographers that I admired take the most amazing images in this beautiful rural location and it’s been on my travel bucket list ever since.

This vast, otherworldly national park is located in southern California and is home to amazing desert landscapes, rock formations, and a variety of wildlife. Joshua Tree, California is less than an hour away from Palm Springs International airport and is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Los Angeles.

What is Joshua Tree most known for?

Along with the sprawling desert and towering boulders, Joshua Tree is most known for the distinct Yucca brevifolia tree-like plant, also known as a Joshua tree. These spiky, character-like trees grace the entire park and surrounding areas.

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What To See and Do Around Joshua Tree National Park

Before I jump into this Joshua Tree travel guide I want to preface this by saying that I am not a local to the area nor am I an expert on the national park. The main goal of our visit to the Joshua Tree area was mostly to retreat and relax. That being said we did not see the entire park or experience every item on this travel guide. I am writing this post to reflect on our time in and around Joshua Tree and to share some fun travel ideas I have collected from doing my own research on the area.

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Where to stay

The Joshua Tree area has overnight accommodations for every budget from campground sites less than $20 a night to luxury villas reaching more than $3,000 a night. As I mentioned above, we really wanted to relax during our stay which is why we booked this cute and cozy Airbnb pictured here outside of the national park for around $280 a night. Below are a variety of overnight options that we consider the next time we visit this southern California region.

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Things to do

Catch the sunrise or sunset – This was on the top of my list for our visit and the sunset we got to see in the park did not disappoint.

Go hiking – There are more than 100 miles of hiking trails to enjoy in the park. A few key sights to see include Arch Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, and Hidden Valley.

Horseback riding – If hiking isn’t your thing, seeing areas of the park on horseback may be a fun alternative for you.

Rock Climbing – Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination for rock climbers all over the world and offers challenging routes for all ability levels.

Take a long drive – It takes about 1.5 hours (50 miles) to drive from Cottonwood Visitor Center to the town of Joshua Tree on the other side of the park. This is an easy way to see the park and enjoy the winding roads. There is also room to pull over throughout the park to get a closer look at the landscapes.

Go stargazing – This vast desert location has very little light pollution making it a great place to gaze at the beautiful stars above.

Pioneer Town – This movie set was built in the 1940s and has been used to create many old western films and TV shows. Today, the public can roam the dirt roads of the town and wander through most of the buildings. We made a stop at the pottery shop, general store, and the restaurant Pappy & Harriet’s. This small town is located about 10 minutes from Yucca Valley.

Shop local – Find some unique souvenirs at local boutique shops such as Hoof and the Horn and Moon Wind Trading Co.

For park entrance fees and other information click here.

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Places to eat

Pappy & Harriet’s – As I mentioned above, we stopped at this Pioneer Town restaurant for some tasty nachos and margaritas.

Joshua Tree Saloon – This popular spot is conveniently located near the north entrance of the park perfect for a bite on your way in or out.

Joshua Tree Coffee – Get your caffeine fix before a day at the park from this cute local coffee shop.

Crossroads Cafe – The menu here has something for everyone from morning to afternoon.

Roadrunner Grab & Go – Looking to pack lunch for the park? Stop here in the visitor center to get packaged food, snacks, and beverages to take with you.

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Whether you have an upcoming trip to Joshua Tree National Park or are just dreaming about future getaways, I hope you found this post helpful. If you enjoyed my Joshua Tree images, feel free to pin them so you can look back on this post in the future.

If you know of an attraction or hidden gem I missed in this guide, please leave a comment down below or reach out to me on Instagram. I can’t wait to share more travel guides with you soon.

– Olivia


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