Joshua Tree Weekend

I was maybe 5 years old my previous trip to Joshua Tree. It was just around the corner from grandma’s house in Yucca Valley–we climbed into her orangey-brown striped motor home and off we went down the dusty desert road. I don’t remember much other than scrambling up a rock, staring up at the hot, blue sky and munching on a bag of Bugles (claw fingers, anyone?).
Last weekend, almost 20 years later, I finally returned. Here’s how I spent my two days in the park.


There were three central campgrounds to choose from: Belle, Jumbo Rocks and White Tank. I opted for the latter–the campsites were quiet, fairly spacious and just a short walk away from Arch Rock.


Arch Rock


The .25 mile loop to Arch Rock begins and ends behind White Tank campground. Its an easy stroll and features some fun rocks to climb on, too!

Cottonwood Spring


It’s a 7-mile trek to the spring, which was pretty dry when we were there. However, the giant fan palms that shade the first guided path of the oasis are pretty neat to gander at. They’re the only palm trees native to California, and the biggest palms I’ve ever seen.

Hidden Valley 

If you’re looking for a nice stroll through the desert, come here. The 1-mile loop features unique rock formations (we saw Kim K’s butt and a garden gnome!)  and plenty of Joshua trees and  unusual flora to admire while you’re exploring the natural topography. Don’t be surprised to see climbers and slackliners all over these rocks!

Geology Tour Road


(4wd recommended) This 18-mile out-and-back road took us into the desert backcountry and on a tour of some pretty wild geologic formations. At the beginning of the road, drivers can grab a paper that has descriptions of the 14 posts marking different points of interest spread out along the road. There’s no steep hills or particularly treacherous patches, but the windy dirt path is a ton of fun to drive along and is a wonderful escape from the park crowds (seriously, we didn’t see a single other person out there!) Plus, the end panoramic view is pretty stellar.

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Keys View 

Walk up to the lookout platform at Keys View and you’re gifted with a scene of the entire Coachella Valley, San Jacinto Peak, Palm Springs and beyond.

Cholla Cactus Garden 

These fuzzy-looking cacti are actually very painful (my friend got some in his shoe) but oh-so beautiful, especially for sunset when they seem to glow from the light of the sinking sun. The craziest thing about them is how specific of an altitude they grow at: the plants were abundant here in the gardens, but any higher or lower and they were scarce. Maybe it’s just the mermaid in me, but as I wandered the boardwalk-style path in the gardens, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were underwater in a coral reef.

 Skull Rock (Jumbo Rocks) 

The main attraction here, Skull Rock, isn’t actually all that exciting, but it does draw a crowd. I ventured to the right of the skull, toward Jumbo Rocks campground and did my exploring/ rock scrambling there. Then we drove a little further and found the “Hall of Horrors.” No halls, no horrors, but lots of fun rocks to play on and slackliners to watch!

I’m happy to hear that National Park Service is celebrating 100 years in 2016! Just for fun, here’s a shot of my mom and grandmother enjoying Arch Rock in the ’80s. Hope my children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the parks as we do today!


The Wandering Alligator

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