Joshua Tree National Park is filled with awe-inspiring rock formations, peaceful hikes, and gorgeous desert flora. It’s number one draw is that it is a rock-climbing and bouldering paradise. There are climbing options all over the park. It is reasonably easy to get away from crowded routes and find something quiet and personal.
We went to Joshua Tree during the 2018/2019 Government Shutdown, so there were some things we did not get to experience that we wanted to experience. The top of this list was the “Climber’s Coffee” that the park rangers put on every morning. You bring your own mug, and they provide the hot beverages and climbing info. If you go to Joshua Tree and participate in the “Climber’s Coffee” let us know what you think!
Winter is the best time of year to go since the temperatures are cooler. We were there at the end of December, and it barely broke 65 F during the afternoon. Remember, this means the nights can get chilly! Even though this means it is the “busy season” the park did not seem that busy. Maybe we just got lucky. Or maybe there are enough wide open spaces for everyone to enjoy that it never felt crowded.
We found a climbing area in a back section of the park where we did not see anyone else for at least an hour. There is a gravel road just north of the Hemingway Climbing area that is not on the map or marked by a road sign. Driving the road, it seems like this area is going to be too crowded because there are so many cars parked along the side. However, there is a huge climbing and hiking area back there. It is not exactly the most breathtaking sights or exciting part of the park, but it is quiet and refreshing.
We considered hanging our hammock between two Joshua trees while we were back there. I am so glad we did not! It seemed like such a fun idea but something inside of us (perhaps all of the time we have spent in national parks) told us not to. We found out later that it is entirely illegal to hang a hammock from a Joshua tree, mainly because they are fragile trees. Joshua trees only grow at a rate of about one inch per year which I think is enough reason to protect them.
We drove the road to Keys View and stopped for a bit to hike to Lost Horse Mine. The hike to Lost Horse Mine is fairly easy. It is also incredibly boring. The mine itself is cool if you like history. Otherwise, feel free to skip it. We continued driving to the end of Keys View and took time to peruse the lookout point. This is very cool! You can see Palm Springs, the San Andreas Fault, and a mountain peak that sits on the border of Mexico.
There are multiple campgrounds to choose from in the park. I would definitely heed the park website’s warning of reserving early. When we arrived in the mid-afternoon, every single campsite was already filled or had a reserved tag on it.
Right around 5:30 (supper time), the vehicles stream out of Park Blvd and into one of the two nearby towns: Joshua Tree or Twenty-Nine Palms. Twenty-Nine Palms is the bigger of the two towns but both of them have plenty of dining, lodging, and local shop options. We ate at Pie for the People in Joshua Tree and I can easily recommend it. You can order a whole pizza off the menu or choose by the slice out of the fresh options on display at the counter. We ordered the Johnny Popper with is loaded with cream cheese, fresh jalapeños and bacon! So much yum!
The park is gorgeous at night. The stars come out in full force. The wildlife wakes up – we even saw a coyote run right passed us! If you can get away from the camping crowds, it is so calm. We captured this shot of the stars, thinking the light in the back was light pollution from a nearby town. After staying out long enough we learned it was actually the moon rising. One of the most inspiring sights I have ever witnessed!