Looking for the perfect weekend itinerary to Joshua Tree National Park? From best hikes to where to stay, here’s everything you need to know!
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography lover, or simply seeking a peaceful weekend escape, Joshua Tree has something magical to offer.
This Joshua Tree travel guide will provide a detailed three-day itinerary for the perfect weekend getaway to Joshua Tree National Park. From exploring hidden gems to conquering challenging hikes and marveling at natural wonders, our weekend getaway itinerary to Joshua Tree National Park has got you covered.
I’ll also share some of my favorite accommodation options in and around the park along with other tips.
What Is Joshua Tree National Park Known For?
Joshua Tree National Park holds countless wonders and surprises.
Located in Southern California, this park is where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, creating a unique environment for diverse flora and fauna to thrive.
But Joshua Tree is not only about its iconic trees; it’s also home to breathtaking rock formations, ancient petroglyphs, and an array of fascinating wildlife.
From the famous Joshua Tree sunrise to the enchanting stargazing opportunities, the park offers a sensory feast for those who seek adventure and connection with nature.
Get ready to be inspired, amazed, and perhaps even find a little piece of yourself within the park’s extraordinary embrace.
Read more: California Travel Guide
Day 1: Arrival at Joshua Tree National Park and Exploration
Arriving at Joshua Tree
When it comes to arriving at Joshua Tree National Park and embarking on your unforgettable adventure, a little preparation can go a long way.
First things first, let’s talk about reaching the park. To make the most of your weekend getaway, I recommend starting your day early.
The best way to reach the park is by car since public transport options are quite limited. If you’re flying into California from out of state, I recommend flying into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) and renting a car from there. The park is about a one-hour drive from Palm Springs. You can also drive from Los Angeles, which will take you a little over two hours.
Once you arrive at the park entrance, I recommend stopping by the Joshua Tree Visitor Center to gather information about trails, as well as any current alerts or closures.
After you’ve armed yourself with essential park knowledge, it’s time to hit the trails!
Read more: How To Rent A RV For A Road Trip
Morning: Scenic Viewpoints and Easy Trails
Morning may just be my favorite time of day at Joshua Tree National Park. I loved starting my day with an easy hike to warm up my body and get started with the day. A few of my favorites are:
- Keys View: Get a panoramic view of Coachella Valley and surrounding mountain ranges. An absolute must! You can also save this for day 3 if you want to do a more challenging hike on the first day.
- Barker Dam Nature Trail: Take a short 1.1-mile loop past a historic dam built by cattle ranchers in the early 1900s.
If you’re looking for something more challenging but still manageable on your first day at Joshua Tree National Park, consider trying out one of these moderate hikes:
- Ryan Mountain Trail: A moderately strenuous 2-hour hike up Ryan Mountain. But the stunning view from the top definitely makes the sweat worth it.
- Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail: This moderate hike takes you to the historic Lost Horse Mine, where gold was once extracted from the desert landscape. You can learn more about the history here.
Evening: Stargazing and Night Sky Appreciation
There’s no better way to end the day than stargazing. Joshua Tree National Park’s renowned lack of light pollution makes it the ideal stargazing location.
Find a comfortable spot, turn off your phone, and marvel at the countless stars that fill the night sky. I was blown away by the amount of stars I could see from the park.
Read more: The Best Places to Camp in California
Day 2: Hiking and Natural Wonders at Joshua Tree
When it comes to hiking and experiencing the natural wonders of Joshua Tree National Park, prepare to be amazed at every turn. So for day two, lace up your hiking boots, pack some snacks, and get ready to immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of this desert wonderland.
Popular Hiking Trails
As I mentioned, I love starting the day with a hike. Two more popular trails that are worth checking out are:
- Hidden Valley Nature Trail: A one-mile easy loop trail that takes you through a stunning valley. There are also some picnic areas along the trail if you’d like to pack a lunch with you to enjoy the outdoors.
- Cottonwood Spring Oasis: A hidden gem at Joshua Tree National Park, on this trail you can walk through a lush palm oasis surrounded by towering cottonwood trees. This is also a great trail to pack a picnic lunch for and enjoy at a leisurely pace.
Natural Landmarks Worth Visiting
For the afternoon, I recommend planning a visit to one (or several!) of the natural landmarks in the park.
- Arch Rock: Located near White Tank Campground, this impressive natural arch is accessible via an easy half-mile hike from Arch Rock Nature Trail parking area. A great photo opportunity.
- Skull Rock: Another iconic landmark is Skull Rock, an extraordinary rock formation that resembles a skull emerging from the desert floor. It’s a perfect spot to snap some unique photos and let your imagination run wild.
- Cholla Cactus Garden: A quarter-mile loop trail takes you through a dense concentration of Cholla cacti, showcasing their unique beauty and resilience.
The golden hour is perfect for capturing photos of this stunning landscape. And if you’re looking for some tips on how to take great travel pictures, sign up for my email newsletter to get my free travel photography eBook.
Day 3: Last Adventures and Farewell
As the adventure-filled journey in Joshua Tree National Park draws to a close, it’s time to make the most of our final day and bid farewell to this captivating desert wonderland.
Rock Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park
If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, I highly recommend engaging in the exciting world of rock climbing or bouldering, where you can test your limits against the park’s rugged cliffs and boulders.
For those who prefer a more leisurely experience, a visit to the Keys View lookout is an absolute must if you didn’t make it there on day one. From this vantage point, prepare to be captivated by the sweeping panoramic views that encompass the vastness of the park, the majestic San Jacinto Mountains, and the breathtaking expanse of the Coachella Valley.
If you’re looking to learn a little bit more about the history of the location, I highly recommend stopping by the park’s museum, which showcases many Native American artifacts found within the park’s boundaries.
Outside the Park
As the day unfolds, don’t miss the chance to visit the nearby town of Joshua Tree. Take some time to explore its charming shops, where you can find unique souvenirs to commemorate your journey or indulge in a delicious meal that showcases the local flavors.
- Pioneertown: Check out Pioneertown – a quirky Old West-themed town originally built as a film set in the 1940s. Today it offers visitors shops selling local crafts and souvenirs along with live music performances at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
- Integratron: About 20 minutes from Joshua Tree, you’ll find the Integratron – a unique dome-like structure built in the 1950s that offers visitors sound baths and relaxation experiences. Reservations are required on certain days of the week, so be sure to book ahead if this interests you.
And of course, don’t forget to snap some final photos before saying goodbye to this extraordinary desert oasis.
Read more: The Best Photography Locations In California
Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay during your visit to Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll be pleased to discover a range of options that cater to different preferences and budgets. Whether you’re seeking a rustic camping experience under the starry desert sky or prefer the comforts of a cozy cabin or hotel, there’s something for everyone.
Camping at Joshua tree national park
For those who wish to immerse themselves fully in the park’s natural beauty, camping within the park is an incredible option. Joshua Tree offers several campgrounds, each with its unique charm and amenities, allowing you to wake up to the tranquil sounds of nature.
If you prefer a bit more comfort, there are also private campgrounds and RV parks in the nearby vicinity.
Check out my comprehensive Joshua Tree camping guide for more details on camping in the area.
But if camping isn’t your style or you prefer more comfort and privacy, consider staying in one of the many Airbnbs available in the area. These accommodations offer unique amenities that can make your trip even more memorable.
On my last visit to Joshua Tree, I stayed at an incredible Airbnb that I highly recommend. This stylish desert retreat features artisan furnishings, comfortable beds, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The outdoor patio is perfect for relaxing after a long day exploring the park or enjoying dinner under the stars.
If you’re traveling with friends or family members who want their own space but still want to be close by, there’s also a smaller cabin next door available for rent – complete with an outdoor tub.
FAQs: Weekend Itinerary to Joshua Tree
For a fun weekend getaway, plan to spend two to three days exploring Joshua Tree National Park’s hiking trails, rock formations, and stargazing opportunities.
Yes. Joshua Tree can get crowded on weekends, especially during peak season from October through May, so if you’re looking for a quiet getaway, consider visiting on weekdays or in the summer months to avoid the crowds.
The best times to visit Joshua Tree are March through May and October through November when temperatures are comfortable for outdoor activities and wildflowers may be in bloom.
Both morning and evening visits offer unique experiences at Joshua Tree, with cooler temperatures for hiking in the morning and stunning sunsets and stargazing opportunities in the evening.
Yes, a park entrance fee is required. You can purchase a 7-day vehicle pass for $30 or an annual pass for $55. If you plan on visiting other national parks within the year, consider purchasing an America The Beautiful Pass.