Joshua Tree Day Trip: How to Spend One Day in Joshua Tree National Park

Home » Joshua Tree Day Trip: How to Spend One Day in Joshua Tree National Park

Last Updated on February 3, 2021 by Paroma

Looking for what to do on a Joshua Tree day trip? Thenk look no further than this post where I have covered pretty much everything that you need to know about all the things you can do on a day trip to Joshua Tree from Palm Springs. From a beautiful desert sunrise to easy hiking trailsand lookout points, this 1 day in Joshua Tree National Park has lots of tips for you to make the best of your short time here!

Joshua Tree day trip, how to spend a day at Joshua Tree National park

 

 

DAY TRIP TO JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK FROM PALM SPRINGS

I am a city girl to the core and love my concrete jungle, but absolutely romanticize deserts and arid landscapes. There is something magical in their desolation which fascinate me to know end. So it is natural that when I found out about Joshua Tree National Park, which is acres of federally protected wilderness in the Mojave desert of Southern California, I couldn’t wait to get there. Thus a Joshua Tree day trip was a must do for us when we visited Palm Springs

 

In this guide on how to spend a day in Joshua tree, you will find information on a ton of things to do at Joshua tree National Parks such as the best Joshua tree trails to explore,  our attempt at Joshua tree hikes, restaurants near Joshua tree and a few tips and tricks to to make your day trip to Joshua Tree national park memorable.

 Cholla cactus trail at Joshua tree

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HOW TO PLAN A JOSHUA TREE DAY TRIP

a) Best Time to visit Joshua Tree

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is undoubtedly late fall/winter (Nov-Jan) and early Spring (Feb-April), making this place one of the best winter getaways in California. The park is part of the Mojave desert in Southern California and gets dreadfully hot in summer and temperatures continue to stay high in Fall as well. If visiting in Spring, you will be rewarded with some amazing views of California wildflowers blooming all over this national park!

 

We visited the park in early spring (February) and it got pretty hot during the day, with the mercury hovering around mid 70s to early 80s (F). The same goes for all the 6 California desert destinations that are perfect for a road trip! 

Things to do in one day in Joshua Tree

 

b) Getting to Joshua Tree

Joshua tree is an hour’s drive from Palm Springs, a beautiful city by the Sonoran desert in Southern California and about 2hrs east of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Your best best to get to Joshua Tree for a day trip is to stay at Palm Springs and then drive to the National Park.  Needless to say, you will need to rent a car to drive from los angeles to Palm Springs and to Joshua Tree.

Easy Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, one day in Joshua Tree, day trip to Joshua Tree from palm springs, joshua tree hiking trails

 

c) What to wear in Joshua Tree

Being part of a desert, Joshua Tree National Park experiences extremes in temperature and so you need to dress accordingly. Early mornings and nights can be chilly (it does get very cold at night in winter) while day time temperatures will skyrocket, depending on the time of the year that you visit (best to visit in winter and spring). 

 

Wear your usual hiking clothes and sturdy hiking boots on your day trip to Joshua Tree, but remember to layer if you arrive for sunrise or stay back for sunset. Carry ample water since you may get easily dehydrated while hiking. Sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat and sunnies are highly recommended since the sun beats down on this arid landscape.

Joshua Tree day trip

Joshua tree hikes, hiking trails in Joshua Tree national park

 

 

d) Where to stay in Joshua Tree: Hotels near Joshua Tree National Park

If you are wondering about where to stay in Joshua tree, you can find a number of options by clicking on this hotels in Joshua Tree linkSince we made a day trip to Joshua Tree from Palm Springs, we stayed at an Airbnb in Palm Springs, but here is the link for all  Joshua Tree Airbnb for all your Joshua tree lodging needs!

 

I must mention here that of all these, Joshua Tree House is right inside the Joshua tree National Park and if you have the budget for it, definitely snag at least a night’s stay there because it is out of the world beautiful!

Joshua tree day hikes, day trip to Joshua tree

 

 

 

e) Geography of Joshua Tree National Park

If you’ve never been to Joshua Tree, let me start with some trivia on Joshua trees because this is a national park like no other. The park is dotted with these plants unique only to the ecosystem of the Mojave desert that are not any kind of cacti, but belong to the agave family. Their funny, gaunt look with tufts of leaves protruding from randomly spread out branches of different shapes are a delight to behold and they are distinctly different in appearance from other cacti and desert flora.

 

The national park is named after these very trees, which were also immortalized in popular culture when the celebrated pop group U2 released an album by the same name, which went on to become their biggest hit. The trees grow abundantly in some parts of the park, and not so much in others and are not restricted only to the park, but grow all over in the Mojave desert. You will see them all over in the Joshua Tree city and county.

How to spend one day in Joshua Tree

Day trip to Joshua tree

 

 

 

THINGS TO DO IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK ON A DAY TRIP

 

a) Catch a desert sunrise

The one thing that you must absolutely do on your Joshua Tree day trip  is to catch a breathtaking sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park. This experience parallels none other and the ever changing colors of the arid landscape as the first rays of the sun strike it, are a vision of pure beauty and bliss.

 

The Park remains open 24/7, but there is a fee to go in during operational hours ($ 20/vehicle and $10 /pedestrian or cyclist). Just go in super early before the sun rises and you will have the park all to yourself.

 

If you are not an early bird, fret not cause Joshua tree looks splendid at sundown as well, with the ghostly silhouette of the trees against a burnt orange-red sky. In addition, the park is also a great spot for some star gazing owing to the sky above being least polluted by the light from neighboring cities.

Sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park

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b) Tackle some easy day hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

There are so many great view points and Joshua tree trails that its best to experience them or go hiking in Joshua tree in the early hours to avoid the beating sun and crowds if you are spending one day at Joshua Tree.

 

The campgrounds were full during our day trip to Joshua Tree (you need prior permission for camping) and the incoming visitors plus campers can really make you jostle for space during the day.

 

It is therefore best to arrive very early to enjoy the solitude and go on an exploratory Joshua tree hikesJoshua Tree weather is super hot for summer and fall, so it definitely helps to arrive as early as possible!

 

If you are spending only one day in Joshua Tree and are not too keen on going on long, strenuous hikes, then here are a few beginner ones that you can easily cover during your  day trip to Joshua Tree. First, is the Joshua Tree trail which is best experienced at dawn where rows and rows of fuzzy cacti will greet you with shimmering golden borders. 

 

To get to the trail, use the northern entrance to the park which is east of the Joshua Tree Visitor center. Enter the park through the Utah trail and make your way towards the Arch Rock and further down the Pinto Basin road to the most beautiful Joshua Tree trail, i.e. Cholla Cactus Garden trail.

 

This part of the park is off limits to pets and you are advised to stay on the makeshift trail between the cacti taking care not to venture too close to them or touch them since these are “jumping” cacti and can easily penetrate skin and cause injury.

 

Since we were there at sunrise, we had the trail completely to us with no other living being in sight. The stillness in the air, the golden rays of the sun bathing the rows and rows of cacti around us, painted a surreal scene like no other. This  was one of the best Joshua tree hikes for us and definitely a must do for even a beginner while visiting Joshua Tree National Park for the first time.

 

We did not have a whole lot of time to explore the park fully during our day trip to Joshua Tree from Palm Springs but managed to hike a little bit because we are not big hikers and it was honestly getting too hot to explore.

Joshua tree hikes, things to do in Joshua tree

Cholla cactus at Joshua tree

Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes

Sunrise at Joshua Tree

 

 

Our second hike was the 0.5 mile trail around the Arch Rock, one of the shortest Joshua tree hikes where one can see a rocky landscape dotted with Joshua Trees and piles of boulders stacked atop each other.  On our way out, we saw a long line of cars waiting to enter the park and thanked our lucky stars that we had managed to get in early.

 

Those of you who are avid hikers and would like to explore beyond these easy Joshua Tree hikes, there are several options available and you can read this article for 16 awesome hikes at Joshua tree that you cannot miss.  For example, you can make your way from Arch Rock to hike at Ryan mountains  or go up north towards Barker Dam and Hidden Valley

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Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, sunrise at Joshua tree, day trip from palm springs, joshua tree restaurants, first timers guide to joshua tree, joshua tree hiking trails, where to stay in Joshua tree

Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, sunrise at Joshua tree, day trip from palm springs, joshua tree restaurants, first timers guide to joshua tree, joshua tree hiking trails, where to stay in Joshua tree

One day in Joshua tree

 

 

c) Lookout points at Joshua Tree

If you are not big into hiking (much like us), there are some popular viewing spots in the park that you should check out during your Joshua Tree day trip. Skull Rock (a huge overhanging rock shaped like a skull) is one such spot at Joshua Tree but we found it too crowded for our taste and quickly moved on to our next destination-the iconic Keys View point.

 

From here where you can see the famous San Andreas fault, the city of Palm Springs, the looming snow capped Mount San Jacinto and the Salton Sea. The road from Arch Rock to Keys View as well as the Black Rock Canyon further up north and west are the two best spots for viewing Joshua Trees. Most trees in this part of the park are full grown, mature ones unlike those in sparse southern entrance.

 

We had a limited time to see everything during our day trip to Joshua Tree, but boy, were we glad to stop by the Keys View lookout point! The view from Keys View lookout point is jaw-dropping. Stair lead to the viewing area where its best to sit for some time and take in the serenity of the desert valley with the majestic mountains overlooking Palm Springs and Coachella Valley. On a clear day, the shimmering water of Salton sea also visible.

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Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, sunrise at Joshua tree, day trip from palm springs, joshua tree restaurants, first timers guide to joshua tree, joshua tree hiking trails, where to stay in Joshua tree

Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, sunrise at Joshua tree, day trip from palm springs, joshua tree restaurants, first timers guide to joshua tree, joshua tree hiking trails, where to stay in Joshua tree

Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, sunrise at Joshua tree, day trip from palm springs, joshua tree restaurants, first timers guide to joshua tree, joshua tree hiking trails, where to stay in Joshua tree

Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, sunrise at Joshua tree, day trip from palm springs, joshua tree restaurants, first timers guide to joshua tree, joshua tree hiking trails, where to stay in Joshua tree

 

 

 

WHERE TO EAT AT JOSHUA TREE: THE BEST RESTAURANTS TO VISIT 

Spending a day at Joshua tree is sure to make you hungry and so here are some yummy restaurant recommendations to get your taste buds satisfied! There are some pretty amazing restaurants around Joshua Tree National Park, so you don’t have to carry a ton of energy bars or food during your Joshua Tree day trip

 

Country Kitchen, a pint sized family owned diner run by a very friendly Cambodian couple, is a must visit Joshua tree restaurant. You cannot leave this place (btw, it is cash only) without having their melt in the mouth, fluffy chocolate pancakes which are to die for! CrossRoads Cafe and Tavern is another amazing restaurant near Joshua tree with lots of vegetarian/vegan options. You can read more about all the yummy vegetarian food that we ate at Palm Springs and Joshua Tree right here.

Joshua Tree restaurants, where to eat in Joshua tree, vegetarian restaurants

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OTHER MUST READ POSTS ON JOSHUA TREE

if you are visiting for the first time, here is a beautiful postcard from Joshua tree to get you inspired! For more southern California National parks, read this fantastic guide on 5 things to see and do in Death Valley National park.

 

You can also read about how to plan for Yellowstone National Park which is another fantastic west coast gem or spend one day in Death Valley National park in southern California if you have less time!

 

For even more California National parks inspiration, read this guide on 4 California National parks that should be on everybody’s list. Visiting Joshua Tree with kids? Read Melissa’s informative guide on exploring Joshua tree with kids. 

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Day trip to Joshua tree, Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree national park, sunrise at Joshua tree, day trip from palm springs, joshua tree restaurants, first timers guide to joshua tree, joshua tree hiking trails, where to stay in Joshua tree

 

 

 

Day trip to Joshua tree: Parting thoughts

Day trip to Joshua tree

Joshua Tree National park represents a geology, ecosystem, flora & fauna habitat like no other and is unique in its beauty. It is unlike any other North American National park that you’ve visited, with a wilderness that is magical and captivating.

 

I hope I could get you, dear reader, enticed enough by this short Joshua tree day trip guide to visit this unique National Park! The beauty of the desert is understated, yet unparalleled and the only way to experience it is to lose yourselves in the land dotted with Joshua trees, piercing the stony, barren soil. The trails and hiking spots of interest to catch more of the breathtaking vistas are listed in this National Parks Services website.

 

 

 
 
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Joshua tree guide is a first time visitors guide to Joshua tree national Park, California, USA. Includes information on best Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree trails, hotels and restaurants near Joshua tree national Park. Read this guide for a day trip to Joshua tree and pin it to your California board! #joshuatree #california #hiking #nationalparksUSA #USnationalparks

Joshua tree guide is a first time visitors guide to Joshua tree national Park, California, USA. Includes information on best Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree trails, hotels and restaurants near Joshua tree national Park. Read this guide for a day trip to Joshua tree and pin it to your California board! #joshuatree #california #hiking

Joshua tree guide is a first time visitors guide to Joshua tree national Park, California, USA. Includes information on best Joshua tree hikes, Joshua tree trails, hotels and restaurants near Joshua tree national Park. Read this guide for a day trip to Joshua tree and pin it to your California board! #joshuatree #california #hiking

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11 thoughts on “Joshua Tree Day Trip: How to Spend One Day in Joshua Tree National Park”

  1. Great post. I lived in California for 8 years and never visited. The plant life is so exotic- I love your photos. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for including so many photos in this post! Joshua Tree NP has been on my list for a long time, and your beautiful pictures just reinforced my desire to get my butt down there! I definitely be referencing your guide when I make my own plans for the park :).

    Reply
  3. Haha! Well, I’m pretty much the opposite of you. I LOVE the water, and hope to one day live with a view of the ocean. Mountains? Hiking? I’m allergic to too much of it. But, I have to admit, those trees are so interesting looking, and the desert is starkly beautiful. I think I could manage it for a while, just to have some fun with my camera!

    Reply
  4. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post, because I’m heading to Joshua Tree National Park for the first time next month! (Super excited!) 🙂 Thanks so much for the insightful tips, especially about getting up there before sunrise to beat the crowds, and also, I’m totally gonna check out that restaurant with vegetarian options! Pinned it for later! 🙂 Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing! I would love to go there with my camera and shoot. The plants look amazing, great photos! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
  6. just beautiful. I have always wanted to visit Joshua tree but still haven’t made it there… great info on where to go when I do visit!

    Reply
  7. I too love the mountains and desert landscape. Then again that’s all I’ve ever lived around. I’ve driven through Joshua tree, but never stopped to appreciate what I was seeing. Guess I’ll need to head back out there, especially since I’ve grown fond of photography this past year.

    Reply
  8. This is so great! I have yet to visit Joshua Tree, but it is very high on my list. I’ll definitely be coming back to this post when I go!

    Reply

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