Named after the native yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree National Park is a compelling visit for anyone who loves nature and landscapes. While most visitors (like myself) visit Joshua Tree National Park in a day – or even a few hours- there are many who wisely choose to spend a few days camping, hiking, sock climbing, taking pictures or start gazing, as the sky is usually very clean and clear. We were lucky enough to get a guided tour of the park, and in this post I’m going to share you some of the highlights guiding you through the best of what the park has to offer.
Why Is it Called Joshua Tree?
The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. And it’s not hard to imagine; just look at the branches and layout of any tree and it can resemble the silhouette of a person with its arms extended (sure, you’ll need some imagination).
A Guided Tour of Joshua Tree National Park
The park includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation: the higher Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert. This results in two very different ecosystems, wildlife and different plants that are found only in specific areas of the park.
We started off with an impressive panoramic view of the Salton Sea (71.3 m below sea level) from the Little San Bernadino Mountains.
And went on to visit some of the most distinct areas of the park. I spotted several groups of bikers that had chosen the park as a place where to rest, and a few tents of people who had decided to spend a night or two. I can only imagine how the star covered sky would look like at night, as even though a few days later we’d join a desert and star gazing tour elsewhere in Palm Springs the full moon did not allow us to see anything.
There are some other non-nature related attractions in the park- or nearby. A few eclectic towns are worth visiting and eating at ( I did not have the opportunity to do so), and the Joshua Tree Inn pictured below is where the dead body of singer Gram Parsons was found on September 19, 1973. His drug addiction was well known, and the subsequent story of where and how he was buried is actually quite humorous- though I’ll spare it for the time being.
I had heard about the park for many years, and its visit is one I highly recommend. The park is about 45 minutes away from Palm Springs and a great opportunity to enjoy some great “non-sandy” desert views. If you only have a few hours to visit I recommend the services of a ranger (ask for George Land!) as you’ll learn much more than if you simply drive through, but if you have a couple of days exploring it on your own can be just as fun if not more. As for accommodation, while Palm Springs is not too far you’ll certainly get to enjoy more the park and its wonderful night sky if you stay in one of these Joshua Tree cabins.
Joshua Tree National Park website: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm
My visit to Joshua Tree National Park was possible thanks to the Palm Springs Visitor Center.