Joshua Tree National Park is a prime destination that sees over two million visitors each year. Commonly known as Joshua Tree, this heritage landscape spans thousands of acres of desert sand and rock formations under the magnificent California sun.
Tourists from around the world flock to J-Tree to camp under the stars, see the obscure art installations, and sip on ice-cold beers in the desert. Our friends at Hotels.com asked us to share our best recommendations for a Joshua Tree itinerary. This post should give you some fantastic ideas on how to spend a weekend in this unique desert oasis.
If you’re heading to Joshua Tree this weekend, you can check out the abundance of Joshua Tree accommodation options on offer. Now, let’s get into what to do in J-Tree.
Joshua Tree Day Trip Ideas
J-Tree is beautiful during the day, so slap on some strong SPF, grab your sunglasses, and get ready to explore. We’ve got some activity ideas to help you plan a fun day trip in the desert, with options for the outdoorsy folk and those interested in cultural attractions, too.
Hiking and Nature Trails
Joshua Tree National Park is filled with hiking and walking trails for all fitness levels. Hiking through the desert is a great way to see the area’s unique vegetation, including the park’s namesake tree, the Joshua Tree.
Barker Dam Trail
This 1.5-mile hike is easy to follow, with the final stop being the stunning Barker Dam. On the way, you’ll see loads of desert trees, shrubbery, and rock formations. If you hit the abandoned water tank, keep walking! The trail only gets more beautiful from here on out, with huge Joshua Trees and awe-inspiring rolling hills.
The water at Barker Dam looks breathtaking with the mountain ranges in the backdrop, and it’s a gorgeous spot to catch your breath and snap some Instagrammable travel photos. If you’re interested in taking top-tier travel photos, check out our post on cameras for travel.
Black Rock Canyon Trail
The Black Rock Canyon Trail is three miles long with an elevation of about 120 feet, offering incredible views of the valley horizons. You’ll see wild desert flowers along the way and Joshua Trees that are notably bigger than on the other local trails.
This path is quiet if you head out in the early morning, and there is signage along the way to ensure you don’t get lost.
Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum
This spot is totally bizarre. If you’re into cultural obscurities, you have to stop by the Desert Art Museum on your Joshua Tree trip. The park is comprised of several acres of land, dotted with fascinating (albeit strange) assemblage sculptures by artist Noah Purifoy.
You’ll see old television sets and knick-knacks piled high into giant sculptures, all twinkling under the hot desert sunlight.
Amongst Joshua Tree’s many enticing features, the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum says a lot about the J-Tree culture. Over the years, artists and musicians have flocked to this desert oasis looking for a creative haven where they can express themselves freely. And many found what they were looking for.
You’re almost guaranteed to run into artsy folk here, be it musicians, sculpture artists, or Joshua Tree bloggers. Be sure to pencil some time into your Joshua Tree itinerary for socializing with the locals!
Not all of us are avid hikers. If you’d rather drive up to an extraordinary lookout point, then Keys View is for you. You can see panoramic views of the San Andreas fault, Coachella Valley, and the Salton Sea from this exceptional vantage point.
Elevated at over 5,000 feet – yep, you read that right – you will never forget your trip to Keys View. You can also see the peak of San Gorgonio Mountain from here, which stands at a staggering 11,500 feet! Keys View is a must-see for anyone planning to visit Joshua Tree.
Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace
Fancy a spot of day drinking? It’s damn hot in Joshua tree, so why not indulge in a cold one? Pappy and Harriet’s is a well-known honky-tonk bar and barbecue joint in Joshua Tree where you can kick back and listen to live music.
This is one of the most popular drinking holes in J-Tree for tourists and locals alike. They’ve got excellent jam jar cocktails and plenty on the menu to choose from. Interestingly, Pioneertown, where the restaurant is located, was once a prime destination for Hollywood Western film shoots.
Pappy and Harriet’s even featured in the 2017 film Ingrid Goes West! If you’re planning a trip to Joshua Tree, you’ve got to stop by this cool spot for a good meal and some fun desert vibes.
Cholla Cactus Garden
A one-of-a-kind flat loop trail in J-tree, Cholla Cactus Garden is the perfect day-trip spot for plant enthusiasts. The gardens stretch about ten acres across the desert, replete with teddybear Cholla cacti, brittlebush, desert lavender, and indigo bushes.
The trail is an easy one at less than half a mile, so it’s a chilled way to spend a morning soaking in the sunshine and checking out the wildflowers and cacti. Try to get there as early as you can, as this is a hugely popular spot in Joshua Tree.
Enjoy Your Weekend in Joshua Tree!
Whether you’re hanging out at Pappy and Harriet’s or venturing into the wilderness on a sunrise hike, Joshua Tree has a little bit of everything for everyone. If you’ve never been to California before, we’ve got some insights on how to find cheap flights anywhere in the world.
Don’t forget to capture every moment in this angelic desert location. Joshua Tree National Park is bound to be one of your favorite vacation spots to date!
COVID Travel Advisory
In these uncertain times please be mindful of changing travel regulations and ensure that you prioritize the safety of yourself and others at all times. If you feel comfortable traveling to a destination it is your responsibility to be up to date with latest regulations and follow all necessary guidelines.
As a general standard here are some great tips for traveling during COVID.
- Wear a face mask whenever required by local and state laws. It’s always good to have a few extra to make sure you’re never without.
- Pack hand sanitizers in all of your different travel bags and wash your hands regularly when you get the chance.
- Research the destinations that you’re traveling to (local websites, Twitter, Facebook, etc) to get real time information of closures, restrictions and regulations in place.
- Search for and book a hotel that offers free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.