California Desert


Joshua Tree National Park

Where Two Deserts Meet

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, come together in Joshua Tree National Park.

By Connie Young

After my first stop of my Palm Desert Vacation, the second destination was to visit Joshua Tree National Park. If you live in southern California you've no doubt heard of this desert preserve. I've wanted to go there for years. My dad took his Boy Scout troop camping there year after year. I guessed there had to be something worthwhile to see and because California had plentiful rain this Spring, maybe we'd even spot desert flowers.

Indian Avenue out of Palm Springs takes you right into Highway 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway) leading straight to the North Entrance Station of Joshua Tree National Park. There is an entrance fee of $15 per vehicle, good for seven consecutive days. Visitors can purchase various national park passes good for Joshua Tree and other parks in the U.S.

Joshua Tree dates back to its designation as a National Monument in 1936. Since, the area was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1984 and a National Park in 1994, encompassing 794,000 acres. The park's website can be accessed at Its namesake, Joshua tree, is an odd looking twisted, spiky tree with bursts of tough leaves sprouting from bulbous branch ends. In the Spring, white flowers emerge while temperatures are still quite comfortable. The tallest tree in the park is 40 feet high and estimated to be about 300 years old.

Once inside, it's a whole new world of diverse landscape, nature trails and hiking trails of varying distances for all fitness levels (even wheelchair accessible), rock piles to climb or just photograph, picnic areas tucked among the picturesque boulders and Joshuas. Wildlife spotting includes bighorn sheep, mountain lions (glad we didn't see any), desert tortoises and mule deer and birds such as quail, great horned owls, jays and road runners (sorry we didn't see any of these comical runners). It's simply endless scenery of desert landscape and bony hills.

Parking is plentiful and clean restrooms add to its total enjoyment. There are 17 campgrounds and I only wish we had planned to rough it with an overnight because Ranger programs offer evening campground talks and star parties. I can only imagine the show of stars each night judging by the pristine blue sky overhead during our day visit.

The main road slices through the park top to bottom, exiting on Interstate 10 just pass the Cottonwood Visitors Center. Numerous observation points, turn-outs and parking lots enabled everyone to stop and inhale this beautiful place. One day is not enough to enjoy Joshua Tree's spectacular desert treasure. Without hesitation, we'll be back for sure.

Connie Young
Photos: Debbie Stock

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