Things To Know
Where: Joshua Tree National Park, near Palm Springs, California, USA
Best Season: October – March, when the desert heat is not too overpowering
Best Sights: Sculptures on Salvation Mountain
Remember To Bring: Plenty of water to cope with desert thirst and a 4WD car
Watch Out For: Wiley coyotes!
Where It’s At
Situated east of Los Angeles, on the way to Las Vegas, Joshua Tree National Park is classic California desert territory. No, you won’t see Irish rock group U2 posing beneath a cactus or watch the Roadrunner being chased by Wile E. Coyote out here, but visiting this place you will get the feel of how desolate and dry the southern part of the state really is, putting the state’s constant water wars into perspective. It was through this region that settlers came West, searching for new land.
Creatures Of The Tree
Named by the Mormon settlers who wandered this area, the park encompasses 800,000 square acres, most of which is 4,000 feet above sea level. The vegetation is classic cactus that grow over 20 feet tall. Not many animals call the salt lakes and dry scrub home, but lizards, gila monsters and other reptiles survive.
The people that live out here are just as unique as the animals and in the 1800’s people would build rifle holes in the walls of their houses to warn unwanted visitors they’d be shot if they came too close; many people died when they didn’t heed the warning. Quite a few of the current residents of Joshua Tree are squatters on government land that has been abandoned. They live in a place called ‘Slab City’ which is all that’s left of a US training facility built here after WWII.
The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree occurs in patterns from dense forests to distantly spaced specimens throughout the western end of the park. Created in 1994, the park covers an area of 800,000 acres or 1200 square miles. More than half the park is designated wilderness area.
The park is also famous for its Jurassic rock formations and includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation; the higher Mojave and lower Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains run through the southwest edge of the park.
You can of course do as most do and drive straight through the Park, and you’ll have to have your own wheels to access most parts of it, but getting out of your 4WD and taking a hike into the hot tundra has to be done. Popular sites for hikes include the Lost Palm Oasis in the Eagle Mountains to the south of the park, the largest oasis in Joshua Tree.
One of the oddest monuments in Joshua Tree is Salvation Mountain, where a local man named Leonard King began building in 1967. Believing he had been directed by God, Leonard began constructing the unique sculptures on Salvation Mountain that can be seen from miles around.
Joshua Tree National Park
Maps, weather info and just about anything you would every want to know about the Park.
Joshua Tree National Park Association
The official nonprofit cooperating association for Joshua Tree National Park.