Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!

The Perfect Joshua Tree Day Trip: A One Day Itinerary

Joshua Tree National Park in California is similar to Death Valley National Park – you can visit in one day and see most of the main attractions. We visited Joshua Tree in March on our California road trip before moving on to spend a day in Death Valley (about 4 hours away). Joshua Tree makes for a perfect day trip or stop on a road trip, and one day in Joshua Tree gives you plenty of time to explore the main areas. We really only spent half a day in the park itself, making it a possibility to drive in from a nearby city, see the park, and drive back all in one day.

Queen Valley Road in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!

PLANNING A DAY TRIP TO JOSHUA TREE

DRIVING OPTIONS

Located in Southern California, Joshua Tree is accessible for a day trip from several major cities. From Los Angeles, it takes a little over 2 hours to drive the 150 miles (depending on traffic of course). San Diego is only slightly further away, but it will take closer to 3 hours to get there. Las Vegas is a little further away with the 200 mile drive taking a little over 3 hours. Phoenix takes about the same amount of time but is 225 miles away. You can choose to visit it individually or as part of a road trip.

The closest stop is Palm Springs, located about 40 miles away. Palm Springs is a popular base for your visit to Joshua Tree as you can enjoy both together. We stopped in Palm Springs after Joshua Tree to check it out as well. Another popular stop in the area is Salvation Mountain, located about 60 miles from Joshua Tree or 80 miles from Palm Springs.

Depending on how far you drive to get there, you may want to plan to spend the night nearby. You can use Palm Springs as a base for exploring the area or stay a little closer to the park. Since we wanted to be up and at the park for sunrise, we chose to stay closer to the park.

We spent the night at Best Western Joshua Tree Hotel and Suites. Located in nearby Yucca Valley, it gave us the perfect start to our day in Joshua Tree. Yucca Valley is a small town located just 20 minutes from the entrance with several restaurant and hotel options.

From Joshua Tree, we headed to Death Valley National Park where we also spent just one day. The two parks are only four hours away from each other, so you can see Death Valley and then make it to the Joshua Tree area to spend the night. You could also do this route in reverse, seeing Joshua Tree and then spending the night near or in Death Valley.

On the road from Joshua Tree to Death Valley. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
On the road to Death Valley from Joshua Tree
WEATHER & BEST TIME TO VISIT

Joshua Tree, like many National Parks, is more crowded in the summer and near holidays. The summer also brings warmer weather with temperatures hovering in the upper 90s (32C+) for much of June – September. However, in the mornings and evenings, it will still be cool during the summer months.

The rest of the year, temperatures stay between 60 and 80 (15C – 27C). At night, temperatures drop much lower. In fact, in the winter, they average near freezing.

When visiting Joshua Tree, you may want to wear layers. In the summer, you may be okay with a light jacket or without wearing layers depending on what you wear to hike. For our visit in March, we started in jackets and pants and then shifted to shorts and t-shirts later in the day.

Rock formations near Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park next to Arch Rock. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
The trail near Arch Rock

BEST STOPS FOR YOUR DAY TRIP TO JOSHUA TREE

If you have more than a day in Joshua Tree, you can enjoy more of the hikes the park has to offer. As we had limited time, we only had about half a day to spend in the park. We still found that we were able to see pretty much everything we wanted to see.

SUNRISE & THE CHOLLA CACTUS GARDEN

The best place to watch the sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park is the Cholla Cactus Garden in my opinion. I love how the sun lights up the Cholla when it is low in the sky. The best time to visit for this is near sunrise and sunset. Honestly though, it is beautiful at any time of the day, especially on a sunny day.

Located deep in Joshua Tree National Park, it look us about an hour to get from our hotel to the garden. Since this was the furthest we were going in the park, it made sense to start there and work our way back out of the park. It is tempting to stop along the way, but we knew we would be retracing our steps later in the day.

There is a small parking lot next to the walkway through the garden. We parked and put on our jackets (it was pretty cold that morning for our Florida blood!). The walkway leads into the garden and loops back around to the parking lot. The pathway is short and an easy walk. It is only 1/4 mile (or 400 meters), but take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

If you walk the edges of the path and aren’t in closed shoes, keep an eye out. Sometimes pieces of the cactus or the barbs from the cactus are on the ground.

 

 

Near sunrise in the Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Sunrise in the Cholla Cactus Garden
Cholla Cactus with the sun shining through it in Joshua Tree National Park's Cholla Cactus Garden. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Cholla Cactus with the sun shining through it
Sunrise in the Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Cholla Cactus Garden
ARCH ROCK & WHITE TANK CAMPGROUND

There are some neat rock formations across the street from the White Tank Campground, the starting point for a hike to Arch Rock. You can choose to hike from other spots to get to Arch Rock as well, but the White Tank Campground is the closest. Since we did not camp in Joshua Tree, we parked outside of the campground in a little parking area along the side of the road. Because it was so early still (around 9 AM) and in the middle of March, all the spots were available. In the summer, finding a parking spot here may be harder, but there are designated parking lots with more spaces a little further away.

The hike to Arch Rock is another quick and short hike, but you can choose to explore the area more if you have time. The hike is a .3 mile (500 meter) walk. The ground is hard packed and easy to walk on, but it is not flat at parts (nothing too steep though).

We walked around for a while looking for the trail head, but it was not clearly marked. The trail starts opposite of site 9 in the campground. We wandered around through the trails, finding Arch Rock but also exploring more of the rock formations in the area. You can climb up to Arch Rock and enjoy the views.

The rocks across from White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Rocks by White Tank Campground
Climbing the rocks across from White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Rocks by White Tank Campground
Intrusions or lines in the rocks along the path to Arch Rock. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Lines or intrusions in the rocks on the path to Arch Rock
Rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park on the trail to Arch Rock. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
On the way to Arch Rock
The popular Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Arch Rock
Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Arch Rock
A skinny trail through the rocks in Joshua Tree National Park next to Arch Rock. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
The trail near Arch Rock
QUEEN VALLEY ROAD AREA

If you are looking to get off the beaten path, check out the dirt roads including Queen Valley Road. Not many cars explore this area, but we had a Jeep and wanted to take it off road. You could get away with 2-wheel drive if it is dry, but it will be a bumpy ride!

I liked this area of the park. There are Joshua Trees as far as the eye can see. There are also less people in this area. You can bike along these roads too or you can take a hike from these roads as well.

Before heading onto Queen Valley Road, we did stop to admire the Jumbo Rocks area. Many people were hiking and climbing the rocks here, but we kept moving. This is where the trail starts to Skull Rock which you can see from the road as well. It is a popular photo spot in Joshua Tree, but we opted to skip the line of people waiting when we saw it from the road.

Queen Valley Road in Joshua Tree National Park gets you away from the crowds and into a more secluded area of the park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
On Queen Valley Road
Joshua Tree National Park's Queen Valley Road gets you away from the crowds and into a more secluded area of the park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Another area off of Queen Valley Road
Joshua Trees near the Jumbo Rocks section of the park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Jumbo Rocks area of Joshua Tree
BARKER DAM

This 1.1 mile (1.8 km) loop hike is another popular hike in Joshua Tree. We ended up skipping this one because of the crowds. By noon, the park filled up compared to that morning. The parking area for Barker Dam was full as were surrounding areas. We needed to keep moving to get to Death Valley by the evening, so we decided it wasn’t worth a 3-mile hike by the time we found parking.

The hike takes you back to a reservoir and an old dam built by ranchers in the area. The water sometimes dries up in the summer months, so visit during the spring or winter for the best chance of seeing it full. Make sure you get an early start to find nearby parking. It may also clear out in the late afternoon, but we did not stick around to see.

KEYS VIEW

Keys View is another popular stop but we did not stop here. It was not on the way to our other stops, and we needed to keep moving. You can find lots of pictures of the view online to see if it is worth the extra 20 minute drive each way. On clear days, you can supposedly see all the way to Mexico.

Joshua Trees along the side of the road in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Joshua Trees along the side of the main road
PARK BOULEVARD TO THE WEST ENTRANCE STATION

In the morning, we entered the park from the North Entrance Station. I had been disappointed as I remembered more Joshua Trees when I had been years before with my family. As we left the park later that day and took Park Boulevard to the West Entrance Station, I realized I had come this way last time.

This area of the park has a high concentration of Joshua Trees. The park is the meeting point of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Joshua Trees only grow in the Mojave, so the closer you get to the Colorado, the fewer trees you will see. The Cholla Cactus Garden is in the Colorado, which explains why we had not seen as many trees that morning.

Along the road between the West Entrance and the turnoff for Barker Dam, there are lots of spots to stop and see the Joshua Trees or hike out among them. There are also rocks that are popular for rock climbing, an activity I enjoy watching. Joshua Tree is an extremely popular place for rock climbing. If you are interested, there are many companies offering lessons or guides to accompany you.

Joshua Trees along Park Boulevard in the park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!
Joshua Trees along Park Boulevard

*****

Joshua Tree makes for a great stop on any California road trip or even a day trip adventure from nearby cities. You don’t need long to explore the park, but you can choose to stay nearby and explore more of the area.

For more of our California road trip series, check out our one day itinerary for Death Valley National Park. For more destinations besides California to add to your bucket list, check out our top bucket list destinations you don’t want to miss!

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Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss! Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss! Joshua Tree is the perfect stop on a road trip or for a one day stop, so here is a one day itinerary of all the spots you don't want to miss!

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66 Comments

    1. That´s such a great itinerary! I´ve been to California a couple of years ago and Joshua Tree National Park was also on the list. In the end, I was running out of time and had to choose between Joshua and Yosemite. So, it´s still on the list and a very good reason to go back to Cali one day!

      1. That’s a tough choice! We had to cut Yosemite this time, but we had been before. Definitely a reason to go back to see Joshua Tree and maybe even revisit Yosemite!

    1. Such beautiful photos! Love this post, I’ll hopefully get to see Joshua Tree myself this fall, fingers crossed!

    1. One thing I regret is that we didn’t make it to Joshua Tree before we started our world travels. Maybe when we go back to LA to visit! Thanks for the inspiring post.

      1. Thank you! It’s hard to balance it out when there are so many great places to see in the world. LA especially has so many great day trips to take.

    1. I really love your photos. Josua National Park is definitely a park I’d love to visit. Namibia is one of my favourite countries, and this park really reminds me of the nature in Namibia. So, one day, I’ll get there. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post.

      1. Thank you so much! Namibia looks amazing and is near the top of my bucket list right now. Hopefully one day you’ll make it to Joshua Tree and I’ll make it to Namibia 🙂

    1. Love your pictures! You were able to do so much! Would love to make it back here— especially during a new moon! Saving this for later reference

      1. Thank you so much! I hope you can do that – it would make for great night photography!

    1. As I am currently planning a “let’s do it all!” California itinerary, this post helps me a lot! Those rock formations of Arch Rock are incredible, we can’t wait to be there.

      1. California is a great state for a road trip! Don’t forget Death Valley nearby. We also love Big Sur, Laguna Beach, Yosemite, San Francisco, and LA for California road trip stops.

    1. Great roundup, wish I’d had this when I was living in SoCal! I was often in the area but never really knew what to do with myself in Joshua Tree, didn’t fully explore like I should have. Love the hiking ideas and your pics from climbing the rocks, looks fun! Didn’t it snow in J-Tree this year? Was that in February? May have been a lot cooler when you guys visited than in typical years, a unique experience!

      1. I think it did snow there, but not when we were there. We went in mid-March. It was cold in the morning (although we are wimps in the cold from living in Florida), but it warmed up and was comfortable in the afternoon – not too hot and not too cold. March was the perfect time to go!

    1. This looks like such an underrated national park! I didn’t make it there on my road trip a few months ago, and every time I see something about it, I wish I had! That and Death Valley lol. There’s so much more I wanna see in California (I especially want to go back to San Diego!) so I’m sure I’ll get another chance to go.

      1. I love both of those parks, but California does have a ton of good places to see. We’ve done a few trips there and still have so much to see!

    1. Really appreciate the thorough information on this gorgeous National Park thanks – love that you included some off the beaten path tips too! The photo of you standing on the Rocks really puts the size of them into perspective. Joshua Tree National Park is clearly one to visit during our next trip to California! Thanks Christine, this blog rocks! 😀

      1. Thank you so much! That means a lot to me. The rocks were so big, but it made it neat to see the different landscapes they created. There is even a heart shaped rock in Joshua Tree, but we didn’t manage to find it. Next time!

    1. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful place. Thank you for sharing with us all.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond!

    1. I have not been here in a least 20 years and I remember it being so much fun! Love your pics and tips!

      1. It had been about 10 – 12 years since I last went, and then we just drove through pretty much. Such a neat place! Thank you!

    1. I used to live so close to Joshua Tree and I’m disappointed in myself for never taking advantage of being so close!! It’s so different from Palm Springs and the area around there! The rock formations seriously look like something from another world – not the desert, not the mountains, just somewhere completely different! Side note, your hair is so gorgeous!! I’m having hair envy right now!

      1. I loved the rock formations. I didn’t remember seeing them last time when I drove through with my family. Thank you so much! It only works like that when I’m away from the humidity of Florida 🙂

    1. I loved my stay in Joshua Tree! It’s stunning! Loved your tips! I’d like to go back for Glamping!

      1. Glamping there would be fun! A lot of the AirBnB or other glamping sites nearby sell out way in advance because of their popularity. We waited too long this time and missed out.

    1. I haven’t been able to visit any of the major US National Parks, But I’m hoping to someday! Joshua Tree is definitely on that list!

      1. I hope you can! I love our National Parks, especially the ones out west (Utah and California have some of my favorites).

    1. Your pictures are STUNNING! I haven’t been to Joshua Tree since I was a kid, but I’d love to return. Do you have any updates on how the park is doing after everything that went on earlier this year during the government shut down (ie rubbish being left, people driving in places they shouldn’t have vehicles, etc.)? Hopefully things are starting to improve!

      1. Thank you so much! We went after it opened back up from the shutdown. I didn’t see any evidence of the shutdown when we were there. The trash was all cleaned up in Death Valley and Joshua Tree. I didn’t see evidence of people driving where they shouldn’t have either, but I wasn’t looking for it either. It may have been in areas we didn’t visit or have not been as noticeable if you weren’t looking for it. I know the hotels in Death Valley pitched in to cover the main services and ranger operations to continue. I’m not sure if anything similar happened in Joshua Tree.

    1. Wow fantastic photos of Joshua Tree National Park. The Cholla Cactus garden looks really interesting to visit. This park is high on my travel wishlist but havent gotten a chance to visit yet, will be saving this post for the future. It looks like you can do a lot in just one day in Joshua Tree!

      1. Thank you! You really can see it in a day unless you want to camp or do some longer hikes. It’s a neat park to explore though!

    1. Read about Joshua Park in the news and how there was some damage done to the trails! I didn’t know it was still open but looking at your post, the rugged desert and terrain look stunning. There’s tons of national parks in the US and I would love to visit all these beautiful places one day! Thanks for sharing

      1. There were some areas closed due to storms and/or renovations when we went. They always keep updates at the top of their website on which areas are closed. Most of them were areas that are not as popular. All of the main attractions were open when we went. I hope you can come visit one day – I do love our National Parks, especially the ones in Utah and California.

    1. We went to Joshua Tree national park last year as well. We entered the states in LA, got a car, and our first night was in the hotel you recommended above. We had time to explore the park until sunset and then again in the morning. Your photos bring back the wonderful memory of such a cool place. However, I think we missed arch rock. Too bad, it looks like one of the highlights.

      1. What a neat coincidence on the hotel! That sounds like just the right amount of time to spend there. Sorry you missed Arch Rock – it’s a short but fun hike. Maybe it could be a reason to come back one day!

    1. Gorgeous photos! I live in LA so I’ll definitely be using your day trip itinerary when I visit!

    1. Oh what an amazing park to have visited, I would love to go there, but Im affaraid its a few years away on the travel bucketlist 😉

      1. There are so many amazing places to see out there that it makes it hard!

    1. This is such a great itinerary! I was here about a decade ago and did some rock climbing! But your post has definitely convinced me that I need to go back and stay for at least a couple of days and really explore the area!

      1. I’d love to try rock climbing there. We did some scrambling up rocks, but it seems like a great place to give it a try! Hope you can make it back soon!

    1. Great information especially when I probably won’t spend more than a day here. I’m hoping to get to Southern California next year. Thank you! Love your photos!

    1. I keep reading about this place and it sounds incredible! I hope to try and go some day 🙂 Great blog and gorgeous photos – particularly love the look and sound of Arch Rock!

      1. Thank you! I hope you do end up going. Let me know if you have any questions!

    1. What a gorgeous post! Wow. It was very inspiring to read your descriptions, but the photos are a whole different thing 🙂 Unfortunately, the US is too far from Europe, otherwise would already be choosing a weekend to visit the Park 😀 Haha

      1. Thank you! I completely understand since we would do a lot of weekend trips in Europe if it was closer to the US 🙂

    1. I love National Parks of the USA but have not been to this one yet. Your article is so inspiring and pictures just stunning. So something to consider for my future trips. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Thank you! I hope you can make it to this one some day soon. I do love our National Parks!

    1. I’ve never been, but your pictures are stunning. You clearly have a good eye for photography!

    1. Lovely pictures at all. You are more than a photographer. Interesting to see all your great pictures. Thanks for this great travel information.

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