One Day in Joshua Tree National Park
June 20th, 2020
Dog Friendly: Yes, but can’t go on the trails.
Fee: Yes. $35 per car. Good for one week.
Restrooms at trailhead: Not all of them.
We were trying to figure out what to do on a Saturday near the end of June in Arizona. We didn’t want to hike in the Phoenix area because it is too hot out right now. We thought about going up to Sedona, but since there is a massive wild fire Northeast of Phoenix (where a lot of lakes are) we thought that the 17 going North would be busy and the last thing I wanted was to get stuck on the 17. If you aren’t familiar with the 17, it is an interstate that goes from Phoenix to Sedona and Flagstaff. Most times we end up getting stuck on the 17 when coming home. It is only a two lane highway and it goes through mountains and there always seems to be an accident on it. I then thought about Joshua Tree National Park. It is a 3.5 hour drive from Scottsdale to the South entrance of the park (entrance right off the 10). We researched a little knowing it would be more exploring than actual hiking. We were fine with that. It was in the 90’s there. We left for Joshua Tree around 9am. We drove an hour and then one of my transmission oil lights turned on. We pulled off to the side of the road trying to figure out what to do. We ended up turning around because my car (Jeep Compass) wouldn’t accelerate. We drove all the way back to Scottsdale driving at the max 60 mph. We dropped my car off at Sun Devil Auto. Feeling defeated and unsure of what to do we we went back to our apartment. By this time it was already noon. Since it is so hot in Phoenix we knew there was not a whole lot we could outside. So we decided to take Owen’s car and drive to Joshua Tree anyways, even though we knew we would be getting back late. If you unfamiliar with Joshua Tree it is near Palm Springs, California. We did Joshua Tree in a couple of hours! It was definitely worth it.
When you enter the South entrance you almost wouldn’t think you are in Joshua Tree National Park due to the lack of Joshua Trees. This is where the Mojave and Colorado desert meet. With the two different deserts meeting you have a wide range of desert vegetation. We briefly stopped at the Cottonwood visitor center, but it was closed because it was after 4:30 pm. We kept driving for awhile until we came across The Cholla Cactus Garden. This area has almost 10 acres of cholla cacti. It was so beautiful! If you do go, be careful! We saw a guy accidentally run into one and he had a part of the cholla cactus (barbed spines) stuck to his arm. OUCH! They are nicknamed the teddybear cactus, but they are anything but. They easily come apart if you touch them.
After we left The Cholla Cactus Garden we went to Arch Rock which is a popular rock formation. This was a short little hike where you enter an area that has a ton of large rock formations. The hike was about a mile and a half based off my Apple Watch. A lot of people were climbing on the rocks and doing some exploring throughout the rocks. We didn’t stay that long because we wanted to have time to go see Skull Rock, another popular rock formation. Skull Rock had a lot more people around it since it is directly off the side of the road. You don’t have to walk very far. All we did is stop and take a picture with the Skull Rock and the continued on our way. When you are driving through the main road of Joshua Tree you will see a sign for Arch Rock and Skull Rock so it is easy to spot. We stopped at several Joshua Tree’s we saw off the side of the road and took some pictures with them. There are a lot of pull off’s to stop at. We continued to explore some more stopping at some of the trailheads and taking pictures with rock formations and Joshua Tree’s. We stayed at Joshua Tree until sunset so we also got some incredible pictures of Joshua Tree at sunset. While we didn’t get to explore for very long you can definitely do Joshua Tree in one day or half a day. Since we drove in through the South entrance, we drove all the way through until we reached the West entrance. The amount of Joshua Trees that are closer to the West entrance is insane! Since we drove home from the West Entrance our drive home went from a 3.5 hour drive to a 4.5 hour drive. So just be prepared for that if you decide to drive all the way through the park.