The Extraordinary Landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cholla Cactus Garden in the lower desert plains of Joshua Tree National Park 

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Before boarding Baby B’s first international flight to Palm Springs, we asked our readers to recommend some attractions and things to do in the area. A common response was to visit Joshua Tree National Park, so we took their advice and planned to spend an afternoon exploring the fabled US National Park.

Knowing very little about the park, we jumped in the car and made the 45 minute drive from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree (the city), located northwest of the national park. We entered the park from the west entrance near Black Rock Canyon and traveled south to the entrance/exit near Cottonwood Mountains – here is a map.

Originally, we thought we would spend a few hours exploring the park (including the 45 minute drive). But after pulling into the tourist centre to grab a park map, we quickly realized just how huge it is (789,745 acres to be exact!).

“It takes approximately two hours to drive”, said the uniformed Park Ranger.

“Seriously?!” we replied. With a 3-month old baby on-board, we didn’t know what we had just committed to. It’s one thing to plan for a 2-3 hour trip, but a 5-hour road trip is a completely different story (it takes an hour to get from the south entrance back to Palm Springs).

Let’s just say that it wasn’t Baby B’s finest hour – he screamed for a solid 45 minutes – but the stunning landscapes made it well worth the detour. No pain, no gain – right?!

Below are some photos from our trip to Joshua Tree National Park

Rock Climbing, Joshua Tree NP

Rock climbers scaling the smooth rock formations

Rock Formations, Joshua Tree NP

Peculiar desert landscapes

Open Road, Joshua Tree National Park

 The park road snaking between interesting rock formations

Joshua Tree, California

A native Joshua Tree, the inspiration for the park’s name

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Desert landscapes – the perfect backdrop for an old Western movie

Desert Highway, Joshua Tree NP

Park road splitting a forest of Joshua Trees in the Mojave Desert

Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail, Joshua Tree NP

Entrance to the Cholla Cactus Garden hiking trail

Cactus Field, Joshua Tree, California

The otherworldly Cholla Cactus Garden – very unusual

Cactus Close-up

Close-up of the Teddy-bear cholla  in the Cholla Cactus Garden – don’t touch!

Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail, Joshua Tree, California

Cholla Cactus Garden

Desert Plains, Joshua Tree

The endless lower desert plains of Joshua Tree – you don’t want your car to breakdown here!

Desert Landscapes, Joshua Tree NP

 Dramatic panorama in the Colorado Desert

 The Joshua Tree National Park Store near the town of Joshua Tree

An old saloon in the town of Joshua Tree. It kinda has a wild west feel about it, doesn’t it?

So what makes Joshua Tree National Park so extraordinary?

The park is a transition zone between two deserts, the Mojave desert in the higher elevation and the Colorado desert in the lower plains. The varying temperatures create a rare eco-system with distinct plant species (like the unusual Cholla Cactus Garden pictured above). The unique rock formations in the park were formed over 100 million years ago, eroded by groundwater that shaped the peculiar outcroppings.

It’s no surprise that the park is hugely popular with rock climbers, mountains bikers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. We’d love to return when Baby B is a little older and we can spend a few days exploring the park, camping under the desert stars – it must be quite the spectacle!


Have you visited Joshua Tree National Park?
Share your experience and travel tips in the comments section below


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About Traveling Canucks

Cam and Nicole Wears are family travel bloggers who live in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. A passion for travel and outdoor adventure has lead them to over 70+ countries on 6 continents in the past 10 years. Learn more about their story here. Follow them on Instagram and subscribe to their monthly newsletter.