The desert is often thought of as a dry, lifeless place. But look closer and you’ll see that Joshua Tree National Park is, in fact, teeming with life.
Joshua Tree is located in the San Bernardino desert in Southern California. But, like much of that portion of the state, it is far different from the image most people have of ‘LA’. There are no beaches nearby, no hip restaurants and Hollywood is far, far away.
But for many, those are just some of the attractions. There are many more.
There are nine campgrounds in the park and two provide water and flush toilets. Once you’ve settled in, it’s easy to walk along the sand and find that diversity of life mentioned earlier.
There are cholla cacti and creosote bush. And, far from being totally dry, there are actually several fan-palm oases that offer shade and water to the wildlife.
There are nearly 250 native bird species in Joshua Tree. Among the natives are the Greater Roadrunner. Since, unlike many birds, they have two front toes and two rear-facing, look for their unique tracks by spotting the ‘X’-shaped trails they make.
Keep an eye out and you’ll soon see a Cactus Wren. Le Conte’s Thrashers are common and Mockingbirds make a home near the palm trees. So do the Woodpeckers with their great plumage. Stick around until after dusk and you might very well spot a Great Horned Owl.
Here, even the non-living objects are fascinating, though. Joshua Tree is famous for having some of the finest rock climbing anywhere around. The hundreds of huge granite boulders give climbers of all skill levels a chance to test their ability.
It’s particularly attractive in the winter when many other sites are too cold or too heavily snowed over. The monzogranite faces offer a year-round pleasure to enthusiasts who might otherwise head to Yosemite.
Whether standing on top after a climb or just taking a hike, there’s plenty of dramatic scenery around, too.
The native Joshua trees that give the park its name are just the most obvious examples. With their distinctive crooked limbs they provide an interesting outline against the sky. But looking around you’ll find many other wonderful sights.
The flowers continue to bloom despite the sparse rainfall. Many cacti here are flowering species. And, across the over 1,200 square miles, there are bighorn sheep, miles of trails and several great lookout points.
Part of the California Riding and Hiking Trail winds through the western side of the park. Lookouts at Key View on the southside offers a spectacular view of the Coachella Valley below. For those who want to go 4-wheeling, the Geology Road is a great place where you’ll disturb no one.
Be prepared for some hot weather, though. Summer days can easily exceed 100°F (38°C). Be ready for the possibility of chilly weather if you visit in winter. Nights often drop below 50°F (10°C). At anytime of year, though, Joshua Tree National Park welcomes visitors from all over the world. Be sure to stop at the Visitors Center and check out the museum for information about all the park has to offer.