If you want to check out one of the very best things to do in Palm Springs and the surrounding area, your Acme trip advisors highly recommend getting out of the city and into the wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park. Named for the Joshua trees that dot the landscape, Joshua Tree is known to be one of the best places in California to photograph. The park straddles the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and offers breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley and maximum desert sky stargazing. Book a tour guided by a park ranger or find your own way through the nature trails, which wind through Joshua Tree’s otherworldly rock formations and desert landscapes. A world-class rock climbing destination, Joshua Tree offers challenges for all ability levels.
The 790,636-acre Joshua Tree National Park comprises two distinct desert ecosystems, the high Mohave and the lower Colorado. With a remarkable variety of rock formations, some dating back 1.7 billion years, Joshua Tree is a geological wonderland. Bizarre and fascinating formations such as Giant Marbles, Skull Rock, and Arch Rock beg for photography and exploration. The seemingly barren desert landscape is home to myriad plant and animal species including, of course, the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), which thrives in the higher Mojave Desert elevations. Joshua Tree is a veritable heaven for birders with over 250 species of avian residents including the greater roadrunner, a bird we all know from Saturday morning cartoons, and yes, coyotes are around too, though they are generally nocturnal. Other nocturnal Joshua Tree residents include black-tailed jackrabbits, lynx, kangaroo rats, and bighorn sheep.
With its high elevation and inky dark skies, Joshua Tree is a popular location for astronomy and stargazing; few things are as magical as kicking back on a blanket in the high desert and watching the night sky. Hiking and rock climbing are the most popular park activities. There are a number of hiking trails throughout Joshua Tree, from easy nature strolls to arduous multi-day treks. Sadly, several trails have been closed due to graffiti on 17 sites. Many excellent, albeit short, rock climbing routes trace vertical paths up sheer rock faces. As the climbs are seldom more than 230 feet in height, it is possible to do several ascents in one day. Pets are allowed in the park, though they are not allowed on the trails.
If you prefer to see Joshua Tree in air-conditioned comfort, driving through it is a popular option. You can see many of the major attractions from the paved road that runs through the Park; if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle you can take advantage of some of Joshua Tree’s self-guided off-road geology tours.
From Palm Springs Visitors Center, follow Tram Road then N. Indian Canyon Drive to CA-62 East. Turn left on CA-62 then follow it 27 miles to Park Blvd. Turn right on Park Blvd. The Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center will be on your right. Open year-round, 24 hours a day.
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