Palm Desert Day Trip: Joshua Tree National Park

During your stay in sunny Palm Desert, take a day to explore the breathtaking natural wonders of Joshua Tree National Park.

There’s no place on Earth quite like Joshua Tree National Park, with its rugged rock formations and iconic branching yucca. A 40-minute drive from your Palm Desert resort, it’s one of the California’s most unique destinations — and it’s perfect for a day trip.

A paradise for any nature lover or explorer, this massive park includes parts of two deserts, features diverse ecosystems, and is relatively easy to traverse, thanks to a paved main road that allows visitors to see major attractions throughout the park.

Joshua Tree National ParkExplore

Home to rugged, often otherworldly beauty, Joshua Tree is brimming with hills, valleys, chasms and craggy rock faces, all brilliantly lit by the Southwest sun. Arrive early or stick around late to take in a breathtaking sunrise or sunset; you’ll also discover remarkably clear stargazing conditions at night.

Visitors can choose to drive through the park at their own pace, stopping at numerous attractions and points of interest. For a more immersive experience, set out on one of the park’s many hiking trails. You’ll find routes of varied lengths, suitable for all skill levels. Hiking is the best way to admire the majestic scenery, spot wildlife, and fully experience this remarkable region of California’s High Desert.

If you have limited time in the park, make sure to check out highlights including the rock formations of Hidden Valley, the 30-foot-tall Arch Rock, the Cholla Cactus Garden and scenic vistas from Keys View.

Joshua Tree National ParkWildlife

Despite its rugged, stark landscapes, Joshua Tree is home to abundant wildlife. Over 250 species of birds, along with jackrabbits, bats, black bears, deer, and even bighorn sheep call the park home. And yes, famously, roadrunners and coyotes do too.

Quick Tip: When you explore via the park’s shuttle bus, your entry fees are waived. The bus departs from the Oasis Visitor Center and stops at more than a dozen locations within the park.

Joshua Tree National ParkHistory

The park itself is a window into ancient history, boasting fascinating and often peculiar rock formations dated as old as 1.7 billion years. And with names like Skull Rock, Arch Rock, Giant Marbles and Cyclops, each grandly displays its own monumental character.

The park is also home to historic human settlements that are well-worth exploring. The Barker Dam is easy to hike to and features a small, yet gorgeous reservoir framed by stacked rock formations — a surreal and beautiful postcard view. Close by, check out the Wall Street Mill, an 1800’s gold-ore mining structure that gives a rustic view into the West’s pioneering past.