How to spend a day in Joshua Tree National Park

A trip to Joshua Tree National Park is a total mind warp, the strange desert landscape could convince you you’re on another planet! Bizarre piles of rocks and peculiar trees as far as the eye can see set the scene. Remember that this park is in a true desert, an unforgiving environment that requires preparation. It is best to hike early in the morning before it gets too hot, and to bring more water than you could ever drink. Make sure you have some food, there is gas in your car, grab a park map and get going. We picked an introductory hike, a mountain, and a bunch of sights to see along the way for our day in the park.

Our introductory hike was the Hidden Valley trail, an easy one-mile loop. We got used to the arid temperature, and acquainted ourselves with the new desert flora. There aren’t many of the parks namesake trees to be seen here, but there are a lot of their obscure signature rock formations.
DSCN0982 DSCN0972Feeling familiarized, Ryan Mountain was next, the second highest point in the park. A three-mile round trip hike on a well-worn path got us to the summit in no time.

DSCN1066Early in the morning it was still cool out, we had a wonderful breeze, and the views were outstanding on the clear day.

DSCN1074We found a few stunted Joshua trees along the moderate climb and some little birdies at the summit, which was all ours.

DSCN1083 DSCN1076After a pleasant descent we decided to drive along the scenic road and see some sights. As we were driving Jeff pointed out a huge rock that looked like eerily like a skull, and when we passed by we learned it was aptly named skull rock.

DSCN0986The Hall of Horrors was alluring, though I’m not quite sure where it got its name. We walked along some unmarked paths getting up close and personal with the Joshua trees.

Farther down the line we were interested in viewing the cholla and ocotillo cacti which are not as common in the area,

DSCN0999 DSCN1010I remembered their abundance in Saguaro NP. Out this way the mountains are so beautifully purple we drove onto a pull-off to snap a shot. First we heard them then we saw them, a huge swarm of bees. In a panic we closed the windows and thankfully only one got inside. We got away unscathed from a bad situation, and later read a caution sign within the park. Bees are truly thirsty in the Californian desert. They will swarm your car to obtain the moisture that your air-conditioning creates, so it is important to turn the AC off a few minutes before you park. They will even lick the sweat off of your skin. Bee-ware. This is a wild natural environment! The day was leaning towards dusk so we made our way to the famed Keys View to watch the sunset. This beautiful overlook is a popular spot and creates a dramatic image of the sun sinking below the mountains.

DSCN1206 DSCN1207 DSCN1225As we headed back towards the exit of the park we decided to pull off to look at the Joshua trees silhouetted against the cotton-candy sky.

DSCN1235 DSCN1246 DSCN1252At this dusky hour we saw Gambels quails, a bunny, and bats all scrambling about. We stayed till it was dark to stargaze in the perfectly black desert sky.

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