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Avoiding Joshua Tree National Park is a Great Idea

Joshua Tree is undoubtedly one of the more unique California national parks. The state is so large, and there are so many things to see and do there that it’s nearly impossible to visit everything all in one trip.

Today, we’ll help you decide if Joshua Tree National Park should be on your list of parks to visit.

Let’s dig in!  

About Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is in southeastern California. Located only two hours from Los Angeles, it’s a great way to break away from the city and immerse yourself in the wilderness. The park received its national park status in October 1994. It encompasses about 800,000 acres, slightly larger than Rhode Island. 

Joshua Tree National Park is named after the unique Joshua trees located throughout the park. These trees only live between 2,000 and 6,000 feet of elevation. Like many desert plants, they grow slowly. They often take 50-60 years to reach their full size. 

Joshua Tree National Park is a rocky desert that sees dramatically high temperatures in the summer months. Evenings tend to be pleasant, even in summer. 

5 Reasons Joshua Tree National Park Might Not Be for You

Joshua Tree National Park has some great features. It’s a popular park for a reason. Even though it’s a bucket list park for many people, it does come with its flaws. Take a look at a few reasons why Joshua Tree National Park might not be for you. 

#1 – The Crowds Can Be Overwhelming

In recent years, visitor counts have approached three million per year. It can be hard to feel like you’re one with nature while battling a crowd. High visitor counts lead to overrun trails.

With so many visitors, you may feel like you’re at an amusement park instead of a national park. As mentioned above, the park includes more than 800,000 acres of land, but most are inaccessible by roads. A lack of roads means abundant traffic, especially in popular areas. 

What to Do About It: Try to visit during off-peak times. Spring sees the heaviest traffic due to the beautiful wildflowers. If you must visit during the busy season, plan on doing most of your touring during the week to avoid crowds. Weekends bring in even more people.

#2 – The Weather Can Be Extreme

Summer sees fewer visitors than the rest of the year due to its extreme temperatures. The average high in June, July, and August sits around 100 degrees. Winter is less extreme, but it’s possible to encounter snow.

Joshua Tree National Park is a desert environment. It can face strong winds, which kick the sand around and dehydrate you more quickly. So, be prepared with plenty of water during the summer months.

What to Do About It: If you decide to visit during the hot but less crowded summer season, be prepared. Have more water than you think you’ll need. Hike very early or in the evening. Be sure someone knows your hiking plans.

Dress for the weather, remembering that even if the day starts cool, temperatures can quickly soar. Ideally, visit in late fall when temperatures are a bit cooler, and the crowds haven’t shown up in large numbers yet. 

#3 – The Animals Can Be Dangerous

Many of the animals found at Joshua Tree National Park are not cuddly. When exploring the park, you may encounter some potentially dangerous animals. Some wildlife you might find while in the park includes spiders, mountain lions, snakes (including rattlesnakes), scorpions, and California black bears.  

What to Do About It: Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t reach into a place you can’t see, such as under or around rocks or into bushes or trees. Give wildlife space. Ask a nearby ranger what animals have been spotted recently in that area and anything you should know. 

#4 – There’s No Cell Service

Joshua Tree National Park is known to be a bit of a dead zone for cell phone service. If you don’t already have a predetermined meet-up time and location, it may be challenging to find the rest of your group.

In the event of an emergency, you may not be able to call for help. Hiking can be a bit more difficult without a cell phone or internet as you can’t load hiking apps. 

What to Do About It: Have plans in place before you arrive. Don’t rely on cell phone service for your communication. Know where and when you’re meeting up with people. Be sure others know your hiking plans.

Download hiking maps ahead of time and pick up a park map at the visitor center. Knowing your hiking route lessens your chance of getting frustrated or lost. The park does have WiFi in many locations, which can help. Embrace getting off the grid for a while and into nature.

#5 – Campgrounds Fill Up Early

In later winter and throughout spring, campgrounds fill up early, especially on the weekends. Crowds make it difficult to snag a reservation. Showing up without a reservation can leave you scrambling to find accommodations, which could cost you money and time.

What to Do About It: Reservations at Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds are available six months ahead of time on a rolling basis. If necessary, set a reminder so you don’t miss your dates. Have a backup plan if all campgrounds are full. 

There are private campgrounds nearby as well as public lands available for boondocking. If you’re unsure of your options, stop in at the visitor center or speak with a ranger. You have a greater chance of snagging a campsite if your visit falls during the week versus the busy weekend. If you must plan your trip on the weekend, try to camp during the slow season. 

Joshua Tree National Park has become a popular park in the last five years. Despite its popularity, or because of it, it’s not the right choice for everyone. Is Joshua Tree National Park on your bucket list, or will you leave it to the other almost three million yearly visitors?

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  1. Pat Benny says:

    Something everyone going to Joshua tree National Park should know–ALL JOSHUA TREES TILT TO THE SOUTH. If you get lost, knowing this could save your life!