Weekend Adventure Guide: Joshua Tree National Park

Above: A typical view of Joshua Tree National Park

Presented by Ford  

Escape your usual weekend routine and take on Southern California’s infamous Joshua Tree National Park. The park’s reputation as a premier wilderness destination is well deserved with great hiking trails and challenging climbing routes. Read on for a Joshua Tree weekend getaway plan; all you’ll have left to do is pack up your car and use your GPS to navigate you there.

Hike the park for a day

If you’ve never been to Joshua Tree National Park, this nearly 800,000-acre desert park calls for at least an entire day. Throw your hiking boots into your bag, as there is a network of trails to choose from (maps can be found on their website). If you’re particularly pressed for time, then simply hike one of 12 self-guided nature trails to get a quick taste of what the park has to offer.

Explore it on two wheels

If two wheels is your preferred mode of transportation, be sure to bring your mountain bike. You’ll have to resist the urge to explore the dirt trails, though; biking is currently limited to established roads where vehicles are also permitted—however, there are several unpaved backcountry roads, such as Geology Tour Road and Berdoo Canyon Road that you can take advantage of.

Climb on

If you prefer exploring on a vertical plane, there’s plenty of rock climbing and bouldering at Joshua Tree—8,000 climbing routes, in fact, and with a range of difficulty that covers the newbie as well as the advanced climber. The park offers everything from crack, slab and steep-face climbing—and if those terms mean nothing to you, be sure to do some climbing training before heading out to climb here.

Get camping

If you love the great outdoors, then camping at one of the nine campgrounds at Joshua Tree National Park is a must on your bucket list. Camping here will allow you more time to explore trails and discover the desert wildlife (including bighorn sheep and black-tailed jack rabbits), vegetation (including the five fan palm oases) and terrain (think massive granite stones and mountains of rock that have been shaped over centuries). With camping comes tons of gear, so consider cargo space when booking your car rental and look for features that’ll make your trip easier, such as a hands-free, foot-activated lift gate.

Bring on the birdwatching

No matter how you choose to explore the park, keep your eyes peeled for some fine-feathered friends. Mockingbirds, great roadrunners and mourning doves are just a few of the birds that can be spotted year round. Although not frequently spotted, turkey vultures have been known to rest at night at the park during their spring migration. Your best bet for some successful birdwatching is to get the checklist from the visitor center at the start of your park visit so you know which birds you are most likely to spot that season.

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