California Travel

Hiking Joshua Tree National Park

On January 1st,  we started the year with a day hike in Joshua Tree National Park. It was a beautiful way to usher in the new year – so much so, I think that this might be a new tradition. Better still was that December 31st was spent at a spa! That was a relaxing way to ease out of 2015 and then jump into 2016 with an invigorating day of hiking.

Joshua Tree National Park

That being said, the hike we chose was relatively easy! We were hiking with our youngest two kids and really just wanted to get out and explore a part of Joshua Tree National Park. We chose to hike the Mastodon Peak Loop as it was easy to get to from Palm Desert – it is right of Highway 10.

Joshua Tree National Park Landscape

Mastodon Peak Loop is an easy 2.7 miles and with our picnic break and stopping for lots of pictures it was about a three hour venture. The summit elevation is 3,371 feet.

What we loved about this hike:

  • A wide variety of desert scrub and plant life

Joshua Tree National Park

  • Two beautiful oases popping up out of the desert floor

Joshua Tree National Park Oasis

  • Views of the Salton Sea

Salton Sea

  • Mastodon Peak to climb – the kids loved this!

Joshua Tree National Park Mastadon Peak

  • Area to spread out and picnic at the base of the peak

Joshua Tree National Park Picnic

  • And an old mine to learn about and check out (from the outside as it is closed up)

Joshua Tree National Park Mine

How to get there:

Joshua Tree National Park has three park entrances. Two of them are right off Highway 62. One of those is in Joshua Tree Village and the second is in Twenty-Nine Palms. We entered the park from the Southern entrance off Highway 10 east of Indio at Cottonwood Spring. After our hike we drove out the Twenty-Nine Palms entrance. This gave us a nice cross view of the park and allowed us to see more vegetation. We would have loved to have had the time to lop through the third area, but the sun was setting.

Joshua Tree National Park Palms

Once we entered the park from the Southern entrance we stopped at the Cottonwood Visitor Center. They were super helpful in marking the trail for us (though it is easy to find). They had souvenirs, books, and information regarding the history of the area. They also had water bottles there for sale. Packing water is a must! And they have bathrooms.

Joshua Tree National Park

When you exit the Cottonwood Visitor Center you will head down a side road, Cottonwood Springs. The road ends at the trail head. There was plenty of parking on the side of the road.

Joshua Tree National Park

One of the first things you will see on the trail is a beautiful oasis. You will also find many boulders with impressions worn into the rock where Native Americans ground seeds or grains. The trail is both sandy and rocky at different elevations, but easily navigated. As you get higher, be sure to look out into the distance to spot the Salton Sea on a clear day.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park Collage

After reaching the peak we stopped for a picnic lunch. After lunch we hiked down the loop and it took us past the closed mine and some huge, I mean super huge, boulder formations. The terrain is very changeable and we were constantly coming across new plants and rock formations.

Joshua Tree National Park Mine

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

After our hike, we headed out Wilson Canyon Road. This took us past the Cholla Cactus Garden where we parked and enjoyed the nature walk. This is a quarter mile loop on a wooden sidewalk through a densely populated field of Cholla cacti. Again this was new terrain! It is beautiful!

Joshua Tree National Park Cholla Cacti

Joshua Tree National Park Cholla Cactus Field

I wish we had started our day earlier, but as I said this was January 1st, and we did sleep in after ringing in the new year.

We will be back to Joshua Tree National Park- we would love to visit Skull Rock.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

For more information check out Joshua Tree National Park U.S. National Park Service.

Joshua Tree National Park Map

Have you ever been to Joshua Tree National Park? What National Park is your favorite?


(26) Comments

  1. I’ve never been, but this sounds like so much fun!!! I will at this to my list of places to visit.

  2. CourtneyLynne says:

    Omg this park must of been amazing to see in person!!!!! Hopefully one day my travels will
    Take me there.

  3. This photos look amazing it seems to me you had a great time! This must be an amazing place to see the stars at night

  4. This looks really cool! My favorite national park so far was the Grand Canyon. (I think it qualifies anyways.) Where is this park located?

  5. Oh wow, this looks like such an amazing spot! I have been wanting to get there, but I think I will need to wait until my little ones are bigger, and can walk longer distances as theres only so far we can carry them in hiking backpacks 🙂

  6. Wow, that is beautiful! I bet it was a fun hike! The landscape is so different than what I see when my family goes on hikes in New England. Very cool!

  7. What an absolutely gorgeous park! I would love to take my kiddos here. We are going to have to look into it!

  8. this looks like an amazing place to visit and one I hope to make it too eventually. This is in california right? what part? like east border near arizona?

  9. What a cool way to start off the year! That’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve never been to that area, but I know one of m daughters would love it. Those heights would give me anxiety. lol

  10. I haven’t been to this national park before, but it looks like y’all had a good time. My favorite so far is Yosemite National Park.

  11. What a breath-takingly lovely hike. I hope some day to be able to visit Joshua Tree National Park.

  12. How beautiful. I live on the east coast and we have such a different landscape. Right now it’s too cold to hike. I’m jealous that you can exercise outdoors!

  13. Looks really beautiful. That is such a great, inspiring way to start the new year.

  14. My god the views are just phenomenal I love the mix of vegetation and desert type landscape. I would love to go one day!

  15. This looks like an amazing place. Your photos are breathtaking.

  16. I don’t know which makes me more happy. Hiking at Joshua Tree National Park or day at a spa. Both 🙂

  17. How beautiful! Those pictures are definitely breathtaking.

    1. Stacey says:

      Thank you! there was beautiful scenery all around.

  18. Oh what a beautiful hike! Looks like so much fun!

    1. Stacey says:

      We had a wonderful day!

  19. Those trees are like art! I love the shape. It looks like a fun hike!

    1. Stacey says:

      There was vegetation there that I had never seen before – all if it was so unique!

  20. The Salton Sea looks so incredible. Those views are to die for, I’d love todo a hike there! Great photos 🙂

    1. Stacey says:

      We had such a beautiful and clear blue sky day! We had excellent views.

  21. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    That sounds amazing. This is one place I have always wanted to visit. Hope to get there someday!

    1. Stacey says:

      I hope you do, too!

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