There are almost as many reasons to visit sprawling Joshua Tree National Park as there are acres in the park (792,623 to be exact), but for your sake (and let's be honest, mine) I narrowed it down to the most compelling ones.
1. Nature’s Los Angeles Counterpart
Joshua Tree is actually about 3x the area of the City of LA. It is admittedly smaller than LA County, but on the other hand JT is the product of two massive deserts colliding so that definitely counts for a lot in my book (and sounds really cool). It’s a major wildlife metropolis in its own right, so if you loved the movie Zootopia you should definitely check it out. (Can you tell how much I love Disney? It's never irrelevant to me.) More importantly, it offers a peaceful, rejuvenating getaway experience from the glitz and glam of LA within a reasonable distance.
As urban areas spread more and more, it’s refreshing to spend time in a place where nature is the only thing around for hundreds of miles. Also, cute animals > people.
2. Incredible Wildlife, Especially at Night
You may be familiar with some of the birds, lizards, and squirrels that grace visitors with their presence during the day, but chances are you haven’t come across the menagerie of creatures that come out at night. A note on the birds though – JT offers some of the best bird watching in the US for those of you who are enthusiasts. Grab those binoculars!
At night (trade those binoculars for night vision goggles), you may see the bighorn sheep, snakes, kangaroo rats, coyotes, and black-tailed rabbits that call JT home, among other strategic night dwellers. There are 801 different species inhabiting the park. Zootopia indeed!
3. See Stars You Never Knew Existed
Speaking of nighttime in the desert, the main reason you may miss seeing nocturnal animals is because your eyes will constantly be captivated by the night sky. Bring a mat to lay down on – the neck cramps are real! These are exactly the kind of stars that make you contemplate the vastness of the universe for hours on end. Trust me, they are gorgeous. It will be your gold standard for stargazing, unless you somehow take a space trip outside of Earth’s atmosphere (sorry, I can’t quite help you plan that trip, yet…).
If you’re an astronomy enthusiast then you have probably already been here, because how could you miss this? If you’re not, you can’t miss it either. Relish in the sight of what you’re pretty sure are the big and little dippers, and all the other dippers in between. (Are there other dippers? Not as knowledgable about astronomy as I would like.)
4. Camping in Unimaginable Beauty
So, the night sky is the #1 reason to camp in JT. You’re also here for the experience of camping done right. I’m personally averse to those very commercialized campgrounds where you’re basically group camping with everyone else staying there. JT is thankfully nothing like that.
With 8 different official campgrounds to choose from, there are plenty of options with varied setup and terrain. If you’re big on horseback riding, they have equestrian camping too!
For those who are a little more adventurous (or if campsites fill up, which they do), you are free to camp anywhere on Bureau of Land Management land right outside the park.
JT is the without a doubt one of the most idyllic camping destinations in the world.
5. Outdoor Activities as Vast as The Park
This point should really have its own sub-list, because there’s so much to do at JT. Okay! I convinced myself:
That gives you an idea of *some* of the many, many possibilities here. JT is a true outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Of course, any and all of these can be experienced according to your pleasures.
I’ve had photographers interested in documenting specific species of plants, so we arranged a hybrid botany-photography experience that ticked all of their boxes. There are endless customizable outdoor experiences here that offer visitors unique and unforgettable journeys through this vast and one-of-a-kind wilderness.
6. And, Of Course, The Infamous Joshua Tree
Ah, the namesake Joshua Tree! Inescapably always described as a Dr. Seuss-like creation, these quirky, spikey trees are abundant here. They are the cherry on top of the dreamlike experience that is JT. Without these trees, visiting JT would arguably be less of the surreal experience that it is, and certainly less iconic.
Luckily, they are here, and representative of most visitors’ experiences at the park: totally unbelievable and unique, yet completely real.
Joshua Tree is truly a bucket list destination. If you haven’t visited yet, I am more than happy to help you plan a tailored experience that is perfect for you and your co-travelers. JT is so large and offers so much that it's a great destination for a custom trip itinerary. Click here to learn more!
Which reasons compel you to visit JT the most? Share in the comments below!