Joshua Tree National Park

National Park in Joshua Tree National Park

Taking a page from a Dr Seuss book, the whimsical Joshua trees welcome visitors to this 794,000-acre park at the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts. Rock climbers know ‘JT’ as the best place to climb in California, but scrambling up, down and around the giant boulders can be fun for all. Hikers seek out hidden, shady, desert-fan-palm oases fed by natural springs, while mountain bikers are hypnotized by the desert vistas. It's a great place to camp.

It was Mormon settlers who named the Joshua tree because the branches stretching toward heaven reminded them of the Biblical prophet Joshua pointing the way to the promised land. In spring, they send up a huge single cream-colored flower, and the octopus-like tentacles of the ocotillo cactus shoot out crimson flowers. The mystical quality of this stark, boulder-strewn landscape has inspired many artists, including U2, who spent time here while recording their 1987 album the Joshua Tree. Unless you’re day-tripping from Palm Springs, base yourself in the desert communities linked by 29 Palms Hwy/Hwy 62 along the park’s northern perimeter.