Joshua Tree National Park

The Deserts

As if from a page out of a Dr Seuss book, the whimsical-looking 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 get hypnotized by the desert vistas. It's a great place to camp.

Mormon settlers 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, the trees 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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Deserts attractions

1. Keys Ranch

3.74 MILES

Old West history buffs will delight in the 90-minute ranger-led tour of this ranch named after its builder, William Keys. He and his family built a…

2. Wonderland of Rocks

4.29 MILES

This striking rock labyrinth extends roughly from Indian Cove in the north to Park Blvd in the south and is predictably a popular rock climbers' haunt…

3. Indian Cove

6.35 MILES

Rock hounds love the hulking caramel-colored formations in this northern corner of the park, while birders are drawn by feathered friends hiding out among…

4. Keys View

6.35 MILES

High atop the Little San Bernardino Mountains, Keys View offers panoramic views of the whole Coachella Valley spread out like a picnic blanket. On clear…

5. Oasis of Mara


Behind the park HQ and Oasis Visitor Center, this natural oasis encompasses the original 29 palm trees that gave Twentynine Palms its name. They were…

6. World-Famous Crochet Museum

14.14 MILES

An old lime-green photo booth is the home of Bunny, Buddy and hundreds of their crocheted friends collected by Shari Elf. The artist, singer, fashion…

7. Beauty Bubble Salon & Museum

14.15 MILES

Jeff Hafler loves hair and everything to do with it, which is why his Steel Magnolias–type home salon brims with related vintage beauty paraphernalia he's…

8. Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum

16.27 MILES

The 'Junk Dada' sculptures and installations of African American artist Noah Purifoy (1917–2004) are collected by the world's finest museums, but some of…