10 Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

A tall Joshua Tree inside Joshua Tree National Park

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is an absolutely amazing experience. The park is located in Southern California, only about 2.5 hours from Los Angeles or Orange County. It’s the perfect place to explore Mother Nature and literally get away from everything.

When I say everything, I really mean everything, since there is no phone service inside the park!

Take advantage of this experience! Escape the hustle and bustle of the city, clear your mind, and connect with nature.

If you are planning on visiting Joshua Tree, the park is an absolute MUST! Read my tips to prepare for your first visit.

10 Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

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Rocky section of Joshua Tree National Park during sunset

1. Prepare for the temperature

The days are sunny and hot and the nights get chilly. Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen!

It’s a good idea to bring some extra layers in case you plan to stay into the night. While I was visiting the temperature quickly dropped about an hour or so before sunset. I also brought a blanket so we could hang out and watch the sunset from the rocks.

Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree National Park

2. Dress appropriately

There are a few things you should wear when visiting Joshua Tree NP:

  • Hiking Shoes. A decent pair of hiking shoes is an absolute must. There are lots of sticks, cacti, and rocks in the area and your feet need to be protected.
  • Long Pants. I do really recommend long pants for the same reason I mentioned above. I wore jeans because I was not planning on getting into any drastic hiking or climbing situations, but I would have been more comfortable in my hiking pants.
  • Hat. I never used to wear a hat, like ever, but now that I have tried it I really don’t think I could have survived a day in the desert without one. The sun is really strong in California and you will feel much more comfortable exploring the park if your face and eyes are not burning in the sun.

READ MORE: What to Pack for a Trip to Southern California

Driving through Joshua Tree National Park

3. Fill up your gas tank

You will be entering a desert, in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely no services, and no cell phone signal. Need I say more?

4. Bring extra water and food

Again, there are absolutely no services in the park. No gas station. No street lights. No restrooms (only portables in select locations). And no water and no food.

If you are planning to spend the day here you better bring plenty of water and more than a snack. We had a large (delicious) breakfast at Crossroads Café so I thought I would be fine with the one granola bar that I brought with for a snack. Thank goodness it gets dark early in the winters and we had to head out because I was starving by the time we left!

Don’t let thirst or hunger ruin your day, just pack a cooler!

Joshua Tree National Park Keys View

5. Don’t underestimate the size of this park

You should plan on spending more than one day here if you really want to see everything.

My itinerary for my first trip to Joshua Tree included all of the hot spots such as Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, Keys View, Jumbo Rocks, Arch Rock, and the Cholla Cactus Garden.

Want to know how many we actually made it to? One. Just one. That one place is the Keys View in the photo above.

Driving through the entire park is somewhat of a challenge, that’s why it’s on my Southern California Bucket List Challenge.

It wasn’t only because this park is huge and I totally underestimated how long it would take us to get through everything, but these popular places are full of people and it’s not so easy to just pull up and park at each stop. It’s a waiting game and I am very impatient.

Plus, we were so overwhelmed by the park as a whole that we spent so much time in other areas of the park. Sometimes it’s more fun to explore the path less traveled, right?

If you are visiting Joshua Tree NP for the first time I recommend that you stop at the ranger station to get a map and some expert advice for your day’s plan.

Along the road in Joshua Tree National Park

6. Expect parking delays at major points of interest

As you can imagine, a National Park doesn’t necessarily have an abundance of parking spaces. Like I mentioned above, the popular areas in the park could potentially be full and you may not be able to find a parking spot.

Most of our stops were along the side of the road – just make sure you are stopping in a designated parking area or you could get a ticket if a Ranger happens to catch you. The only point where we were actually able to get a parking spot was at Keys View, but we got very lucky since someone was leaving just as we arrived.

Driving through Joshua Tree National Park

7. Take advantage of the free shuttle

As of February 2018, the park offers a FREE shuttle! I wish I would have known this when I took my trip, otherwise, I definitely would have used this.

According to this announcement, it is available as a pilot program, but hopefully, they continue it. I will definitely be trying this out next time!

Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree National Park

8. Prepare for a LOT of photos

This park is a photographer’s paradise!

Even if you are not a professional photographer (I am not either), I guarantee you are going to take a ton of photos during your first visit to Joshua Tree. We were in the park for only around 6 hours, and we went through several camera batteries, so don’t forget to bring extras!

I also recommend bringing some accessories if you have any, such as a tripod, selfie stick, phone gimble, and an action cam with mounts. We brought all of our favorite accessories and I’m happy we did because we used most, if not all of them!

Exploring the rocky areas in Joshua Tree National Park

9. Buy the yearly pass

Don’t forget to stop at the ranger station to get a pass to enter the park! You can find the fee information here.

If you think you will be visiting Joshua Tree several times a year, I actually just recommend buying the yearly pass. You really can’t beat $40 for access to this amazing park all year long!

10. Beware of the Cholla Cactus

Apparently, the Cholla Cactus will shoot you if you get too close. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the Cholla Cactus Garden to see this with my own eyes, but I am definitely making a stop there during my next trip!

I honestly don’t know what kind of cactus this is that I was trying to pet, but I am lucky it didn’t shoot me! Sounds painful!

Cactus near the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park

I hope these tips help you plan your trip to Joshua Tree National Park, and I hope you enjoy the park as much as I did!

For more information, you can visit the Park’s website here.


If you are looking for a great place to stay, check out these vintage Airstreams at Joshua Tree Acres.


Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you end up visiting the park or have already I would love to hear your experiences!

A Joshua Tree during sunset

10 Tips for Your First Visit to Joshua Tree National Park


The Perfect Getaway in Joshua Tree: Staying at Joshua Tree Acres 

The Ultimate Southern California Bucket List


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