In addition to its unique vegetation, Joshua Tree National Park is
noted for its colossal jumbles of rock.
rock formations now visible at Joshua Tree were originally formed
as large pools of magma that moved towards the surface of the Mojave,
but never quite managed to escape to the surface and cool in the
atmosphere. Instead, the molten material crystallized over vast
periods of time and slowly evolved into a form of granite called
monzogranite. During the succeeding geologic eras, the surface
materials covering these deposits were eroded away and the
monzogranite formations, finally arriving at the surface, were
greeted by destructive erosional forces.
The monzogranite at Joshua Tree has a rectangular joint system
and these joints have been attacked by water and frost over eons,
leading to piles of large rectangular blocks of rock. Of course,
the process continues to erode the material and in many areas the park
appears almost as if it had been shattered by a cosmic hammer.
The overall look is unique and very dramatic. Numerous areas of
the Park highlight this process. Be sure to visit the Arch
Rocks, Jumbo Rocks and Skull Rocks areas to see some of the best
Two of our favorite areas within Joshua Tree are famous
for their vegetation. The Cholla Garden is, not surprisingly,
composed of Teddy Bear Cholla, more commonly known as "Jumping Cholla".
These compact cacti are loaded with thousand of spines that are ready to
"spring" into action, if you should happen to bump into one (not
recommended). The Chollas are a compact, silvery green cactus
whose blooms, though interesting, are not part of its reproductive
process. Instead, the stalk and stems die and drop into the nearby soil,
reseeding the cacti in the process.
The Cholla Garden features a brief nature walk (you
will find a brochure describing the walk at the trail head -
donations accepted) and is something you should consider if visiting the
noted earlier, the Joshua Trees are located in the Mojave Desert section
of Joshua Tree and can be found by following the road that eventually
leads to the Town of Joshua Tree (the town is located outside of the
park). The Joshua trees are scraggly looking, but quite impressive
when they are in bloom (usually near Easter). The tree is a Yucca
variant known as Yucca brevefolia and a member of the Lily family.
tree form seems to defy description. The younger Joshua Trees are
usually upright and comprised of a limited number of branches
arranged in a tidy fashion. Older trees often exhibit a large number of
branches that are bent, gnarled and trend in a million directions,
sometimes along the ground,
Tree National Park covers nearly 800,000 acres and much of it is too
remote for casual touring. The park's main road passes all
the major attractions of the park and driving this road will provide a
day of adventure for you and your family.
The elevations in the park
vary, with the eastern section (part of the Colorado Desert) generally
below 3,000 ft. The western section falls in the Mojave Desert and
is higher (above 3,000 ft), damper and slightly cooler than the Colorado
Desert. The use of cooler and damper are relative terms here as
all of the park is a desert.
The entrance fee to the park is $15 for a 7-day vehicle permit,
covers all of the passengers in the vehicle. Discounts are available for
seniors (aged 62 and older) through the Interagency Senior Pass that
costs $10. The Senior Pass is available to U.S. citizens or
permanent residents age 62 or over and is good for a lifetime.
Open all year, Joshua Tree has three, modest visitor centers at the
Oasis, Joshua Tree and Cottonwood entrances. The Park is not
complex and, unless you are going to camp, can be toured in less than a
day, including time to hike one or more of the Park's delightful trails.
There are a number of programs led by park rangers, including
walks and hikes. The Keys Ranch Tour is highly recommended, but
you should make reservations in advance.
Joshua Tree has nine campgrounds and all are very popular during the
season, which runs from fall to early spring.
Campsites are limited to six people, three tents and two cars, although
group sites are, also, available. Some of the campsites can be
reserved in advance. Check with the
National Park Service for details.
temperatures during the summer can be deadly and touring is recommended
only during the late fall, winter and early spring. Information on
visiting and details for the park can be found at the official
website of the National Park Service.
Remember that the Park can be cold at night during the
winter. In addition, even in spring, the daytime weather can
be cool, verging on cold and windy, so
bring a light jacket just in case.
than camping, there are few places to lodge close to Joshua Tree.
Indio is 25 miles to the west of the Park's south entrance at Cottonwood
Springs. Your best bet is to plan on staying at Palm Springs, La
Quinta, Palm Desert or one of the other desert communities to the
southwest of Joshua Tree National Park.