One Day in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary – How to Spend a Perfect Day in Joshua Tree National Park

There is a reason why almost 3 million people visit the place where the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert ecosystems meet – it is exceptional! The name and the fame come from the Joshua Tree. Originally referred to as yucca palm, there is a common belief that once the Mormons reached this area, yucca reminded them of the Biblical Joshua – strong, sturdy, and reaching up to heaven. At first, it might seem that there are very few amenities, but don’t worry there are still plenty of things to do. Keep reading and we’ll tell you how to spend one day in Joshua Tree National Park.

One day in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary

Plan your trip to Joshua National Park

1. Best Time to Visit
2. A Few Facts About Joshua Tree National Park
3. One Day in Joshua Tree National Park
3.1. Start Your Day With a Breakfast – Before You Enter The Park
3.2. Visit The Arch And The Skull Rock
3.3. Explore Cholla Cactus Garden
3.4. Have Lunch At Barker Dam
3.5. Discover The Hidden Valley
3.6. Bask in The Keys View
3.7. Have Fun With Karaoke
4. Where To Stay in Joshua Tree National Park
5. Day Trips From Joshua Tree National Park
6. Extra Tips For Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

Best Time to Visit

You can visit Joshua Tree National Park any time of the year. However, the most comfortable temperatures are between March to May and October to November. Considering this is a desert, the summer months tend to be very hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). In the wintertime, the temperatures can drop below zero, but not all the time, as it is generally comfortable during the day. The ideal time to go is in the spring and fall. Whenever you decide to explore this beautiful place, keep in mind the temperatures vary depending on where you are in the Park.

Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree
Cholla Cactus Garden, Author: Emily Hassell, Source: Flickr

A Few Facts About Joshua Tree National Park

  • The first known residents in this area were the people of the Pinto culture (8000-4000 BCE)
  • The Park’s oldest rocks are 1.7 billion years old
  • Joshua Tree’s fruit is edible and can be roasted or dried
  • American Indian tribes used the Joshua Tree leaves for baskets and footwear
  • The Park has over 52 species of mammals, 46 reptiles, 250 birds, and 75 butterflies, as well as 750 plants species
  • In the 1930s, the desert became popular, and people started ordering plants to be moved out of it. Mississippi-born socialite, Minerva Hoyt, was extremely upset by how inconsiderate that was, and she started doing everything in her power to protect the plants. Thanks to her efforts, Joshua Tree became a National Monument, and then in 1994, it was declared a National Park
Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree
Hidden Valley, Author: Hannah Schwalbe, Source: Flickr

One Day in Joshua Tree National Park

Start Your Day With a Breakfast – Before You Enter The Park

Even if you are not outdoorsy, this national Park is worth visiting, so avoid skipping this experience, even if it’s a short one! You can start your day with breakfast and check-in at the AutoCamp Joshua Tree Hotel as they have a 24-hour front desk so you’re totally on your own schedule.  Avoid skipping breakfast before this adventure because there are no restaurants once you enter the Park. Treat yourself to a tasty meal at Crossroads Cafe. Head on to the entrance of your choice- there are three entrances: West (Main) Entrance, North Entrance, and South Entrance.

Crossroads Cafe, Joshua Tree
Crossroads Cafe, Joshua Tree

Visit The Arch And The Skull Rock

The first stop is Arch Rock.  This is the perfect spot to try a bit of rock climbing! If you feel like walking a bit more, there is also a 12 feet tall heart-shaped boulder nearby, known as Heart Rock.  Arch Rock is only about a 10-minute drive from its neighbor – the Skull Rock. This is an easy stop and a short walk to see this photogenic rock. It is excellent for families with smaller kids due to its easy access and for friends looking to get some fun photos! This iconic boulder is one of the most famous landmarks in Joshua Tree.

Arch Rock, Joshua Tree
Arch Rock, Author: Tom Hilton, Source: Flickr

Explore Cholla Cactus Garden

Now that you’ve seen some of nature’s beautifully formed rocks, head to the Cholla Cactus Garden for a unique experience. You will know why it is one of the most visited places in Joshua Tree National Park. Cholla Cactus Garden is a lovely place to watch a sunset if this happens to be one of your last stops. Regardless of the time of your visit, this place is a must-see.

Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree
Cholla Cactus Garden, Author: Brad Sutton, Source: Flickr

Have Lunch At Barker Dam

It takes about 30 minutes to get to Barker Dam, so there is plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Take the northwest trail toward Barker Dam, and you will discover the perfect spot for a lunch break – on the shore of a small blue lake. Since this is a desert, keep in mind that droughts can occur, so the water level varies or dries out. However, it is still a great spot to take a break, eat lunch, and recharge. After your lunch break, continue exploring the Barker Dam, the Mojave Desert plant life, and maybe even some wildlife if you’re lucky! Barker Dam is considered a milder trail, and you will experience interpretive exhibits along the way and various highlights of the Mojave Desert.

Barker Dam, Joshua Tree
Barker Dam, Author: Brian, Source: Flickr

Discover The Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley, a famous rock climbing area, can be a half-hour or three-hour hike, depending on how much time you have. Walking around is worthwhile to experience all the cool plants, impressive boulders, and unique history. You can even pay a vehicle admission fee and drive through it.

Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree National Park
Hidden Valley, Author: Richard Ricciardi, Source: Flickr

There is also a picnic area if you’d like to snack before heading to the next spot. Some of the plants and animals in Hidden Valley are not typically found together in other areas of the Park.

Picnic at Hidden Valley Picnic Area, Joshua Tree
Picnic at Hidden Valley Picnic Area, Author: Hannah Schwalbe, Source: Flickr

Bask in The Keys View

Last but not least – Keys View. If you are too tired for a moderately challenging hike, you can drive up to the Keys View Parking Lot. After parking your car, take a short walk up the hill, and you will be at the viewpoint, ready to watch the sky turn colors and experience one of the most beautiful sunsets. Bring a blanket to sit on, make yourself comfortable and soak in the breathtaking panoramic view.

Tuscan Springs Hotel & Spa
The path to Keys View, Author: Alison Taggart-Barone, Source: Flickr

Keys View is about 30 minutes away from the West (Main) Entrance/Exit.

Keys View
Keys View, Author: Ed Dunens, Source: Flickr

Have Fun With Karaoke

After a long day of exploring, it is time to enjoy a well-deserved dinner and load up on some carbs at the Pie for the People! Pizza is the perfect ending to any day, and this one is the visitors’ favorite. They also serve specialty pizzas, calzones, and delicious salads – if you are not into carbs. Save some room for dessert, as they offer that too!

If you are not in the mood for pizza or feel like grabbing a drink before heading back to the hotel, try out the nearby Joshua Tree Saloon. Fun atmosphere, western decor, and live music and karaoke on certain days! While you are there, maybe grab a cold beer and try out their pool table. Finish the day relaxing and having drinks/food on the large patio.

Keys View at night
Keys View at night, Author: Lian Law, Source: Flickr

Where To Stay in Joshua Tree National Park

AutoCamp Joshua Tree

Auto Camp Joshua Tree Hotel

62209 Verbena Road, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

AutoCamp Joshua Tree is located in Joshua Tree, 1 km from the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. This hotel features an outdoor pool, free private parking, a bar, and a terrace. The Maze Loop Trail is 11 kilometers away, Lower Covington Flat is 12 kilometers away, and Eureka Peak is 13 kilometers away. The hotel has a hot tub and a front desk that is open 24 hours a day. Great facilities, good location for getting into town, and very comfortable, ideal for any type of budget!


Fairfield Inn & Suites Twentynine Palms

Fairfield Inn & Suites Twentynine Palms – Joshua Tree National Park

6333 Encelia Avenue, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Close to the North (Twentynine Palms) Entrance of the Joshua Tree National Park, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott offers clean and comfortable rooms with air conditioning and a flat-screen TV. There is complimentary breakfast and, free Wi-Fi, and a fitness and business center. This family-friendly hotel offers a free stay for kids and activities, and they have a swimming pool, 24-hour front desk and even a convenience store.


Tuscan Springs Hotel & Spa

Tuscan Springs Hotel & Spa

68187 Club Circle Drive, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240

For those that like to indulge in a relaxing lifestyle, Tuscan Springs Hotel has it all! There is a full-service spa on-site, a volcanically heated mineral water hot tub, and an outdoor pool. The pools are fantastic and available 24 hours a day! All of the rooms at Tuscan Springs Hotel and Spa have a kitchenette while private terraces are available in some rooms.  And the breakfast is amazing! Everyone loves a great breakfast.


Day Trips From Joshua Tree National Park

Los Angeles

Visit the fabulous Los Angeles, located only two hours from Joshua Tree National Park.

Just saying the name Los Angeles instantly paints a picture -streets lit by sunlight and a lush, blue sky leaning against palm trees.  Fame, red carpets, and glamour. However, there is much more to the city than you can see in movies and TV shows. The city with underground tunnels and the only solar-powered Ferris wheel – L.A. is one you can’t miss. Read what you can do here!

San Diego

3-Hour drive and you can make it to America’s Finest City. Located on the Pacific coast, this gorgeous city is famous for its beaches, parks, and amazing climate. Visit one or more of the many art galleries, art studios, museums, or gardens. Recently, San Diego has become a major player in healthcare and biology. Do not miss a chance to visit this beautiful coastline city, and see what else you can do there right – here.

Palm Springs

Just an hour away, Palm Springs, a city in the Sonoran Desert in Southern California, is famous for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf course, and spa. It is also known for many beautiful examples of medieval modern architecture. Its main shopping mall along Palm Canyon Drive features retro boutiques, interior design shops, and restaurants. The surrounding Coachella Valley offers hiking, cycling, and horse riding trails. You can see what to do in Palm Springs – here!

Extra Tips For Visiting Joshua Tree National Park

  • Admission into the park is approx 30 USD per vehicle and it’s valid for a week.
  • In the park itself, there is no water, electricity, street lights,  food service,  accommodations (except for camping), or cell service.
  • Plan if you are bringing your pet and check where pets are allowed.
  • To experience the most in 24 hours in Joshua Tree National Park, and considering its size, the best thing is to drive through it.
  • Book ahead so that you can enter the national park quicker.
  • If you would like to skip wasting time in long lines, it is worth driving for about 30 minutes to the North Entrance, known as the Twentynine Palms.

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip?

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

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