I had to eat my own words (No naps while out traveling! Sleep is for the weak!!) on the FIRST day of our trip when a 3 hr plane ride + 3 hr car ride to Joshua Tree National Park gave me a dull headache. While it bummed me out that I had to take some time to feel better, we still had plenty of time left to see parts of the park before sunset. The perks of heading west, where the sun sets at 7-8pm! With a couple of hours in Joshua Tree, here’s what we did/saw:
Hidden Valley Trail
Hidden Valley was a nice, short, 1 mile hike around the “hidden valley” area of Joshua Tree National Park. It gave us a good overview of what Joshua Tree was all about. And yes, it was mostly Joshua Trees, rocks, and stretches of desert.
Named by Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-1800s, the tree’s unusual shape reminded them of the Bible story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.
We each picked out our own Joshua Tree!
It tickled me that people used to steal each other’s cows and hide them here. Hidden Valley indeed!
And we each claimed our own rock…
There was a nice variety of landscapes to see in the desert.
Doesn’t he look like he belongs on a boy band album cover or something?
Over all, it was a nice, easy hike on flat terrain that we were able to complete in about an hour. Though if you want to scramble on the rocks, you can! Also keep in mind there is little to no shade on the trail!
Getting there, on the other hand, took us forever since it’s near the Hidden Valley campground where we parked. But the trailhead itself has its own parking lot. Hope that saved you some walking!
Cholla Cactus Garden
Ok, when we heard “cactus garden” we thought it’d be a nice little curated garden of different kinds of cacti. NOPE. It was a giant field of ONLY cholla (pronounced choy-ah) cacti!
I specifically wanted to come here to take some photos during sunset. It was so worth it.
There is an actual trail that takes you among the cacti. Make sure you close pay attention to where you’re going/stepping on! There are broken/dead bits of cholla cacti on the ground. This is why I always bring my trusty headtorch wherever I go.
Joshua Tree is known for being a Dark Sky Park. But not on the day we went! You can even see it in the photos - the moon shone big and bright. We waited around for 30 minutes after sunset, yet the navy sky still didn’t have many stars. The moonlight was just too bright that night. We’ll have to try again next time!
Below are additional places that we really liked and would recommend.
Man, we were spoiled on the first day with Mexican Street Tacos. They were so cheap and delicious. No other places as we drove out east had such comparable food. The menu contained stuff besides tacos like burritos, quesadillas, etc. But I was there for the tacos! We enjoyed it so much that we went for both lunch and dinner. My favorite taco was lengua. YUM! Due to COVID, the place only offered take-out.
As proud members of the Marriott credit card, we got a free night’s stay at the Fairfield Inn using points! It was so conveniently located - very close to Mexican Street Tacos and the Oasis Visitor’s Center. From there, it was about a 30 min drive to Hidden Valley. Despite COVID, the hotel still offered breakfast (though limited selection).
Have you been to Joshua Tree National Park? What would you recommend to see/do around here?