We’ve partnered with Hotels.com to bring you these quick tips for things to do in Joshua Tree for planning the perfect summer vacation.
People arrive at Joshua Tree National Park to hike, climb, and explore the vast landscape, bizarre reaching trees, and everything it has to offer in recreation. It may be the desert, but there is definitely no shortage of awesome things to do in Joshua Tree.
According to USA Today, this desert oasis brings in 3 million visitors each year. That’s quite the haul!
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Its name comes from the oddly shaped, slow-growing Joshua tree which was named by Mormon settlers that were traveling through the Mojave Desert in the 1800s. They envisioned the biblical story of Joshua in which he reaches toward the sky as he prays.
In October of 2019, the park celebrated its 25th year in existence and remains a mecca of sorts for outdoor enthusiasts.
Located in southern California just outside Palm Springs, Joshua Tree makes for a beautiful vacation spot whether you are outdoorsy or not because there so much more to do than just spend the day in the park.
Want to plan your perfect Joshua Tree summer vacation?
Where to Stay near Joshua Tree
With choices from camping, to glamping, to hotels that let you bring your pets, there’s a style of accommodations for every type of visitor to Joshua Tree. These are some of our favorite hotels near Joshua Tree National Park and Coachella Valley.
Best Western Joshua Tree Hotel & Suites, Yucca Valley
Set “in the middle of it all”, this casual hotel is 1 mile from Desert Christ Park sculpture garden and 12 miles from Joshua Tree National Park.
The Best Western Joshua Tree Hotel & Suites offer simple, clean rooms and suites with free Wi-Fi. Some have kitchenettes and pull-out sofas so be sure to ask if these are important to you.
Kids age 12 and under stay at no charge and you can bring Fido too.
Guests give the complimentary hot breakfast high marks and appreciate the seasonal heated outdoor pool/hot tub, and coin-operated laundry facilities.
If camping isn’t your thing, and you prefer a nice bed to rest your weary body after a day outside, the Pioneertown Motel is an off-the-beaten path place to stay.
Embracing the desert aesthetic and the simplicity of pioneer life like in the days of the gold rush, this is a welcoming spot for desert explorers looking for a good night’s rest.
Pets are allowed for an extra charge of $25 per day.
Camping in Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree has nine campgrounds where you can sleep beneath the stars and totally immerse yourself in the beauty of the landscape. Fall asleep under the stars and wake to the backdrop of the mountains.
If you are looking for a campground with some modern convenience, reserve a spot at Black Rock Campground. It has room for tents, RVs, and even horses if you happen to be an equestrian. We think it might be the best place to camp in Joshua Tree National Park.
For $20 a night you can reserve one of the 90 spots that has a picnic table and fire ring. It is also one of two campgrounds that have bathrooms and drinking water.
If you are bringing horses along there is a spot for you to camp and stable them.
If you prefer something a little more rustic, Indian Cove Campground has the bare minimum, but some beautiful, epic views of the sky and mountains. Reservations are still required.
The Hidden Valley Campground is first-come, first-serve and offers camping basics. You can camp among the massive boulders and Joshua trees to keep you company at night among the stars.
Hicksville Trailer Palace
If you prefer the RV and travel trailer life, but don’t own one, this is the spot for you. Stay the night in one of the retro airstreams and take a dip in the pool or the rooftop hot tub at the Hicksville Trailer Palace.
There is archery and BB gun range, cornhole, BBQ, mini-golf, a bar trailer and more to make for a stay you won’t forget.
Things to do in Joshua Tree
Cholla Cactus Garden
The Cholla Cactus Garden is a great spot for a beginner’s hike, and a beautiful introduction to everything this incredible place has to offer. In our opinion, it’s one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree.
The 0.25 mile trail is located between the Oasis Visitor Center and the Cottonwood Visitor Center. It is an easy one of the more easy nature trails with a mostly flat landscape, and it is dominated by fuzzy-looking cacti known as teddy bear cholla. (Hello – cutest plant name ever!)
You will be able to see a colorful array of desert flowers against the beauty of a backdrop of various rock formations that rise up to touch the sky. Review the official list of hiking trails from easy to difficult for more hiking spots.
Geology Tour Road
Want to ATV at Joshua Tree National Park? ATV fans can find some off-road fun on the Geology Tour Road. This two-hour tour requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle like a four-wheeler or dirt bike to take on the soft sand trails.
It will lead you through the desert along sixteen stops to see some of the most breathtaking sights Joshua Tree has to offer.
Don’t own any off-road capable toys? That’s ok you can rent an all-terrain vehicle to take on the dusty trails.
This is a playground for adults! There are 8,000 climbing routes and 2,000 boulder problems to make for an amazing dynamic place to climb.
Never been climbing? You can hire a climbing guide to take you out for the day and show you how it’s done.
There are numerous backcountry roads ready for exploring near Joshua Tree. Ryan Campground also has three campsites specifically for bicyclists and it is a great way to tour all the park has to offer.
Get a Glimpse of the Milky Way
Far from pesky city lights, at night the sky above Joshua Tree becomes a vast canvas of stars. Stargazing is one of the most popular things to do at night in Joshua Tree.
Rated as one of the best places in the US for stargazing, Joshua Tree offers prime views of the Milky Way on warm summer nights and is one of the best times to visit Joshua Tree National Park. While the days may be warm (ok, it’s going to be HOT), the evenings will cool off and you’ll be thankful for these incredible stargazing opportunities.
The 6th annual Night Sky Festival being held on September 12, 2020, will be the perfect excuse to plan your family vacation to Joshua Tree this year.
The all-day event will have plenty of activities including live music, Constellation tours and of course, more telescopes than you can shake a stick at.
Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum
Noah Purifoy is the mastermind behind this funky outdoor museum made from junk material.
A lifelong artist, Noah’s first art pieces were made from the “charred debris from the 1965 Watts rebellion.”
He worked for the California Arts Council for more than a decade before moving his art to the desert where he lived out the remainder of his years creating art across ten acres in the Mojave.
Just outside of Joshua Tree in Landers, CA, is the massive 38-foot high, 55-foot diameter wooden dome known as Integratron.
George Van Tassel created the building centered around the ideas of Nikola Tesla combined with the design of Moses’ Tabernacle. He wanted it to be an electrostatic generator for rejuvenation and even time travel.
Van Tassel passed away in 1978, but three sisters eventually bought and restored it and opened it to the public to offer sound baths.
Joshua Tree Farmers Market
Head downtown on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to get a taste of the freshest local foods and works from artisans at the Farmers Market.
It is a respite away from all the outdoor activities, and a chance to fill up on delicious local foods.
Have a Photoshoot
Do you know you can hire your own personal photographer? Flytographer has photographers all over the world and you hire one for an afternoon to have a fun photo session that will capture your trip and let you live in the moment.
Take a trip into Palm Springs for some sightseeing and take home memories and photos you will cherish forever.
Places to Eat in Joshua Tree
Tried and True
The Joshua Tree Saloon has been around for 37 years, and it is open 365 days a year for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can order just about anything from big juicy burgers to calamari to tacos.
They also have outdoor seating known as “The Yard” where you can dine and watch the incredible Joshua Tree sunset and catch some live music.
Pie for the People!
You can’t go wrong with pizza, and there is nothing like an incredible carb load before hitting the local Joshua Tree hikes.
Pie For The People has a huge variety of pies like the cliffhanger which has a white sauce base, whole roasted garlic, bacon, Roma tomatoes, red onions, and artichokes. Is your mouth watering yet?