Joshua Tree National Park - Scenic Drive
Joshua Tree National Park, West Entrance Station, Joshua Tree, CA, USA
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Enjoy a Scenic Drive in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is about 2.5 hours from Los Angeles and just over 3 hours from Las Vegas. If you are looking for a great day trip from either of those locations, you should definitely consider Joshua Tree National Park. If you won't have a lot of time in the park, or the weather is not in your favor, or even if your kids are too young to be hiking through the park, you should still go! Joshua Tree is a great park that is very drivable! Here's how to make the best out of a short amount of time in Joshua Tree.
Start your driving journey through Joshua Tree National Park at the park entrance in Joshua Tree's town. Upon entering the park, you'll immediately see the landscape change and be greeted by the famous Joshua Trees and enormous boulders that make this park so special.
Head straight down Park Boulevard towards Keys View. This is about a 25-minute drive. Veer to the right onto Keys View Road to the large parking lot at the viewpoint. This viewpoint has paved sidewalks that make it easy for strollers and wheelchairs. Plan to spend a few minutes looking at the sights from here. You can see Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, the San Andreas Fault, and on a clear day, you can see Signal Hill in Mexico.
Leave Keys View and head back the way you came. On your right, you'll come to the small parking lot of Cap Rock. This is a great place to stop if you want a snack. There are restrooms and picnic tables. There is a short path here where you can walk around the boulders if you need to stretch your legs. Look up at "Cap Rock." You'll notice that the boulders look like a baseball cap on a head.
After leaving Cap Rock, you'll want to head toward Pinto Basin Road. This is a long stretch of driving but can be broken up by the numerous pull-outs and educational markers along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for desert tortoises and jackrabbits as well! You will notice the landscape change significantly on this part of the drive as the Mojave Desert turns into the Colorado Desert!
Stop at the Cholla Cactus Garden for a short walk, and then keep going all the way to the Visitor Center at Cottonwood springs. (If you are short on time, I would skip this visitors center and turn around here).
You can exit the park here and head back to where you came from, or you can turn around and retrace your steps to see even more of the park.
If you choose to turn around, drive back down Pinto Basin Road until you get back to Park Boulevard. Take the signs towards "Twentynine Palms." This will lead you to some of the most famous boulder formations in the park and provides an excellent place to let out some energy!
Skull Rock, Face Rock, and Split Rock are all well marked and offer interesting sights to see and many opportunities to climb around and play on the boulders.
After this, you can keep heading towards Twentynine Palms and exit the park here. Just past the exit from the park is another visitors center. This one is more interesting and has more educational display. There is also an oasis with a short paved walk around it located behind the visitors center.