Where rock stars, toons and climbers meet

Beyond musicians looking for a mystical inspiration and fans walking in the footsteps of their legends, the Joshua Tree National Park attracts nature lovers and rock climbers from all over the world.

The cover of the first album by the Eagles. The place where Graham Parson overdosed and got cremated secretly. The best-selling album by U2… Joshua Tree resonates amongst musicians transcending generations. The namesake park is the best place to take it in. The best time to soak up its energy is at night. Then the Milky Way subtlety reveals the strange trees and large boulders. The Mormon settlers saw the raised arms of the prophet Joshua in these strange stems. The boulders take many shapes like a giant game of Lego that would have tumbled over. A skull? An elephant? The back of a dragon?

When the sun rises and the air gets warmer the boulders come to life with amateur rock climbers and adventurous hikers. From strange shapes they become a lively playground. The monzogranite of which blocks are made of seems to stick to climbing shoes like Velcro. Perfect for bouldering, a few routes are longer and quite vertical making the Joshua Tree National Park a great training ground for climbers of all levels.

Dating back to the times of dinosaurs the Joshua Trees can only be found in a very few places in the west of the USA. The Mojave Desert with its very specific climate is their home. Not trees but yucca plants, their shallow roots retain the little water there can be in the desert very efficiently and their stems store it. Adapted to this harsh environment they are very slow growing. At a rate of only two inches (10 centimeters) a year most of the Joshua Trees we are passing by today in the park are extremely old. Some with multiple head are quite impressive; all the more that frost is required for them to grow a new branch.

If boulders are fun and Joshua Trees an attraction, the springtime bloom is an event. The Joshua Tree National Park encompasses two different deserts. The Colorado Desert lies at a lower altitude than the Mojave Desert. This allows the blooming to take place over a rather long period of time between early April and May. The rainier, the better. Some years a super-bloom can even occur: the arid desert turns into a colorful carpet of flowers with cactuses! The Lost Oasis hike is an easy 4.5-mile (11-kilometer) trail showcasing the beauty of the Colorado Desert. The dry and mineral landscape is dotted by multicolored flowers. Wildlife hides. A roadrunner, jack rabbit, or desert fox might be looking for food in a dry riverbed, while a rattlesnake takes the sun in and a bird of prey draws circles in the sky.

The deserts of the Joshua Tree National Park host an unexpectedly varied fauna and flora which are best discovered in the spring time. The rest of the year the park is still worth spending a few days just hiking or climbing and enjoying the sunsets and magic night skies.

Marcella & Claire

Travel tips:

  • As mentioned Joshua Trees have very shallow roots. Please do not stress them: do not climb the trees, do not hang hammocks in them nor use them to stabilize your camp.
  • The park offers more than 300 rock climbing routes. Choose a nearby outfitter or bring your own gear and admire the landscape from the top!
  • Close to Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas the park has turned into a favorite destination for local outdoor enthusiasts. Should you want to sleep in the park, make sure to book your campsite ahead of time. The Jumbo Rocks camp rocks!
  • Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.