On our Southwestern RV Road Trip, we stopped through Joshua Tree National Park for one night on our way to Zion National Park, and let me tell you: it is completely worth the hype. We weren’t sure what to expect, since Joshua Tree seems to be one of those places people rave about, but you wonder if it’s actually as incredible as people as it is. And truthfully, it is. There’s just something about the landscape, the way the park is maintained and the energy there that just makes it feel so free and other worldly. I wish we had given ourselves more days in Joshua Tree since you could easily fill a weekend in the desert with amazing hikes and quirky sites.
But, if you happen to be passing through or are limited on time at this mystical desert scape, these are my top recommendations for things to do and see.
I also recommend completing each item in the order I have it listed.
Sound Bath at Sound Integratron
The Sound Integratron in Joshua Tree is a 38ft tall x 55ft wide wooden structure built in the 50s by George Van Tassel. He claimed the design was based on Moses’ tabernacle, Nikola Tesla’s writings and telepathic directions from extraterrestrials. It’s built on top of the intersection of powerful geomagnetic forces that when combined with the geometry of the building amplify the earth’s magnetic field, making it powerful for healing, rejuvenation and time travel. Whether or not you’re into sound baths or aliens, it’s a very Joshua Tree experience that can be the perfect kick-off to your stay in this magical vortex. Make sure to reserve your spot for the sound bath in advance as it’s very popular and sells out often!
Drive by Skull Rock
If you enter Joshua Tree National Park from the West Entrance Station, you’ll drive past Skull Rock, a skull-shaped desert granite rock formation with 2 depressions like eye sockets created by erosion. The rock itself is right off the road so you can see it while driving by or there are small pull off where you can pull over and get out and snap some pictures if you’d like. There’s also a short nature trail around the rock, but since you’ll likely be a bit tight on time, the drive by gives you the sites without any time lost.
Camp at Jumbo Rock Campground
There are many different campsites tucked into Joshua Tree National Park. After some extensive research, we decided on parking our RV at Jumbo Rocks Campground. The campsites are tucked into these massive desert rock formations that are incredibly scenic. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a picturesque desert escape. Jumbo Rocks Campground also has great proximity to some of the other items on this list so it’s relatively easy to from one place to the next.
Sunset at Key’s View
Key’s View at Sunset is an absolute must. It’s a 20 minute drive from Jumbo Rocks Campground along a very easy to drive, paved road – we actually just drove there in our RV. The viewpoint is set on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, providing panoramic views of the Coachella Valley. On clear days and evenings, the view stretches as far as the Salton Sea and Mexico’s Signal Mountain in the south. At Key’s View you’ll also have views of Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio, two of the highest peaks in Southern California. As the sun sets behind the mountains in the distance, you’ll be hit with beautiful, rich colors that evolve and grow as the sun wraps further around the Earth.
Stargaze at Camp
Once the sun drops and the sky turns black, night time at Joshua Tree is all about stargazing. Make a fire at camp, bundle up, pour yourself a glass of red wine and sit back and gaze. Joshua Tree is one of the best places in the country for stargazing. The sky is exceptionally dark here because the Park is located 5,000 feet above sea level in the High Desert and far from any major cities that would create light pollution.
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
I have a really hard time choosing between sunset and sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park. But, there’s something really special about seeing a cotton candy swirl of lights break on a new day. Cholla Cactus Garden is a home to thousands of cacti and wildflowers, located a short 22 minute drive from Jumbo Rocks Campground. As the sun comes up over the mountains and hits the valley, the cactus appear to glow in the light. It’s a really one-of-a-kind, extremely photographic spot in the Park.
Drive by Arch Rock
As you drive from Cholla Cactus Garden to the Park’s West Entrance Station, you’ll drive by Arch Rock. A large, natural rock formation that spans 30 feet wide. There’s a short loop trail around the rock, but mainly it’s just a cool site to see and check off the list as you head to your next adventure.
If you have more time…