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One Day in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary: Hikes + Tips

Joshua Tree National Park is a vast and unique wilderness area that spans over 790,000 acres, characterized by its stunning desert landscapes, unusual rock formations, and distinct vegetation. One Day in Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect way to experience this unique desert landscape of California.

Joshua Tree National Park has so much to offer. The park is easy to navigate, allowing you to cover the major highlights in one day!

There are so many things to do in Joshua Tree from hiking, rock climbing, camping, stargazing, and wildlife watching. It offers something to everyone Whether you’re looking for adventure or just a peaceful retreat, it’s a worthwhile day trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

How to Plan Your Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

The park is named after the iconic Joshua Tree, a type of yucca tree that grows in the Mojave Desert. This tree has long been a symbol of the American Southwest and is found throughout the park, along with a variety of other plant species such as cholla cactus, Mojave yucca, and creosote bush.

You’ll also find stunning rock formations, which have been shaped over millions of years by erosion and tectonic activity. These unique rock formations attract millions of visitors like rock climbers, hikers, and photographers.

If you want to escape from bustling city life and want to spot desert-native wildlife, a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park is for you!

This One Day in Joshua Tree National Park itinerary covers everything you need to know for your day trip, including:

  • Details of Planning your Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park like how to get there, when to visit, and where to stay.
  • The best things to Do in Joshua Tree in One Day
  • Frequently asked questions about your Joshua Tree One Day Itinerary
  • Important Travel Tips for Your One Day in Joshua Tree
  • Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park which are short and can be covered on a day trip

So, let’s take a journey through this amazing desert landscape and get to know how you can spend 24 hours in Joshua Tree National Park!

Practical information for Planning One Day in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary

How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park for A Day Trip

Joshua Tree National Park is an easy weekend trip from the big cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or Sand Diego. But make sure to start your day early so that you have as much time as possible in the park.

If you are flying to any of these cities, Joshua Tree is perfect as a day trip.

The closest airports to Joshua Tree National Park are Palm Springs International Airport (about 45 minutes away) and Ontario International Airport (about 1.5 hours away).

Los Angeles To Joshua Tree: It takes 3-3.5 hours depending upon traffic. You’ll enter through the northern Oasis entrance. However, you could easily go through Palm Springs and use the southern Cottonwood Spring entrance, doing a south-to-north route through the park.

From Palm Springs: It’s about an hour to either the Oasis or Cottonwood Spring entrance. Again, I would recommend going into one entrance and out the other.

From Las Vegas: It’s a 3-3.5 hrs drive from Las Vegas to the Oasis entrance. But I don’t recommend doing a day trip to Joshua Tree from Las Vegas. You’ll spend lots of time on the road! So, come earlier late at night, and start the next day early! You can also combine road-tripping through Death Valley + Joshua Tree.

I use Skyscanner and Wayaway to find the best flight prices and compare routes. Once you find your flight, Skyscanner redirects you to book with the airline directly, so you don’t miss out on frequent flyer points!

How to Get Around on Your Joshua Tree National Park Day Trip

Unlike other national parks, Joshua Tree doesn’t have a Park Shuttle or any Public transportation. To get around the park, you’ll need a Car.

If you need a rental car, I recommend using Discovercars.com to find the best deals. It allows you to search across major retailers like Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Budget, and more.

There are three main entrances to Joshua Tree National Park:

Joshua Tree National Park has three entrances, which are located on the north, south, and west sides of the park.

  1. Oasis North Entrance: The North Entrance is located off Highway 62, near the town of Twentynine Palms. This entrance provides access to popular areas such as the Oasis Visitor Center, Joshua Tree Visitor Center, and the popular trails of Hidden Valley and Barker Dam.
  2. Cottonwood South Entrance: The South Entrance is located off Interstate 10, near the city of Indio. This entrance provides access to the Cottonwood Visitor Center, as well as the southern end of the park and the hiking trails of Lost Palms Oasis and Mastodon Peak.
  3. West Entrance: The West Entrance is located off of Park Boulevard, in the town of Joshua Tree. This entrance provides access to the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, as well as popular areas such as Keys View, Jumbo Rocks, and the Wonderland of Rocks.

The west entrance is the main way to access the park. It is the closest to Joshua Tree town and you can see the rocks and trees as soon as you enter it.

The major roads in Joshua Tree are all paved, so for this one-day Joshua Tree itinerary, renting a sedan is perfectly fine. However, if you want to explore some of Joshua Tree’s off-road scenic drives, consider renting a 4WD vehicle.

Also, remember during the Peak season, Parking can be challenging as there is no shuttle, and driving is the only way to explore the park. To find parking, plan to start your day before 9 AM.

Joshua Tree Visitor Centers

There are four main visitor centers at Joshua Tree National Park.  You can find them in the following locations:

  • Oasis Visitor Center (8:30 am to 5 pm): downtown Twentynine Palms, CA
  • Joshua Tree Visitor Center (7:30 am to 5 pm): 6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
  • Cottonwood Visitor Center (8:30 am to 4 pm): Pinto Basin Road. Approximately 7 miles north of Interstate 10, exit 168.
  • Black Rock Nature Center (October through May from 8 am to 4 pm but 8 pm on Fridays): Black Rock Campground

When is the Best Time To Visit Joshua Tree NP?

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is from the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). During these months, temperatures are cooler, and the weather is generally more pleasant for outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, and camping.

During Spring, you can enjoy the Park’s wildflower bloom, which is a spectacular display of color that blankets the desert landscape.

In the fall, you can enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer crowds than in the summer months, which can be especially busy. Plus, fall is an ideal time for stargazing, as the skies tend to be clearer and darker.

Winter can also be a good time to visit, especially for those who enjoy hiking or rock climbing in cooler temperatures. However, make sure to pack warm clothes as Park can be very cold at night! Also, check the road conditions prior to planning your trip as some areas may be closed due to snow or other weather-related conditions.

Summer is the least ideal time to visit Joshua Tree, as temperatures can be extremely hot, often reaching over 100°F (38°C). However, if you plan to visit in the summer, explore the Park at sunrise or sunset to avoid the hottest part of the day as most of the park is unshaded, and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Can You Visit Joshua Tree in One Day?

Yes, absolutely, it’s possible to Visit Joshua Tree in One Day! Maybe it will be a long and busy day to explore the Joshua Tree National Park in a day as the park is quite large and there is a lot to see and do, so you’ll need to plan your itinerary carefully to make the most of your time.

You can cover the majority of the Park’s highlights such as the iconic Joshua Trees, unique rock formations, and scenic viewpoints in one day at Joshua Tree.

A good starting point would be to drive through the main park road and stop at the park’s key attractions such as Hidden Valley, Keys View, and Barker Dam.

You can also go for a short hike on one of the park’s many trails, such as the Barker Dam Trail or the Hidden Valley Trail, which offer beautiful scenery and interesting geological features.

Ideally, I think 2 to 3 days in Joshua Tree is ideal if you’re active and love hiking as it can be hot during the day and you’ll need to plan your hikes accordingly.

The Key is to start early in the Morning to utilize most of your time in the Park!

When is Joshua Tree Open?

Joshua Tree is always open year-round, 24 hours a day. The visitor centers are open from 8 AM to 5 PM, but the park gates are always open. This means that you can go in and out at any time.

However, some facilities and campgrounds may have different hours of operation depending on the season. It’s always a good idea to check the park’s official website or call ahead to confirm any specific hours or closures.

Joshua Tree National Park Entrance Fees

The entrance fees for Joshua Tree National Park depend on the type of Vehicle:

  • Private vehicle: $35
  • Motorcycle: $30
  • Per person (for those entering on foot, bicycle, or non-commercial group): $20
  • Annual park pass: $80

These fees are valid for seven days and allow access to both Joshua Tree National Park and the neighboring Mojave National Preserve.

But If you are planning to visit other National Parks in California or USA, you can get America the Beautiful Annual Pass for $80.

How Do I Beat the Crowds in Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree is a very popular destination Particularly during peak season (October to May). However, there are ways to beat the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience when you’re planning your one day in Joshua Tree. Here are a few tips:

If you can plan your visit during the weekdays, it’s best to beat the crowds as weekends remains very busy in the park.

The other way is to arrive early and stay late till sunset when the crowd gets thinner at sunset. Arrive the night before and stay near the Park, visit Visitor Center first in the morning and get the map of the Park to plan your Joshua Tree Itinerary.

The Joshua Tree National Park remains always open. Also, if you haven’t yet purchased your pass, don’t worry about it. They’ll charge you when you leave!

If you are doing Joshua Tree as a day trip from Palm Springs, LA, or Las Vegas, then first stop at the Visitor Center when you arrive and plan to stay late inside the park.

Start your day early to beat the crowds and enjoy the cooler morning temperatures. This is particularly important if you plan to hike or climb, as parking lots and trails can fill up quickly.

Also, as the Joshua tree national park is quite large, you can consider exploring lesser-known areas such as the Pinto Basin or the eastern part of the park to avoid crowds. You can opt to hike the lesser-known trails and viewpoints in the park, which can offer equally stunning views and experiences when popular viewpoints like Ryan Mountain and Keys View get crowded.

Also, you can try to visit during the Off-Season- during the summer months when temperatures are very high, or during the winter when temperatures can be colder. Fewer visitors come to the park during these seasons, which means you may have a better chance of enjoying the park without the crowds.

Is There Cell Service in Joshua Tree?

Cell service in Joshua Tree National Park can be spotty, especially in remote areas of the park. However, there are some areas of the park where you can get a signal like the park entrances and visitor centers.

Make sure to download an offline GPS Maps for routes and if you’re planning a hike with the group, stick to your plan and don’t venture offroad! It’s a great way to connect with nature by not having cell service!

Is Joshua Tree National Park Worth Visiting? Is Joshua Tree worth the hype?

Yes, Joshua Tree National Park is definitely worth visiting. The park offers a unique desert landscape with stunning rock formations, diverse plant and animal life, and opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, stargazing, and more.

It’s close to major cities like Los Angeles, making it an easy day trip. The Park also offers a range of activities for all ages and interests, from ranger-led programs to backcountry camping and rock climbing, there is something for everyone!

Also, Joshua Tree National Park is a designated International Dark Sky Park, meaning that it’s one of the best places in the world for stargazing. You can see the Milky Way and other celestial objects with the naked eye !! So. definitely Joshua Tree is worth all the hype!

What To Do In Joshua Tree In One Day: Quick One Day Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary

Now, I have got you covered in everything about planning your Joshua Tree Day Trip, let’s go deep into the Joshua Tree One Day Itinerary.

If you only have 24 hrs in Joshua Tree National Park, you must add these highlights and Sights in Joshua Tree National Park day trip.

  • Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
  • Take a hike
  • Visit Arch Rock and Skull Rock
  • See the sunset at Keys View
  • Go back in time to Keys Ranch
  • Stargazing after dark at Sky’s the Limit Observatory

I have curated the best list of things to do in Joshua Tree in one day. It is a mixture of easy hikes and unique attractions in Joshua Tree. Also, I am including some cool tour experiences at the end of the guide to give you amazing options off the beaten path!

One Day in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary

Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden

Start your day with sunrise at one of the amazing sunrise spots in Joshua Tree National Park- Cholla Cactus Garden. If you have a very short time and visit it for just a few hours, this is the one must-do thing in the Joshua Tree National Park!

Enter the Park and head straight towards the Cholla Cactus Garden on Pinto Basin Road to see the sunrise from the horizon and how these tiny cacti catch the morning sun with distant mountains!!

You can take a walk through this unique and beautiful desert garden that is home to thousands of cholla cacti, which are known for their spiky, almost fuzzy-looking appearance!!

Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park

It’s a short walk along the 0.25-mile easy trail to photograph the glowing cactus.

Also, please note that the cholla cactus is known for its sharp spines, which can easily stick to clothing and skin, and are difficult to remove., so always stay on the trail and avoid touching or getting too close to the cacti.

Hike the Arches Rock Trail

After exploring the Cholla Cactus Garden, head toward Park Boulevard to see Arch Rock. Arches Rock is one of the most popular sights in Joshua Tree national park and you can easily walk to reach it and witness it yourself.

This unique 30-foot arch sits atop a stack of boulders formed from lava pushed up through the fault line. You can climb along the boulders, so explore or walk around it and get your photograph with the famous Arch Rock.

You can climb the rocks but it’s a very busy trail and you are also allowed to camp around this area of Joshua Tree.

hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

Arch Rock is a popular spot for photography, especially during the golden hour when the light is soft and warm. It’s famous for stargazing from the top of the rock, as it offers an unobstructed view of the night sky.

To reach Arch Rock, park at the Twin Tanks parking lot. You’ll cross Pinto Basin Road and follow the unmarked trail about 1.2 miles roundtrip to the rock formation. If you have more time, you can also check out Heart Rock opposite of it.

Get Photographed Yourself at Skull Rock

Drive again on Park Boulevard and head to another famous rock formation- Skull Rock.

No doubt it got its name from its resemblance to a human skull, which is created by the natural erosion of the granite rock. The rock formation is an impressive sight!

You can Snap a photo of the “skull” rock from the path off Park Boulevard or if you are adventurous, hike the 1.7-mile loop out to Jumbo Rocks Campground.

You can also climb up and around the rocks for a closer look. The area around Skull Rock is also home to a variety of other interesting rock formations, making it a great spot to explore the park’s stunning desert landscape.

Take a Hike in Joshua Tree National Park

There are so many hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park, ranging from easy to strenuous one suitable for all ages and skill levels. If you have plenty of time, you could consider doing several of these best hikes in Joshua Tree, but if you have only 24 hrs in Joshua Tree, try to do one hike from this list!

Hidden Valley Natural Trail: one of the most popular hikes in the park and it’s perfect for kids and family. This easy 1-mile loop trail takes you through a scenic valley surrounded by towering rock formations. The Hidden Valley was once used by cattle rustlers who hid their stolen herds in the valley, hence its name. Here you can spot many Joshua Trees and Yucca plants along with stunning rock formations.

Barker Dam Trail: It is another easy hiking trail in Joshua Tree National Park that takes you to a historic dam built by early ranchers in the area. The dam was used to create a small reservoir for watering cattle and other animals. But today, the dam and reservoir are dry, but you can still see the remains of the structure and learn about its history through interpretive signs along the trail. It’s an easy 1.3-mile loop trail and provides opportunities for viewing a variety of bird species.

Ryan Mountain Trail: Ryan Mountain is one of the most strenuous hikes, that climbs about 1,000 feet in elevation. This 3-mile round trip hike leads to the summit of Ryan Mountain, where you’ll get panoramic views of the Joshua Tree National Park.

This popular trail should be hiked in the morning, particularly in the Summer, before high temperatures hit in the afternoon. At the summit of Ryan Mountain, you can enjoy 360-degree views of the park and the surrounding desert landscape, including the San Jacinto Mountains and the Salton Sea.

Visit the Historic Keys Ranch

One of the famous attractions in Joshua Tree National Park is Keys Ranch, an early settlement in the area. The ranch was founded by Bill and Keys and is a well-preserved example of a homestead in the California desert.

Today, you can see the abandoned settlement and how life was back in the day. There is an arrastra and stamp mill mining equipment, as well as a barn, schoolhouse, sheds, cemetery, and homes.

If you really want to learn more about Keys Ranch during your one day in Joshua Tree, the NPS offers guided walking tours from October until May. It includes a walk through the historic buildings and structures on the property, including a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and home.

The tour also provides insight into the daily life of the Keys family, who lived and worked on the ranch for over 60 years. This gives an understanding of the challenges and rewards of living in the desert. Click here to learn more.

Watch Sunset at Keys View

If you have only 1 day in Joshua Tree, you shouldn’t miss the stunning sunset at Keys View!

Make sure to arrive at the Keys View parking lot at least 45 minutes before sunset. This scenic spot is very popular, and parking will fill up fast as sunset approaches.

As the sun goes down, the sky is painted with a beautiful array of colors, and the surrounding mountains and valleys are bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun. Being the highest point in the park, Keys View provides breathtaking views.

On a clear day, you can see Palm Springs, the San Andreas Fault, the Coachella Valley, and the peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio.

Go Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park

Finally, end your day with one of the most epic things to do in Joshua Tree National Park- Stargazing. Joshua Tree is one of the most magical and best places to see the Milky Way in the United States to photograph the sky amongst the rocks.

The park has several designated stargazing areas but the most fantastic place is Sky’s the Limit Observatory which offers stunning panoramic views of the night sky. It is located at 9697 Utah Trail in Twentynine Palms.

Otherwise, you can enjoy it from your own campground or from Joshua Tree during the night on your own! If you can manage this independently, it is one of the best ways to experience Joshua Tree in all of its glory.

Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park is a unique and unforgettable experience that provides a chance to connect with the beauty and mystery of the universe and see the park underneath a sparkling, starry sky!

Nearby Trips to Add to Your Joshua Tree Itinerary

If you have more time in the area, don’t miss these nearby destinations:

  • Palm Springs: Only one hour away from Joshua Tree is perfect for a relaxing getaway.
  • Take a road trip through Big cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas. You can consider taking the Pacific Coast Highway road trip!
  • You can visit many national parks of California including Death Valley National Park and Grand Canyon National Park.

One Day in Joshua Tree National Park – Suggested Itinerary

This Joshua Tree in One Day Itinerary is flexible and it depends on what kind of experiences you want or with whom you traveling! It is an overnighter one so that you have a chance to stargaze during your Day trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

Here is my recommended One Day in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary:

  • Arrive at the Park and Watch the Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
  • Visit the Arches Rock
  • Take any Hiking Trail before the afternoon
  • Photograph the Skull Rock
  • Have Lunch at Twenty-Nine Palms Town
  • Visit the Pioneer Twon or Keys Ranch in the afternoon
  • Watch the sunset at Key’s View
  • End your day Stargazing at Sky’s Limit Observatory

Is There Food Inside the Joshua Tree National Park?

Like other big national parks in the United States, there are no restaurants or grocery stores inside Joshua Tree National Park!

You can visit nearby towns like Twenty Palms or Joshua Tree but if you have only One day in Joshua Tree, I suggest bringing a packed lunch with you! It will save your driving time and you can maximize your most of the time in the park!

What to Do in Joshua Tree in Half Day?

If you have only a few hours or half day in Joshua Tree National Park, I suggest visiting major attractions from this one-day Joshua Tree Itinerary and skipping the hiking trails! You can cover Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, Arches Rock, Keys Ranch, and other roadside attractions with half day in Joshua Tree.

Where to Stay Near Joshua Tree

There are NO Hotels/Lodges inside the Joshua Tree National Park! However, you can stay at several hotels and lodges located just outside the park in the beautiful towns, including Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, and Twentynine Palms.

If you’re looking to stay in a hotel, check these options close to the Park:

There are also several amazing Rental vacation Properties available in the region that too very close to the Park entrance. If you are traveling with family, it’s your best bet and you will have more space, your own food to cook and stay at a great place with beautiful surrounding.

It’s also a unique accommodation option to try, as the properties can range from simple cabins to luxurious villas, and offer a more private and secluded experience than a hotel.

Here are a few amazing Properties you can check for your stay near Joshua Tree:

  • The Full Moon in Joshua Tree is a beautifully decorated, luxury Villa with outdoor living space, Hot Tub, Sauna with mountain views.
  • 28 Palms Ranch in Twentynine Palms has luxury tents with outdoor patios and grills
  • AutoCamp in Joshua Tree offers unique stays in luxury Airstream trailers!

The only way to stay inside the park is at a campground.

Most of the park’s campgrounds are first come, first served. However, during peak season from October to April, reservations are required for the park’s most popular campgrounds.

These campgrounds are reservable through Recreation.Gov. Plan to book these sites at least 3 to 6 months out. Jumbo Rocks typically fill up six months out.

  • Black Rock Campground
  • Cottonwood Campground
  • Indian Cove Campground
  • Jumbo Rocks Campground

Important Tips for Your Joshua Tree Day Trip Itinerary

  • Plan ahead: Before visiting the park, research the trails, activities, and facilities available, and plan your trip accordingly. Be sure to check the weather forecast, and pack appropriate clothing and gear. You can find important alerts on the Joshua Tree National Park home page.
  • Bring plenty of water and Sunscreen: The desert environment of Joshua Tree National Park can be dehydrating, so make sure to bring plenty of water and stay hydrated. Much of the park is exposed, so don’t forget sunscreen and a hat, even in chillier winter months.
  • Fill your Tank before entering the Park. There are no gas stations inside Joshua Tree National Park, so be sure to have a full tank before heading to the park.
  • Make sure to download Google Maps offline on your phone before entering the park and pick up a physical map at the entrance station on your way into the park.
  • If possible Pack lunch during your day trip. There are no restaurants inside Joshua Tree National Park. It’s time-consuming to go outside the Park for lunch. So, plan to pack a picnic lunch and take advantage of one of the park’s many picnic areas.
  • Enjoy the night sky: Joshua Tree National Park is a designated Dark Sky Park, so take advantage of the opportunity to stargaze and enjoy the beautiful night sky.
  • Don’t miss Joshua Tree at sunrise. The Joshua Trees and Cholla cactuses come alive in the golden morning light. Don’t miss seeing the park in the soft light during your time! It looks so magical at sunrise and then at midday!

Final Thoughts on the Joshua Tree In One Day Itinerary

Now, I may have convinced you to explore Joshua Tree National Park and its perfect destination as a day trip from nearby cities!

If you have only one day in Joshua Tree you can certainly cover major highlights of the park!

Have you visited Joshua Tree?? If so, let me know your Joshua Tree Day Trip experiences in the comments! And, If you are planning your Joshua Tree One day Itinerary Pin this Post to read it Later!!

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