Like so many before us, we ventured into the depths of Joshua Tree National Park’s hot desert wasteland located south west of LA. Promoted as a popular place for young bohemians to find themselves, Joshua Tree National park is a bridge for spiritual awakenings and natural ecosystems. Connecting the Mojave and Colorado deserts, this sandy oasis spans 671 square miles across the California highlands. Immediately upon arrival we realized why this desolate stretch of desert has inspired so many.
Scattered across the parks rolling hills are exquisite boulders, aging up to 1.7 billion years old. Sprouting out of the sandy ground are magnificent Joshua Trees, the tallest of who stand at a terrific 50 feet in height. Joshua Trees maintain a deep root system to maintain survival in this uninhabitable climate. These roots allow the trees to absorb water from large areas at once, making it easy for trees to live hundreds and up to thousands of years. Also, an official “Dark Skies” park, Joshua Tree offers exceptional views of the Milky Way during peak summer months. With over 300 miles of hiking, amazing camping, and off-roading experiences, Joshua Tree way surpassed our expectations!
Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree
One of Joshua Tree’s most photographed areas, Jumbo Rocks, is located in the center of the park. This large area stands out from the rest of the park, being littered with bus size smooth tan rocks. Created over 200 million years ago by tectonic plate activity, the Jumbo Rocks are the cooled remains of giant magma deposits. Arguably one of the coolest campgrounds we’ve ever been too, the Jumbo Rock’s campground is situated between these large geological formations. Just driving the campground loop is a notable scenic experience. The Jumbo Rocks area offers hours of exploration, all accessible from the campground of this National Park.
Among the thousands of building size boulders is one with much renown; Skull Rock. Aptly named for its skull appearance, this amazing geological feature is just a few minutes off the main road at the Jumbo Rocks Loop trailhead. Be sure to explore the area, however, maintain good Leave No Trace principles by staying off the rocks as best as possible. Unfortunately, during the government shutdown of 2016, criminals vandalized much of the park including Jumbo Rocks. Be sure to always leave an area better than you found it and stay on the trail as it takes countless hours to restore a vandalized area to its former self.
Old Dale Road
Intrigued by Joshua Tree National Park’s hilarious Instagram remix of Old Town Road, we ventured into the eastern side of the park to drive the 25-mile Old Dale Road. This overland expedition is rated moderate, as it snakes you through long sandy stretches of desert and rocky hillside climbs. A four wheel drive high clearance vehicle is a must, and I highly suggest bringing recovery equipment in case you find yourself stuck. The first half of the Old Dale Road is very casual, with virtually zero technical area. After driving across the desert floor, you will come to the base of the jagged foothills which connect Joshua Tree with the Mohave. These foothills are littered with jagged rocks and washed out roads, mandating off-road tires. Follow the tight trail up the foothills until you reach the parks boundary. Continue north to 29 Palms and back onto the highway or turn around and enjoy the trip back. Along the way, stop and admire the many abandoned mines that span the area.
Camping at Joshua Tree
Without a doubt, Jumbo Rocks campground is one of the most unique and captivating camping spots we have explored. Complete with bath houses and fire pits, this paved road loop campground puts your tent directly next to some of these incredible rock formations. Be wary, as during peak seasons (spring and fall) this campground will be booked full weeks in advance. However, if you are looking for a more secluded getaway check out Cottonwood Campground. We spent the night here and were amazed at its solitude. After walking the large campground for hours we finally came upon 2 other camping groups. After sharing a fire with these awesome fellow explorers, we wandered off in hopes of shooting some astrophotography around the Joshua trees. Book your next Joshua Tree getaway here.