Introduction The Hidden Valley Nature Walk is a short, one mile loop trail that, though it won´t take you into the heart of the desert wilderness, you will still be able to enjoy the spectacular feel of the two desert ecosystems. Since this short hike essentially straddles the area where the two ecosystems meet, you will find a convergence of different types of plants and shrubs, including of course the Joshua tree itself.
There is something truly magical about the desert sky at night. Looking up into a sky pierced with thousands of lights that have travelled millions of light years across the unimaginably vast distances of our Universe is not only mind boggling, but it allows us to gain perspective into the true scope of our smallness and relative insignificance in the proverbial "grand scheme of things." At the same time, the Universe as seen on a dark, moonless desert night also has the ability to fill us with wonder at the gift of life itself; our participation in the cosmos that envelope us.
For those of us who live surrounded by city lights that drown out the magic of the night sky, finding a place to escape the light pollution of our urban areas is something that should be done regularly. There is no better place for both amateur stargazers and professional astronomers alike than Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.
Whether you are a hardcore, backcountry, adrenaline seeking, wilderness guru, or an elderly couple RVing across the country, Joshua Tree National Park has wonders worthy of discovery.
In this short article, we will look at some of the most impressive excitements that Joshua Tree National Park has to offer, from sunsets to desert hikes to stargazing. We will also offer some basic informationon what services are offered to people in RV´s and where the best RV campgrounds can be found around the park.
What Not to Miss at Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is a huge expanse of two different and distinct desert ecosystems. The higher Mojave Desert has elevations that reach above 3,000 feet while the lower Colorado desert is a more typical lowland desert ecosystem. At close to 800,000 acres in size, the park is actually bigger than the state of Rhode Island and offers a number of different areas to explore.
Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park needs to be approached with a certain level of caution becuase of the desert heat. For people who aren´t accustomed to the sometimes scorching sun and intense heat, some of the longer hikes at Joshua Tree can lead to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Luckily there are a number of shorter hikes that also give you a unique insight into the desert ecosystems and the Dr. Seuss-like Joshua trees for which the park was named.
For people who feel that they are able to brave the desert heat and have the strength to carry several gallons of water with them, a hike to an oasis is a must. There is something strangely enchanting about coming upon an area of abundance and lushness in the midst of the barrenness of the surrounding desert. There are several great hikes to the oases scattered throughout the national park, but one that you shouldn´t miss out on if you have the endurance for a several mile hike would be the Lost Palmos Oasis hike which is a relatively easy 7 mile round trip hike. By leaving early in the morning you can miss much of the most direct sun and heat.
One of the least known and underappreciated activites that Joshua Tree National Park offers is bird watching. While some people might consider the desert to not be a hot spot for birds other than buzzards and vulchers, the oases provides needed habitat for hundreds of different species of birds, both migratory and endemic to the area.
Joshua Tree National Park has over 250 species of birds that can regularly be found throughout the park, including some species that can only be found in the harsh desert ecosystems such as the cactus wren and the famed road runner. Make sure to pack a pair of binoculars for spotting birds during the day and constellations during the night.
Mountain Biking or 4 Wheeling
If you want to explore more of the desert wilderness around Joshua Tree National than what the nature trai offers but don´t want to carry several gallons of water on your back, there are hundreds of miles of unpaved roads criss crossing the park that can be explored with either a four wheel drive vehicle or mountain bike.
The Pinkham Canyon Road is a twenty mile adventure that takes you deep into a canyon and flood plain. This is by far one of the most remote areas of the park and you might run into places with deep sand that can be difficult to traverse. Nonetheless, if you are looking for an adventure, there is no better option than taking a day trip up the canyon.
For a more complete guide to Joshua Tree National Park with information on hiking, rock climbing, and everything in between, check out the natural living blog Live Once Live Wild.
Spaces for RVing around Joshua Tree National Park
For people who are taking their RV´s to Joshua Tree National Park, one of the things you should definitely look for are RV campgrounds that won´t be filled with dozens of noisy tourists that cover up the enchanting silence of the desert night and whose flood lights drown out the spectacular views of the stars.
The northern entrance to the park is usually the most crowded. However, it is a relatively short drive to Cottonwood Campground which is on the south side of the park. This RV-accessible campground is just off of I-10 and has flush toilets and all the basic ammenities. While there is no gas station, the added peace and solace is well worth the extra drive.
If you can´t find a place in the park (and occupancy can fill up especially during the summer months), the Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground is a great alternative just outside the park. This private establishment is a little bit more expensive, but is situated several miles from the main highways back into the mountains. This will allow you to enjoy the solitude of the desert much more than if you were next to the highway listening to the sound of traffic.
Unending Opportunities to Explore Joshua Tree National Park
Whether you stay in a busy RV park or take a several day overnight backpack trip into the heart of the desert wilderness, the attractions of Joshua Tree National Park have something for everyone. The warm desert sun is a favorite place for many snowbirds fleeing the winter months of the north, and the distinctive boulders and rock formations also draw the younger, adrenaline seeking mountain climbing crowds. Whatever your interest, Joshua Tree National Park is without a doubt a place worth exploring.