While temperatures were nearing 110 degrees we decided to brave a California heat wave and venture into Joshua Tree National Park. With its fuzzy trees, skull shaped rocks and melting globular boulders, a trip through Joshua Tree NP is like a journey inside the brain of Dr. Seuss or Dali. We had to see this mind warping place for ourselves and a “little” heat wasn’t going to stop us. Even while exclaiming “let’s never leave this air-conditioned car again because if we do we might just burst into flames!” we made our way outside and found many fascinating stops along the way.
Our first stop was at this overlook with a scenic panorama of Coachella Valley. From here you could see San Jacinto Peak, the Salton Sea, San Andreas fault, Palm Springs and even Signal Mountain in Mexico on a clear day
Watch out for thirsty bees in summer! If heading South through the West park entrance shut off your A/C in Hidden Valley before turning into Keys View. This will reduce the condensation and prevent bees found in this area from swarming underneath your car.
We then took a walk around this short 1-mile loop observing all of the unique rocks and peculiar Joshua trees surrounding the vicinity. This scenic picnic area is the perfect place to stop for a meal after finding shade under the massive boulders.
The Tallest Joshua Tree
Thanks to a great tip from a lovely volunteer at the visitor center, we were able to find the tallest Joshua Tree in the park. Located 1.5 miles after the Sheep Pass stop, this giant stands proud above the rest at forty feet tall. At a growth rate of about 1-3 inches per year for an average Joshua Tree, this one certainly had something to brag about. I contemplated the age of this magnificent tree while stretching my neck up as far as possible to gawk at its beauty. I wondered about all of the changes it had observed and endured throughout its lifetime while thriving in the harsh desert environment.
Our next stop was a visit to Skull Rock aptly named after the part of the human anatomy it resembles. This interesting formation reminiscent of one of those ‘90s 3-D posters can be visualized better from a distance and from different angles. Once up close however, one can appreciate its deceptively massive size.
Right next to the cranium we found giant boulders that looked like they were melting underneath the sun’s rays. These impressive rocks molded slowly by water and time were truly a creative masterpiece that only mother nature herself could have crafted.
- Be sure to bring at least 1 gallon of water per person/day (Double that if hiking in summer)
- Entrance fee $20, save with the NPS Annual Pass (details here)
- Ready to cool off (sort of)? Although Palm Springs was monstrously hot as well, we thankfully found a place with a cold pool to chill in.
- This retro area has many groovy hotels, funky Airbnb spots and delectable restaurants. We will definitely make a trip back when temperatures drop.