19 Mar
Posted in: photography, travel
By    Comments Off on Take a Trip: Joshua Tree National Park

Take a Trip: Joshua Tree National Park

Vista at Joshua Tree National Park

The landscape of Joshua Tree National Park is comprised of geologically odd rock piles and misshapen trees. No two Joshua trees look alike. Despite the muted colors, the park looks as if Dr. Seuss’ Lorax would be at home in this forest reminiscent of Truffula trees.

Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park

The top of the Joshua trees may branch out a couple of times or dozens with green, prickly tufts at the end of the branches. Massive rock piles dominate large areas of the park, boulder upon boulder precariously perch on top of each other. I was aware we would see plenty of the park’s namesake, but was in awe of the geological formations.

Indian Cove at Joshua Tree National Park

Once again I found myself pleading with children to use caution while scaling rocks. A park ranger told us, in front of the children, to explore the rocks. He might as well have handed the kids the keys to the kingdom. I was powerless to stop their climbing after the ranger gave permission. From a distance, the boulder piles look like slickrock but have course, sandpaper-like texture conducive for traction while climbing. Our boys used the rocks in Joshua Tree to practice the art of Parkour, their bodies seemingly bouncing from one jutting rock to the next.

Jumbo Rocks dyke in Joshua Tree National Park

We started our day at Joshua Tree with the 0.4-mile Cap Rock hike. The trail is on level ground circling around boulder piles surrounded by Joshua trees. Our kids were more interested in climbing rocks than following the trail. From Cap Rock, we drove to Jumbo Rocks where we, shockingly, scampered around more rocks. Jumbo Rocks offered our first look at the crystal-like dykes crisscrossing the rock formations.

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

Hikers can hike a 1.7-mile trail from Jumbo Rocks Campground to Skull Rock. We chose to drive from Jumbo Rocks to the Skull Rock lookout. Skull Rock is aptly named. It was the most populated tourist spot in the park while we were visiting. We were one of only a few groups traveling with children and most of the tourists we encountered were not American.

Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National ParkCholla Cactus in Joshua Tree National Park


After a picnic lunch, we made the trek to Cholla Cactus Garden. This was my favorite part of Joshua Tree National Park. The cactus are referred to as jumping cholla, and the garden stretches for acres. The plant is known to grab on to unsuspecting passersby. A warning sign cautions travelers about the plants tendency to hook into people and animals. It felt as if the park service wanted to test tourists’ ability to read and follow directions. The path through Cholla Cactus Garden is narrow and resulted in ample warnings to my kids to keep hands to themselves. The chollas mesmerized me with their stunted yet stately stature. The cactus tempts you to touch it, but you know it will end badly.

Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

We made our way back into the main portion of the park to White Tank Campground and the 0.3-mile Arch Rock loop. One there, the arch is also fairly easy to climb into. There are more dykes visible on this loop. We’ve traveled to more than 20 national parks. Joshua Tree was, by far, the hardest to navigate with the maps given by the park service. There were several turnouts not printed on the map, and some of the features marked on the map were not easily found from the roads. We found the Joshua Tree Guide, a small newspaper picked up at the visitor center, more helpful than the official park map.

Hiking trail at Indian Cove in Joshua Tree National Park

We finished our day at Joshua Tree National Park at Indian Cove which is a campground near the city of Twentynine Palms, CA and has a 0.6-mile hiking loop. The sun was beginning to set as we hiked. A pair of climbers scaled a rock face as we hiked by on the desolate trail with only lizards and a black-tailed jackrabbit to keep us company. A perfect ending to a busy one-day tour of the park.

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