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California Camping Amongst the Wildlife in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is a beautiful and diverse desert park with more to offer than you’d ever guess just by driving by. A wide array of plants and animals call the Park home, including the Joshua Tree, for which the park is named. These beautiful desert trees grow both in groves and sporadically throughout the desert.
Another wonderful attraction of the park is the rock formations. Formed over 100 million years ago, the coarse hills of rocks are usually broken up into looser boulders and are excellent for rock climbing and rock scrambling. With no set trails, there is always room for exploration and you never know what you’ll find on the other side of the rocks... from breathtaking views, to beautiful wildflowers, sun bathing lizards or shade seeking tortoises, or even possibly a lake! Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderful California camping destination with something beautiful and unique to offer with each season.
The Park is visited year round, although the most popular time is during the cooler months of fall, and the peak visitation season is spring, when the weather is still cool and spring flowers are in full bloom. The heat of the summer keeps many visitors away, although it is a beautiful park to visit any time of the year. Spring and fall tend to be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, although temperatures have been known to change as much as 40 degrees in 24 hours, so be prepared for any kind of weather. The winter months drop down into the 60’s and the nights can be below freezing. Summer often exceeds 100 degrees, with nights rarely below 75. Whenever you visit Joshua Tree National Park, truly be prepared for any weather. It's been known to be swelteringly hot, windy, cold, sunny, rainy and even snowy all in one day!
Joshua Tree National Park has plenty to offer with beautiful scenic drives, wonderfully unique hiking and climbing opportunities, and a rich human history spanning back thousands of years up until very recent cattle ranchers and robbers on the run. One interesting and well kept secret of the desert is Cottonwood Spring, one of the few oases in the Park. Cottonwood Spring is just 7 miles from the south entrance to the Park and has been in use by humans for hundreds of years. Brought to life by earthquake activity, this oasis has many wonderful hikes that take you down to the wash, which is filled with water in wetter months. A rare sighting of bighorn sheep and the elusive red-spotted toad add to the mystery of this beautiful desert gem. This is also one of the best bird watching sites in the park, and has a rich history rooted in the gold mining days with evidence of old gold mines still visible along the spring.
Keys Ranch is another part of recent human history, and a testament to the will and ingenuity of mankind, striving to run a cattle ranch in the Mojave Desert. A guided walking tour is offered through the ranch, which includes a tour of the ranch house, school, store and workshop that still stand. Bill and Frances Keys spent 60 years building the ranch while also raising their 5 children. The orchard has since been replanted and the cars, mining equipment and spare parts used to build and maintain the ranch remain.
Outside of the human developments, the park has plenty to offer. There are many established trails and hundreds of rock climbing areas. You can also strike out in any direction and create your own trails. The rocks are very coarse, making them perfect for rock scrambling; protective gloves and good shoes are highly recommended.
Spring is a beautiful time to visit, as the park is usually filled with vibrant spring flowers in full bloom. The Park is also in the path of hundreds of migrating birds, many of which rest in the park before continuing their trip, making it an excellent place to view a wide array of birds. The night sky is beautiful any time of the year, and Joshua Tree National Park camping is a terrific experience.
A seven-day pass costs $15, an annual pass is $30, and the national annual pass is $80.
To find a Woodall's approved California camping site, visit one of these
Top National Parks to Visit in the United States