Located at the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts, California’s Joshua Tree National Park is a preservation of the American Southwest at its most rugged. You owe it to yourself to take in these sights firsthand, from the stunning rock formations to the gnarled trees that lend the park its name. In addition to hiking, the natural choice for such a park, here are some additional reasons to visit Joshua Tree National Park.
Unlike many national parks that seek to shelter their terrain from motorized traffic, Joshua Tree is among the few to permit four-wheel-drive off-highway vehicles to explore its trails. Here, you’ll find both the peerless beauty that defines America’s national park system and the freedom to explore that beauty from behind the wheel of a true off-road driving machine. Jeep owners from Southern California and the Southwest at large converge upon Joshua Tree to ride along its twisting paths. If you drive a Jeep, it’s a must-visit.
Light pollution isn’t something we think about until it’s not there. Gaze skyward at night in Los Angeles, and you’ll have trouble picking out stars in the sky. Between smog and streetlights, we drown them out. If you think you see one, you’ll usually find that it’s only a passing plane. That’s not the case once you drive inland to Joshua Tree. Finally, after nights of a dark sky that’s never truly dark, you’ll be able to see a sky that’s littered with stars. If you’re an astrology enthusiast, you’ll finally be able to see some of the constellations that have been guiding your life. Bring your telescope or simply appreciate the skies with the naked eye.
Flora and Fauna
The plants and animals that inhabit the park are certainly worth your attention. The namesake Joshua trees, a species of yucca, will demand your attention with their twisted and tangled limbs. You’ll also find numerous kinds of cactus, including the infamous “jumping cactus,” whose barbed spines can catch onto passing pedestrians—and painfully so. Then there are the animals. The beloved Roadrunner of Warner Brothers cartoons wasn’t a completely fictitious character after all. Joshua Tree plays host to plenty of non-animated roadrunners—a species of cuckoo that has adapted to desert living. Though the real-life counterparts can’t paint a tunnel on a rock and barrel through it, actual roadrunners can achieve speeds of over 25 mph as they streak through their native desertscapes.
The natural scenery of Joshua Tree is too good to merely commit to memory. One of the best reasons to visit Joshua Tree National Park is to brush up on your shutterbugging and put together a collection of amazing photographs. Explore the world of lenses, apertures, shutter speeds, and ISOs as you capture the breathtaking scenes of Joshua Tree in various ways. If you’re happy with your work, consider stopping by your local print shop to put together a coffee-table book that documents your trip to the California wilderness.