A Day at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree marks where two deserts collide: the Mojave Desert to the north and the Colorado Desert to the south. Frankly, the Colorado Desert is not interesting. There’s a reason the southern part of the park has hardly any trails or lookouts. You might want to drive through it anyway, though, depending on where you’re staying. For instance, if Palm Springs is your starting point, The Cholla Cactus Garden in the middle of the park is almost the same distance from the northern entrance as it is the southern entrance. And you will want to see the chollas:

Several cacti in the Cholla Garden

We drove south-to-north with the Cholla Garden being our first point of interest. From there, the next noteworthy stop is the White Tank campground. There’s a short trail here to see Arch Rock. However, the official parking lot for the trail is a bit farther down the main road, even though the campground is closer (but on a non-busy day, I don’t think anyone will mind if you park in the campground). While the arch itself isn’t that impressive, the trail was still my favorite thing in the park simply because the rocks here are really cool:

Smooth boulders on the way to Arch Rock

If you’re ready for lunch, the Jumbo Rocks and Split Rocks picnic areas are up next. They’re right across the road from each other, so you can swing by both if you want. Though I think Split Rock makes for a nicer picnic. Afterwards, head down the road to the Hall of Horrors. Depending on which map you’re referencing, “Hall of Horrors” might not be labeled, but it’s right after the Ryan Mountain turnoff. I don’t think there’s anything in particular you’re supposed to see at Hall of Horrors; it’s just a nice spot to get pictures of the mountains and Joshua trees together:

Joshua trees and mountains at the Hall of Horrors

Finally, you can end the day with the one-mile loop through Hidden Valley. This is probably the most popular trail in the park due to its length, accessibility, and striking mountain views:

Joshua trees and mountains on the Hidden Valley hike

This was the second one-day trip I’ve made to Joshua Tree National Park, and I actually enjoyed it more this time around. The Arch Rock / White Tank area was really fun, and Hall of Horrors was a good trade-off for not doing the Barker Dam trail again (that’s in the same vicinity as Hidden Valley).

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *