Southern California attracts visitors for many reasons: the beaches, the theme parks, and Hollywood. But SoCal also boasts many beautiful national parks worth exploring. Our recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park for a long weekend reminded us of the value of national parks. Whether you choose to camp or stay at a hotel or motel, exploring the great outdoors as a family creates memories. Our children loved standing amidst a field of Joshua Trees. They enjoyed climbing between, over and under giant rock formations.
Joshua Tree straddles the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. It stretches for 794,000 acres and boasts a surrounding community thriving with artists. The park is open year-round but can be quite hot in the summer. We visited in the spring. The weather was perfect, and though many others were visiting the park as well we did not find it to be too crowded. In the winter, evening temperatures can drop to freezing, and the high elevations of the Mojave Desert are often dotted with snow.
The park has two main entrances. The West Entrance Station is approached from the town of Joshua Tree, while North Entrance Station is in Twenty-Nine Palms. We entered from Joshua Tree, explored various trails and rock formations, and exited at Twenty Nine Palms. The following day we returned to the North Entrance Station which houses the Oasis Visitor Center. The center is a valuable resource of information about the ecology of Joshua Tree National Park and often hosts local artists through pop-up art fairs.
Pro-Tip: Through the Every Kid in a Park program, fourth-grade students are eligible for a free national park pass.
Where To Eat
If the local Farmer’s Market is happening while you’re visiting Joshua Tree, check it out for great local, healthy food, and artisan items. It is held every Saturday morning off of Highway 62. You also don’t want to miss Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza. The restaurant is family friendly. They serve delicious, traditional Indian food, kid-friendly pizza, and creative fusion dishes. We loved our curry chicken pizza.
Our family loves swap meets, so before we left the Joshua Tree area we had to check out the Sky Village Marketplace, a very unique swap meet that is as much an outdoor art installation as anything else. If you might want to buy something then take cash. There is no entrance fee, and parking is free so it’s a fun place to roam around and explore even if you’re not on the hunt for anything in particular. Our kids got baseball helmets and enjoyed the vast array of antique items on display.
We’re definitely planning to visit Joshua Tree National Park again this Spring. Have you visited Joshua Tree? If so, share your favorite experiences there with us. We’d also love to hear what other national parks you’d recommend.