Trip Report: Joshua Tree National Park
Trip Report: Joshua Tree National Park
Location: Joshua Tree National Park
Conditions: Sunny, warm, and filled with good vibes!
Duration: 14 days
Difficulty: Anyone can do it!
Kid Friendly: Yes
Pet Friendly: Within designated campgrounds only
Usefull links: www.nps.gov | www.friendsofjosh.org
To those familiar, the name itself inspires visuals of a desert so unique you might feel you’re on another planet. To those unfamiliar, perhaps it invokes feelings of mystery, of trepidation, anticipation. Joshua Tree National Park is — in my humble opinion — one of the most beautiful places in the world. With unglaciated granite rocks offering some of the best rock climbing one can hope for, sensitive and hardy plants surviving in an ecosystem that seems so barren yet bubbles with the subtlety of life, it is not hard to fall in love with a place like this. In my short life, I have spent over twelve weeks wandering the park. Yet after all this time I have only begun to unravel a shred of the mysteries that the park seems to almost jealously guard.
The area now known as Joshua Tree National Park has been inhabited by humans for more than 5,000 years. As such, within its boundaries, one may find ancient petroglyphs, abandoned mineshafts, and artifacts of an age long since passed. In addition to these beguiling mysteries, the park also possesses an extraordinary amount of extremely unique native flora and fauna. Perhaps the most notable of these is, of course, the Joshua Tree. I wouldn’t hesitate to bet that most people inhabiting the United States have seen at least a photo of these beautiful yet scraggly plants reaching their spiky foliage towards the sky at haphazard and jagged angles. However, unknown to many, the Joshua Tree is not actually a tree at all. According to its botanical name yucca brevofolia, the Joshua Tree is a shrub, and a close cousin to its shorter and hardier counterpart, the common yucca. Joshua Tree National Park holds one of the largest concentrations of Joshua Trees in the world, which I suppose is not surprising given its name. While many have seen iconic photos of Joshua trees, seeing one in person dashes away any preconceptions. Each Joshua tree is incredibly unique, with each branch growing in its own twisted way as if there were no rhyme or reason to its madness.
Visiting Joshua Tree National Park specifically for viewing these incredible shrubs is entirely worth it. However, there are loads more to do in the park. For a first-time visitor looking to enjoy a casual hike, I would recommend the Hidden Valley. Hidden Valley rests in the relative middle of the massive park. Surrounded on all sides by iconic granite rock formations, Hidden Valley offers almost everything one could wish for within the confines of a small and friendly valley. Tall and proud Joshua trees, burly granite rocks, friendly trails for anyone to follow, and artifacts that have stood the test of time from those who came before. If it’s climbing that you’re after, then you too can find everything you need in Hidden Valley. Camping in Hidden Valley Campground can be tricky, as it is almost always full. For general tourists, I would recommend that you avoid sleeping in Hidden Valley Campground. The camp is overrun by climbers, and while you’re always welcome, you may find it hard to get a moment’s rest with the distinct sounding clink of climbing gear, of climbers shouting at each other above the winds, and the monkey hoots of successful and psyched climbers who have completed challenging routes (these can and often do last throughout the night).
Yes, Hidden Valley Campground is open to all, but I will say this: find a local climber and make friends (I recommend bringing beer and sweets, in no time you will have us eating out of your hand), for the true secrets of Joshua Tree are jealously guarded and not so easily revealed. Respect the park and it will respect you back. If you stick with us climbers, I can promise you an experience you will not soon forget.
Whether a tourist, hiker, camper, or climber, of this I can say of Joshua Tree National Park: Welcome. Be respectful, be open-minded, and be ready for one heck of a time.