Hiking and Backpacking
Hiking and backpacking in Joshua Tree National Park provide opportunities for visitors to get acquainted with the desert on a first-hand basis. Many challenging day hikes afford spectacular views of the surrounding region, including the Little San Bernardino Mountains, Salton Sea and various oases with palm trees.
Backpackers must register with the park before heading into the wilderness, and be prepared to carry out whatever they carry in. Remember: Joshua Tree National Park is a desert environment where there is virtually no water available for human consumption. Popular backpacking trails include the scenic Canyon View, Panorama Loop and Warren Peak trails in Black Rock Canyon, the Convington Flats and Crest trails (great for checking out the park’s famous Joshua trees and other wildlife), and the trails near Cottonwood Springs (popular in spring for wildflower hikes).
Joshua Tree National Park was once considered an ideal off-season training ground for climbers that wanted to keep active while Yosemite was snowed in. But over time, the park’s many climbable rock formations have garnered a loyal following of their own. The park’s faces and boulders were formed by magma that cooled below the surface, which were then eroded into round shapes by groundwater. The largest of these are called monadnocks, and they are very popular ascents for fans of “traditional-style crack, slab, and steep-face” rock climbing.
There are more than 500 archeological sites and 88 historic structures in Joshua Tree National Park. This diverse historical record includes Native American petroglyphs and pictographs, as well as homesteader artifacts like Samuelson’s Rocks and preserved sites like Keys Ranch.
The dark night sky above Joshua Tree National Park is free from a lot of the light pollution that hinders most Americans’ views of the cosmos. Visitors to the park can check out the celestial splendor with binoculars, telescopes or even the naked eye. If this is your first time viewing the night sky so far from civilization, you’re in for a treat. Ranger-guided stargazing programs take place periodically at the Oasis and Cottonwood visitor centers.