After our day of drinking and architecture in Palm Springs, we hit the road and headed to Joshua Tree National Park. Driving from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree is when you notice that you’re actually in a desert. The roads stretch endlessly with few outposts along the way. We entered through the south gate of the park and traveled up the main road to the north end of the park.
Joshua Tree is somewhere I have been interested in visiting for a long time. The landscape and the plants found there are so different from anything I had experienced before, things I had only seen in greenhouses. Every few meters it seemed like there are something I needed to capture a photo of.
Like other national parks, Joshua Tree reminded me of why it’s so important to preserve the natural beauty of our country, something that should be experienced for decades to come.
I’m not going to pretend I’m an experienced hiker like that person who says that they like to hike in their online dating profile and to prove that includes a picture they took while hiking once.
So let’s just say that these trail recommendations are for easy to moderate level hiking. Essentially just walking over a variety of uneven surfaces, right?
We entered through the south gate of the park and traveled up the main road to the north end of the park. These trails are in the order we stopped at them, from south-most to north-most.
- Cholla Cactus Garden – This is the first trail you’ll come to when you enter from the South. Be mindful of the cacti, which are very close to the path! And it goes without saying, but please don’t touch them (…yes, I saw someone touch one while we were on this trail).
- Arch Rock – This is another easy one to find. It’s not too far from the Cholla Cactus Garden and has a camp site attached to it. If you are looking to take a lot of pictures sitting on big rocks, then this is the trail for you. The trails are a bit uneven, but this is not one that will require much navigation.
- Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks – These two trails form a loop, but not in the most obvious way. We started on the southern side of Park Road, where you’ll see Skull Rock. The trail ends at the Jumbo Rocks camp site and to continue to the other trail you need to walk along that road until you get back to Park Road. The trail head for the northern end of the trail will start on the other side of the road. This half of the trail was far less crowded and had beautiful views.
What to Bring
- WATER! – Remember to drink water even if you’re not thirsty.
- Protective clothing and sunscreen – Protect your skin. The sun is brutal with no shade to be found.
- Hiking shoes – Though I did see some people walking around in flip-flops on easier trails, you’ll want to wear shoes with some traction if you plan to walk in any of the rocky areas.
- Snacks – It takes a long time to simply drive from one end of the park to the other. So you’ll likely spend at least the first half of the day in the park and might get hungry.
Outside the Park
After hiking for the day, we headed to the Integratron, which calls itself “a resonant tabernacle and energy machine.” Okay, don’t let that dissuade you from visiting. When you visit, an employee will fill you in on the fascinating history of this building before your sound bath.
I wouldn’t typically peg myself as the type of person who would enjoy something called a “sound bath,” but this was quite an experience. One of the three sisters who owns this property played a series of quartz crystal bowls while visitors laid on mats for about an hour. The sound created in that space is something that cannot easily be described, but you could feel it in your body. At the end of the hour, I felt completely relaxed.
Having only eaten protein bars, crackers, and water all day, we headed out to find a substantial meal. What we found was the restaurant of my dreams: Sam’s Indian Food & Pizza.
I would have never considered offering those two cuisines in one restaurant, but, boy, does it work! We ordered a few Indian dishes and an Indian-inspired pizza. It was easily one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had.
This map covers our entire trip from LA to Phoenix. You’ll find all of the places we went, plus a few extras that we didn’t get the chance to make it to.