Joshua Tree.

On a sunny Saturday in July, we decided to make a day-trip out to the desert; spontaneously mind you. I had a nerve to get out and explore something… like Mother-Nature was calling my name. So, we took a trip out to Joshua Tree National Park.

The Quick Mile.

  • Arch Rock
    • Location: South of Pinto Basin Rd.
    • Distance: .5 miles one way.
    • Time: 30 min
  • Skull Rock
    • Location: off Park Rd.
    • Distance: 0.1 Miles
    • Time: n/a
  • Split Rock
    • Location: off Park Rd.
    • Distance:
    • Time:
  • Keys View
    • Location: on Keys View Rd. off Park Rd.
    • Distance: n/a
    • Time: n/a
  • Cholla Cactus Garden
    • Location: off Pinto Basin Rd.
    • Distance: n/a
    • Time: n/a
  • Ryan’s Mountain
    • Location: off Park Rd.
    • Distance: 7 Miles.
    • Time: n/a
  • Barker Dam
    • Location: on Barker Dam Rd. off Park Rd.
    • Distance: 1.8 Miles.
    • Time: 30-40 min.
  • Hidden Valley Trail
    • Location: off Park Rd.
    • Distance:
    • Time:
  • Lost Horse Valley
    • Location: off Hidden Valley Trail
    • Distance:
    • Time:
  • Hall of Horrors
    • Location: off Park Rd.
    • Distance:
    • Time:
  • Design your own trail!

Things to Note:

Elevation: Approximately 2,700 ft. above sea-level.

Distance: 140 miles east of L.A.

Travel Time: Approximately 2-hour drive from Los Angeles.

Necessities: Water, sun screen, a warm jacket (desert weather can be volatile, especially at night!) & U2’s The Joshua Tree Album.

  • Check weather for flash floods before travel.
  • Plan your routes accordingly to the Points of Interest you’d like to visit.
  • Leave as early as possible to get the most out of your day-trip.
  • 3 Entrances West, North & South.
  • Be aware of the wild animals native to the area.
  • Use all of your senses, be aware of your surroundings.

Ninja Rock 2

On a sunny Saturday in July, we decided to make a day-trip out to the desert; spontaneously mind you. I had a nerve to get out and explore something… like Mother-Nature was calling my name. So, we took a trip out to Joshua Tree National Park.

We left Los Angeles around noon, looking towards a 2-hour drive. Again, this was a spur of the moment decision which is why we left so late. We advise you begin your day as early as possible. The park is open 24/7, as long as there’s fair weather!

We arrived in Yucca Valley around 2PM even though we made a pit-stop at the Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs. Joshua Tree National Park has 3 main entrances; West, North, and South entrances. We chose the North Entrance to begin our journey.

Note: We did not plan our routes before hand, normally I would, but I felt the the need to experience the true sense of adventure and play it by ear. Although it is recommended to plan accordingly to save time!

The North Entrance resides in 29 Palms off Highway 62 and Utah Trail. Here, we stopped at the Visitor Center to check out the shop and find any miscellaneous information we should know about before entering the park. There’s also restrooms for those who need to go. 29 Palms oasis is also located here. A short walk from the Visitor center will take you to a dried out oasis where a group of fan palms reside.

IndianCoveMilkyOnce through the main gate, we received our Joshua Tree Newsletter and map. Note: There is very little to no reception at the park. After carefully navigating what and where we needed to go, we arrived at a fork where Park Road and Pinto Basin Road meet. We headed west on Park Road towards Skull Rock and Barker Dam.

At the time, the map given did not list Arch Rock (which was on the top of my to-do list), so we were oblivious to it’s location. Thus, taking Park Road and heading West is actually driving away from Arch Rock, which is located down Pinto Basin Road towards the Cholla Cactus Garden.  When we go back, we will start from the West Entrance and head down towards Pinto Basin Road, where I feel you can do more within a day.

Ninja RockJoshua Tree National Park has many beautiful spectacles, from it’s rocky terrain to it’s forest of Joshua trees, it will leave you in awe. Our first hike started when we pulled over to the side of the road, about a 1/4 mile east of Skull Rock. We saw a mountain of towering boulders so I suggested we stop and take a hike towards the vicinity.

For the first time in our lives, we stepped foot onto Joshua Tree National Park. The weather was perfect. Although it was 90°F, there was a cool breeze that brushed our skins. I would say it was perfect weather. We began our trek towards the mountains. This wasn’t just any commercial trail, we designed a hike of our own. The best part about it, we were headed into the unknown.

We spent almost 2-and-a half hours hiking, climbing and exploring. We suggest wearing comfortable hiking/climbing shoes, you will want to take advantage of the higher grounds. Aside from the usual, it’s ok to step out of your comfort zone and do something extraordinary! Hence, take the road less traveled.

Note: It’s natural to deviate from trails and make an exploration of your own, but please respect & protect the nature around you. Stewardship can go along way and is an ethical practice we all should use, where ever it is we may be.

Grape PinThe rest of our itinerary left Skull Rock, Hall of Horrors, and Barker Dam on our list. (You will find other trails on Park Road such as Ryan’s Mountain, Hidden Valley Trail for example, are all here as well.) From Skull Rock, we headed towards Hall of Horrors then to Barker Dam, stopping as we pleased at the scenic-points along the way.

Exiting out of the West Entrance, you can bet we were exhausted and hungry. Heading towards Pioneer-town, we ate at the highly rated Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, on Yelp. With a check-in, you can get one free draft beer!  After we satisfied our appetite, the journey continued.

Note: I advise bringing a cooler for lunch/snacks to avoid leaving the park for food. This will give you more time to explore!

Making our way to Indian Cove Campground, we drove through the Walk-Up area and parked at a random campsite. By far, this place is the coolest camp ground I’ve been to. With boulders of rocks and mountains surrounding the area, it gives you a sense of comfort. We spent a couple hours on the rocks just hanging out and star-gazing.

Unfortunately, we didn’t plan to camp. My advice? Bring a tent and some gear just incase you decide to stay the night. Indian Cove has a Walk-Up portion in their campground, which is on a first-come, first serve basis. No reservations are necessary for that area of the campground. Camping fees are as followed: $15 per site, per night for campsites without water. $20 per site, per night for campsites with water. Although it’s a non-electric site, it is dog-friendly and there are restrooms in the area as well.

To conclude our day-trip, this is one of the best experiences I’ve had in awhile. Although it was a last minute trip & we played it by ear instead of thoroughly planning it out, it was well worth the time & experience. If you’re short on time and want to do something fun, I would definitely recommend a day-trip out to Joshua Tree National Park. Simply put, you can do a lot in a day at Joshua Tree, but a day isn’t enough to do it all. A full weekend retreat and an over-night stay or two at Indian Cove Campground is something I will be doing very, very soon!


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