Joshua Tree: A first-time guide

Visiting Joshua Tree has been something I’ve wanted to do since I moved to California a year ago. After seeing beautiful desertscape photos from the National Park and hearing how funky the little town was, I knew immediately it was somewhere I needed to check out!  This past weekend my boyfriend Chris and I took a weekend trip there and had the most amazing time. Neither of us had been before and we were so impressed by how well we pulled our first camping trip together! Here is a little guide on what to do how to see all Joshua Tree has to offer.

CAMPING

Camping in Joshua Tree

Going into the trip, finding a place to camp was my biggest concern. Although there are 8 campsites in the park, everyone I talked to or any article I read said they all fill up quickly. 6 of the 8 sites (Hidden Valley, Sheep’s Pass, Ryan, Jumbo Rocks, Belle, White Tank, Cottonwood) are first come first serve, so we decided to take a chance and look for a place in Jumbo Rocks because it is the biggest with 124 sites, each one nestled amongst giant rocks to make them feel private.

We got into the park around 8 AM and were lucky enough to come across a family packing up who let us take their site. (It was meant to be because they had 2 corgis and we all know I’m obsessed.) Although everyone says to get there early to find a spot, it seems that getting to the park right around 8:30 or 9 is best so you can catch people on their way out!

Setting up our tent went surprisingly well, and although it was windy most of the day, we had no problems with keeping our tent secure!  Camping wasn’t nearly as “rustic” as we expected, there were toilets but no running water but we didn’t find that to be a problem. Each site has a fire pit and grill so make sure you bring fire wood! We didn’t end up grilling and made avocado toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner cause…duh, its us.

My only recommendations for next time is to watch how slanted the ground is under your tent. Setting up we didn’t notice much of a slant but once you get the sleeping bags and blankets all set up you’ll quickly notice how easily they slide away from you!  We didn’t end up needing it but could also see where a hammer would be helpful in putting the tent stakes into the ground.  We were very proud of our success and plan to buy a tent of our own for Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

And, if you don’t want to camp, there are plenty of awesome Airbnbs near the park. We stayed at an adorable artsy spot on Sunday night and had an amazing time. It was literally decor goals, highly recommended!

HIKES & TRAILS

13118904_10154085424421240_8410228479929488737_nAnother perk to Jumbo Rocks camp site is the Skull Rock trail. I had seen photos of the rock previously, so it was a great surprise when we saw the trail was just around the corner from our campsite! The trail itself is super easy but we had some fun off roading and climbing over rocks. I also discovered I much prefer exploring the small tiny caves to climbing up high big rocks. We also watched the sunset from the rocks at night, so fun!

13083127_10154085424296240_2531163380822729025_n

Lost Horse Mine – This was a great hike we did our first afternoon. It was about 4 miles out to the gold mine and back, and took us less than 3 hours! It was pretty neat seeing the old gold mine built into the mountain and imagining how the area looks pretty similar back then as it does today.

Ryan Ranch – Very easy out and back trail with an old adobe house at the end. We did this our second day which was perfect after being a little worn out from the day before!

13055469_10154085424346240_6865948156274282291_nCholla Cactus Garden – This is a little loop trail surrounded by cholla cactus plants. A little bit of a drive but with it because they were pretty crazy looking! Also a perfect day-two activity.

Barker Dam Trail – This was a nice little loop and kind of cool to see water in the desert. It’s always interesting to see how the foliage changes in each of the different areas as well! Overall, pretty crowded trail and I would recommend skipping if your torn between where to spend your time.

We did about half of Ryan Mountain trail. This was a nice steep incline but all rock steps, so totally manageable. We turned around when we realized the view of rocks for miles and miles would more or less look the same from the top and decided to go in pursuit of some lunch!

FOOD 

Natural Sisters Cafe I had read on a review of the AirBnb we stayed at Sunday night that there was a great vegan restaurant near by. Of course this is the first place we headed after leaving the park. (How awesome to have a great guy who appreciates good food just like me!) Yummy wraps and juices and lots of daily specials (we ended up stopping by on our way our of Joshua Tree the next day for lunch again and shared the enchilada bake!) Definitely recommend their baked goods too… The vegan vanilla-pear pie and the vegan blueberry crumb cake were awesome, but we were super sad they didn’t have the carrot cake either time we went ;( Oh well, maybe next time!

Pie for the PeoplePizza. Need I say more? Super cute and reminded us just of Leonardo’s in Gainesville! The pizza wasn’t that bad either ๐Ÿ˜‰ We got the “Go Green” off their secret menu…artichokes, jalapeรฑos, spinach, and banana peppers – new fav! Definitely going to try to re create it soon.

Of course the amazing pizza place in town was surrounded by a coffee place and yoga studio on either side. So yes, I could live there. We went to Joshua Tree Coffee Co. and sat outside and soured the web a little bit, looking for a place to live in London for the summer (more on that later!)
Clearly we had an amazing time in Joshua Tree. I think next time I would love to come out for a yoga festival, we saw a poster for one in July but of course we will be traveling Europe then…bummer ๐Ÿ˜‰ Have you been planning to make a trip To Joshua Tree? I hope you’ll find this little guide helpful. We are so lucky to have such amazing National Parks, looking forward to visiting more in the future. Any recommendations?!

Xx,

Jess

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