TOP 10: JOSHUA TREE
By Cassi Ellis
Name: Cassi Ellis
Location: Newport Beach, CA
Occupation: Events & Special Projects Manager @ Think Together.
Where to stay
Get ready to call it a night in one of the best places in Joshua Tree.
Twin Tanks Campground
Get away from the crowds at Twin Tanks Campground. This campground is for all the adventurous types out there. It’s a walk-in site in the backcountry (no permit required) with no running water or amenities. But who needs those kinds of luxuries?! Only the weak! The best sites are always those that put you closest to nature and away from the real world. After all, isn’t that what camping is all about?
Where to enjoy a cold one
Because we both know that you deserve a reward after a strenuous hike, so always pack a cold one.
Atop a boulder
Joshua Tree is known for their giant, unique rock formations which are just begging to be explored. Scramble your way to the top of boulder mountain and take in the desert beauty. There is really nothing better than a good beer and a great view.
If you're only gonna see one thing while you're here, make it this thing.
With panoramic views of Coachella Valley and the San Andreas Fault, the site is breathtaking. Even though there is bound to be a small crowd, something about the way the sun reflects off the mountainside and vastness of the valley makes everything seem to stand still.
Where to see sunrise/sunset
If you're gonna visit a park, always make time in your agenda for sunrise & sunset!
Cholla Cactus Garden
The landscape at Cholla Cactus Garden is unlike most areas of the park. Unlike the usual Joshua trees and boulders, this is a highly concentrated area of cholla cacti, aka the teddy bear cactus. When the sun rises, the cacti glows from the light and it looks awesome. It’s one of the coolest backdrops for photos. Depending where you stay in the park, you need to plan a little time to get out there but it’s worth it.
Shh! Don't tell too many people, but here's the insider's favorite place.
Stargazing anywhere in the park
Joshua Tree National Park is an official International Dark Sky Park (not an easy designation to get). That means that stargazing is top-notch. Find a place to park it, lay a blanket down on the ground and prepared to be amazed by the Milky Way.
Where to hike
Sometimes the best views take a bit of work.
Ryan Mountain Trail feels like this isolated mountain in the middle of the desert (which, technically, I guess it is). The hike is ~3 miles and is moderately strenuous. Once you gain 1,059ft in elevation, you arrive at 5,457ft to a rewarding, sweeping view of the park. Depending on the time of year, you may see wildflowers & big horn sheep. Don’t forget to bring a beer for the top!
Where to refuel
Eating & drinking is just as important as camping & hiking.
Joshua Tree Coffee Roasters
This local favorite is served by most cafes in the desert. They also source Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certified organic coffee. Joshua Tree Coffee Roasters is my first stop before the park (nitro cold brew) & my last stop for a bag of beans for home.
You didn't actually visit the park if you didn't get a selfie in front of something iconic ;)
Located just off the main highway, Skull Rock is exactly as you would imagine – a giant rock that looks like a skull! Bust out your phone, get that angle and selfie away. Who knows, maybe even try a face swap!
Every park has a somethin' radical to get yourself into.
Rock Climbing Intersection Rock / Hidden Valley
Joshua Tree is home to world class rock climbing & Intersection Rock put it on the map. It greets you right as you enter Hidden Valley and is a site in itself. There are 3 main routes that you will find running diagonally from the top. The levels range from 5.3-5.11a. Hidden Valley is the hub for rock climbers. From top-roping to lead climbing to bouldering, it’s the best place to be for any climber.
Quintessential Scenic Drive
When your legs start to give out from hiking, hop in your car and go for a drive!
Drive from the west entrance to the south entrance
Every road in Joshua Tree is quintessential California desert. If you take the drive from the west entrance to the south entrance, you will pass by every major stop - Hidden Valley, Ryan Mountain, Jumbo Rocks, Skull Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, etc.