10Best Visits Southern California's Joshua Tree National Park

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    The Rare Joshua Tree Dominates the Park Landscape

    No matter where you find yourself in this national park near Palm Springs, a Joshua tree won't be far from sight. Legend has it that Mormon immigrants crossing the Mojave Desert named this plant after the Biblical figure, Joshua, as its limbs seemed to rise to the heavens in prayer. The "tree" is actually a member of the Agave family of plants. 

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    Mountain Bikers Delight in the Natural Beauty of the Park

    Mountain bikers have a wide choice of options in Joshua Tree National Park. They can ride the paved roads that crisscross the national park. Or they can opt to ride the unpaved back roads, bouncing across washes and canyons, where they can explore old mines and enjoy spectacular scenery around each bend. 

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    The Ruins of Ryan Ranch, a Gold Rush Dream

    Go back in time with a visit to the remains of Ryan Ranch and the Lost Horse Mine, a homestead established in 1896. During the peak of the gold boom, some 60 people, families and workers, lived at the ranch. A natural spring once located here pumped water 3.5 miles to the mine to help process the ore. Ruins of the once-thriving ranch still survive, as well as a collapsed windmill, stone-covered well, and several graves.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    The Charm and History of the Old West, Around Every Bend

    The city of Twentynine Palms, one of the entry points to the national park, still reflects the history of the Old West. It served as a rest stop for Mormon pioneers crossing over on covered wagons, on what was then known as the "Utah Trail." Joshua Tree National Park is located less than an hour's drive from the popular desert city of Palm Springs, California.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    Dramatic Rockpiles, Result of Millions of Years of Erosion

    Visitors to Joshua Tree National Park have long been fascinated by the dramatically-shaped rockpiles that are evident throughout the many acres of the park. Scientists have concluded the face of this modern landscape was sculpted more than 100 million years ago, due to molten liquid that oozed from the continuous movement of the earth's crust. The granite rockpiles, in all their variations, remain a focal point--and popular photo opportunity--for park visitors.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    View the Infamous San Andreas Fault from Keys View

    If you only have a few hours to spend in the park, make a visit to Keys View a priority. This popular destination, located high on a crest in the park overlooking Coachella Valley, affords a spectacular view of the infamous San Andreas Fault. On clear days, you can see as far as Mexico and well into the San Bernardino Mountains. The lookout can be reached by car, and is wheelchair accessible.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    "Skull Rock" Welcomes Park Visitors with a Macabre Smile

    Millions of years of erosion resulted in the unique "skull" of this massive granite rock, located off the east-west park road in Joshua National Park. It's a favorite stop for park visitors who want to get a close-up look at, and snap a photo of, the smiling "skull" with its hollowed-out eye sockets. A 1.7 nature trail begins at the parking lot, for those who wish to explore the spectacular rocky terrain surrounding Skull Rock.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    Cholla Cactus Garden, A Short Hike Worth the Stop

    Lured by the opportunity to see the "cutest" cactus on the planet, visitors to the Joshua Tree National Park make a point of visiting the Cholla Cactus Garden, located at the merger of the upper Mohave and Colorado Deserts. The cactus, affectionately known as the "teddy bear" cactus, lines the short hiking trails into the desert garden. Visitors are cautioned to look, not touch! The spines of this cactus will latch onto your skin upon contact, creating quite a painful experience for the uninformed.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    Picnic Under Ancient Rock Formations

    The mild winter climate, coupled with dramatic rock formations, scenic outlooks, desert plants, and wildlife, makes the Joshua Tree National Park a favorite among campers, hikers, backpackers, and day visitors from around the world. Hiking trails range in distance from .5 miles to 16 miles, camping sites abound in the most spectacular of natural venues, and picnic tables are readily available. For the equestrian, the Park offers 253 miles of backcountry trails for a horseback riding adventure at its finest.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

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    Sunset in the Desert, the Ultimate Romantic Moment

    A couple rekindle their love as the sun descends over Arch Rock Campground in the Joshua Tree National Park.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

About Joanne DiBona

You'll never see Joanne without a camera or two strapped around her neck as she travels around the world to unearth new and exciting destinations to share with her readers. Her professional career includes a long tenure in communications for the San Diego Tourism Authority, where she wore many hats. By far her favorite role was as scenic photographer for the region.  When she’s not adding fresh images to her Scenic Photos website, Joanne can be found singing with her Italian band or whipping up fresh pasta in her kitchen. Joanne is a member of the esteemed Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).

Read more about Joanne DiBona here.

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