Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) is the closest National Park from LA/OC in Southern California and a wonderful day trip for the whole family. If you only have one day at Joshua Tree National Park, you would definitely want to plan your time well and visit the best spots. We have a list of ideas and tips for those of you with only a few hours to spare at this amazing national park.
Tips for Families
- Cell phone service is scarce inside this park. Plan ahead of time by either printing out a map of your stops or just simply taking a screen shot of the map from your phone prior to entering JTNP.
- For parents with young kids, we didn’t see many restroom locations inside the park. It was convenient to find this prior to entering the park.
- It’s a good idea for everyone to wear long pants to prevent scratches when climbing on the rocks.
- There’s not much shade at JTNP, don’t forget to pack your hats and sunglasses.
What do you see ? This amazing rock shaped by erosion in granite is the most famous rock at Joshua Tree National Park. It is also the easiest spot to reach since it’s right by the road. You can park and walk right up to it! Around it is a trail and a fun field of rocks and boulders that is so fun for the kids to climb and walk through. This is the perfect National Park to experience some rock scrambling. We did not go on the trail here but just saw Scull Rock and enjoyed the rocks around it.
We saw this very cool looking rock in the distant right behind Skull Rock and the we had a little adventure getting to it. We are calling it Key Hole rock (not sure if there is a real name for it). Exploring like this is what the kids enjoyed the most at this Skull Rock spot.
If you’re looking for a beautiful destination at the end of our trail, the popular Arch Rock trail is an easy 1 mile hike. Pay attention to the trail markers while hiking this trail. It was not as easy to stay on the trail as expected and we accidentally strayed off it and got lost for a bit. We were thankful to see other people on the trail to help us get back on track. Reaching this beautiful arch rock was a trophy for us but it didn’t end there. Around Arch rock were so many other beautiful and very interesting rock formations to explore and admire.
Here’s a fun find around arch rock if you are interested. If you keep walking on after seeing Arch Rock, the path gets narrow and if you look up you’ll quickly see this pointy rock with the little peek-a-boo hole. My kids were delighted with this rock and took turns climbing it and looking through the hole for a picture.
Tips for Arch Rock:
Tip 1: After you park at the Arch Rock nature trail parking lot you actually need to cross the street to get to the start of the trail. This was not very clear.
Tip 2: As mentioned, pay attention to the trail markers to stay on trail.
Tip 3: When you reach all the boulders, swing left to reach Arch rock.
Tip 4: Give yourself extra time to explore this area. It’s worth it. 😉
Cholla Cactus Garden
If you can make one more stop, we also suggest visiting this beautiful cactus garden. It is highly recommended by many Huddlebee friends. Be careful to stay on trail here and not step on the cactus pieces. The spikes can go through the shoes.
If you have extra time after visiting JTNP, check out The Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art. It is open to the public every day of the year from sun up until sundown and is free of charge.
This national park is so amazing, you’ll also love seeing Joshua Trees everywhere. Our best moments here were actually the spontaneous stops and side trails that are not on the map. It’s fun to just follow your kids on the adventure and go to what stands out to them. I think it’s important to have an itinerary, but be flexible to not follow it. This is hard for most adults including myself. I find that expecting spontaneity and planning for extra time at stops helps. I hope you have a wonderful time with your family here!
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