Named after the Biblical prophet Joshua by the Mormons who crossed the desert in the 1800’s, the Joshua Tree’s weird angled limbs reminded them of the Hebrew leader with his arms in the air beckoning travelers to the promised land. Joshua Tree National Park tends to have that sort of effect on people, inspiring thoughts of religion, history and time and filling you with a sense of peace and tranquility. Within the borders of this National Park is the meeting point of two incredible deserts, the Mojave and the Sonoran. In the larger and higher Mojave section there is a large forest of the weird and wonderful Joshua Trees as well as numerous unique Inselberg rock formations. The terrain is simply dazzling and awe inspiring, with an eerie collection of quartz monzonite boulders which pierce the clear skies above and break up the endless desert. Millions of years have sculpted an incredible range of shapes and textures, colors and skies which make the desert a mecca for photographers and climbers alike.
Once you get to see the desert up close you realize too just how much life there is within it’s emptiness. From small flowers to endless flora and fauna to the seemingly endless variety of lizards and other desert creatures. Man too, has inhabited the area, from Pinto Man, who hunted (and gathered) along the now long-gone river that went through the Pinto Basin to the Indians who passed through and left behind a fascinating array of rock paintings and pottery ollas to later still the explorers and prospectors, miners and cattlemen who also left behind abandoned mines and ranches, homesteads and wagons.
If you are heading there for the climbing then you’ll want to head to the Wonderland Rocks and Hidden Valley, which are the best and most famous spots – there are many local companies offering equipment and guides. If you simply want to tour around then take a 4×4 and head off to the various sights, such as Key’s View from where you can see all the way to Palm Springs on a clear day, or the Cholla Cactus Garden which is a good place to check out some of the local native fauna and flora. For a good route through some of the geological highlights, try the Geology Tour Road which takes you around the best and most incredible geological formations and brings you at the end to the Little San Bernardino Mountains.
If you’re really energetic then the best way to see the park is by hiking the trails. The Barker Dam Trail is busy but is worth following, taking in painted petroglyphs and a tranquil route that, despite the crowds, brings on that quiet meditative state of long beautiful hikes. For the really fit, a hike up the 3 mile trail to the summit of Ryan Mountain is rewarded with some of the most incredible views in the whole park.
However you want to do it or see it, Joshua Tree National Park is a must-see on any tour of the USA with guaranteed clean air, clear skies and peace and quiet.