Need a break from the non-stop frenzy of L.A? Straddling two deserts – the Colorado and the Mojave – Joshua Tree National Park is around a three-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles and offers some of the most otherworldly landscapes in southern California.
We suggest combining a trip to Joshua Tree National Park with a stay in everyone’s favourite desert resort town Palm Springs, which is only a 45-minute drive from the park’s western entrance. However, if you’re pushed for time, it’s more than feasible to see the park’s highlights on a day trip from Los Angeles – as long as you can handle an early start and a fair amount of time in the car.
Whether you’re coming from Palm Springs or direct from L.A, follow Highway 62 – otherwise known as the Twentynine Palms Highway – north of Interstate 10 to dusty Joshua Tree Village. You’ll find the park’s west entrance off the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard, or drive another 16 miles towards the north entrance at the artsy town of Twentynine Palms. Both have excellent visitor centres with exhibits, maps and wildlife explainers, including posters imploring you to slow down for desert tortoises and tarantulas crossing the highway.
After the chollas, continue along Pinto Basin Road to the Cottonwood Visitor Centre and the southern entrance/exit of the park. You’ll soon meet Interstate 10 for the return journey back through Coachella and Indio towards Palm Springs or L.A – a journey of around one hour and three hours respectively.
Visit the US National Parks Service website for more Joshua Tree information and maps.
Written by Maxine Sheppard
Joshua Tree National Park © iStock: Ron Thomas
Joshua Tree National Park © iStock: Gary Kavanagh