This post is part of Just Ahead’s Joshua Tree Trip Planner—our guide to everything you need to know to plan your trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Click here to see the complete series, and be sure to download our Just Ahead smartphone audio tour of Joshua Tree before you head to the park.
How much time do you need to spend in Joshua Tree National Park? If you only want to see it from your car window, you can cover the park’s major roads in three or four hours. You’ll certainly get a sense of the park, especially if you have Just Ahead along for the ride. Remember, Just Ahead is our smartphone app that provides a narrated audio tour of the park. But if you can, allow time to get out and explore a bit.
One Full Day
If you have a full day to visit the park, arrive early in the morning and stay at least till dusk. That way you can either . . .
- See most of the park, but quickly, taking a few short walks. Just Ahead describes your walking options as you drive.
- Or, choose a portion of the park and experience it more thoroughly. You can allow more time for your walks and get out of the car at a number of attractions. For example, you could focus on the west: Enter through the West Entrance and see the sights in and near Hidden Valley—including Barker Dam—then drive to Key’s View, and finish up at Ryan Ranch.
Two or Three Days
Better, of course, is to allow two or three days. You can see all or most of the park’s main roads, perhaps a few secondary roads, and take several short hikes. You can camp in the park and enjoy the sunset, star-filled sky, and the quiet of days. Click here for our advice about camping in Joshua Tree. Or you can find nice digs in the nearby towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, or Twentynine Palms. All offer reasonably priced accommodations just outside the park. Click here for our advice about where to stay near Joshua Tree.
Longer and Subsequent Visits
Joshua Tree is a place you can visit over and over again. On longer or subsequent visits, you can hike to some of the more remote mines such as Silver Bell Mine or Lost Horse Mine (they’re actually not long hikes). You can climb to the top of 5,461-foot Ryan Mountain or, if you have a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle, follow Geology Tour Road. You can, of course, visit in different seasons to see the wildflowers or to enjoy the chance of a dusting of snow. Click here for our advice about the best times of year to visit Joshua Tree.
To see our complete Joshua Tree Trip Planner series, click here.