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20 Best Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

20 Best Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is one of the best destinations in Southern California, and it’s hard not to see why. While it looks dull from the outside, do not underestimate the power of this 800,000-acre park. 

Local and international tourists frequent this place for its magical views and the vast array of activities that you can do there. The best activities in Joshua Tree National Park include rock climbing, camping out under the stars, taking an off-road tour, taking photos of the breathtaking scenery on hiking trails, and just taking in the peace of the desert.

The vast majority of the Joshua Tree National Park is inaccessible by road. Park Boulevard and Pinto Basin Road link I-10 and Cottonwood Visitor Center in the south, with the park’s west end and Joshua Tree, respectively. Park Boulevard and Pinto Basin Road link the park’s ends.

Are you itching to know more about what to do at Joshua Tree? Stay with us, and let us help you craft the perfect itinerary! In this guide, we will virtually tour you and show you the best things to do in Joshua Tree and Joshua Tree National Park.

TL;DR

Things to Do In And Around Joshua Tree National Park

1. Bask in the Beauty of Wildflower Blooms at the Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflower Blooms at Joshua Tree

Address: Joshua Tree National Park, Southern California, United States

Let’s start this list with one of the most beautiful sights at the Joshua Tree National Park. First on the list of Joshua Tree things to do is wildflower viewing, which is among the most well-loved things to do during springtime. 

If you’re planning on spending your spring season, here’s a tip on what you can expect. You will see wildflowers starting to bloom at Pinto Basin and along the south boundary of Joshua Tree National Park as early as February. This will last until March and April. However, every year, the amount and timings of spring wildflowers blooming in Joshua Tree change. 

Spring blossoming is affected by fall and winter moisture, as well as temperatures in the spring. Besides this, plants also need temps to warm up a little before flower stalks form. The ground may be covered with green-leaved rosettes in January, but the flower stalks will not appear until the weather warms up.

Wildflower viewing is included in Joshua Tree’s points of interest, couples, or anyone who loves flowers and nature. You can take photos, pick flowers, and stroll with your loved ones for free. 

2. Warm-Up at the Hidden Valley Nature Trail

Hiking path with boulders under blue sky at Joshua Tree National Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: 74485 National Park Dr, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, USA

One of the most known tourist attractions and things to do in Joshua Tree is rock-hopping, and the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a great place to do it. This one-mile circle is bordered by rocks and wildflowers in springtime, making it one of the park’s more bearable hikes.

Thus, this is one of the most popular hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park. Think of it as a warm-up for more serious and adrenaline-inducing hikes!

A short trek or a stroll amid the trees and granite formations are ideal activities here. There aren’t many Joshua trees in this area, but the Great Burrito, a famous rock climbing spot in the park, can be found on this path.

The Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a great site if you’re a beginner at rock climbing or hiking. You can meet other tourists and hikers you can connect with while finishing the trail. After all, one of the greatest things about traveling is meeting other people!

Families with kids can also go hiking at the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Because this is an easy trail, children won’t have difficulty doing such an activity. Get ready to sweat it out, see majestic views, and enjoy a hike at the Hidden Valley Nature Trail within the national park.

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3. Spend a Night Under the Night Sky at the Hidden Valley Campground

Hidden Valley Campground

Address: 74485 National Park Dr., Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Are you looking for the best campground at the Joshua Tree National Park? Then, the Hidden Valley Campground is what you’re looking for. But before you add this to your itinerary, know it will be challenging even to enter it!

Camping in Joshua Tree is one of the main reasons why tourists keep on coming back. The 44 campsites are stunning, surrounded by enormous rock formations, and populated with thick Joshua trees.

Generators aren’t permitted, so it’s peaceful. As the closest campsite to the park’s West Entrance Station on the Joshua Tree’s western edge, the Hidden Valley Campground is one of the most visually appealing spots.

Keep in mind that the Hidden Valley Campground allows both RVs and tents. Additionally, the area is near the best climbing locations at the park. It’s no wonder why people from all around the world adore the Hidden Valley Campground.

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4. Take a Scenic Walk Around the Cholla Cactus Garden

Cholla Cactus Garden

Address: Pinto Basin Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA, United States

Are you thinking about what to do and where to go in Joshua Tree National Park?

Even though Joshua Trees are the most well-known feature of the national park, cholla cacti may also be found here. Teddybear-sized cholla cactus may be seen in abundance at the Cholla Cactus Garden. More than a thousand closely packed chollas line the desert floor at the Cholla Cactus Garden, making it one of the park’s most incredible sights for nature enthusiasts. 

These chollas, common in the desert, are the sole cacti in this desert garden. To add to its collective beauty, creosote bushes and wildflowers provide a burst of color to the desert in the spring.

This lovely location may be explored on foot by following a flat, simple path. Because it’s such a short path, families with children can enjoy strolling through the Cholla Cactus Garden.

To get to the Cholla Cactus Garden, pass the Belle and White Tank campsites on the road leading to Cottonwood Spring.

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5. Visit the Majestic Arch Rock Tail

Man stand at Majestic Arch Rock Tail

Address: Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, United States

At the Joshua Tree National Park, Arch Rock Trail is one of the park’s most popular destinations and Jumbo Rocks’ top attractions. This 30-foot-wide natural formation is formed like a gigantic arch.

Hikers who take on the Arch Rock Trail won’t have to put in much effort to enjoy beautiful views! It’s a short and straightforward hike to the arch. You will reach the arch around the midway point of the walk. More importantly, the Arch Rock Trail takes you past many other magical structures.

Due to its lack of difficulty, the path is one of the most well-known routes for hiking in the park. It gains less than 100 feet in elevation from beginning to end, which is a huge plus. If you do not like walking long distances or sweating away, a trail through Arch Rock will surely interest you.

Besides sightseeing, you will definitely love to take photos of this iconic rock! The Arch Rock is large enough to take your entire family under it, so don’t hesitate to take your children with you on this trail. As we mentioned, this is a relatively non-sweat trail, so kids can surely enjoy the short hike to the main destination.

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6. Be Awestruck by the Rock Formations at the Skull Rock Trail

Photo of the Skull Rock Trail

Address: Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, United States

This 1.7-mile hiking trail is one of the crowd favorites in Jumbo Rock. The Skull Rock Trail is straight out of a comic book, as you can see the resemblance of the giant rock formation to a skull. 

The Skull Rock formation is a popular attraction among local and international tourists, which you see by the way it’s always crowded. It makes the perfect background for individual or group photos with your family and loved ones. 

But there is more to see in this trail than the Skull Rock. This hiking trail is a fantastic roadside stop equipped with sloping rock heaps, perfect for trekking or light climbing. It’s not uncommon to see other tourists wandering about this area and looking for high vantage points to take their photos. 

There are a few Joshua trees scattered around the trail of Skull Rock. This route is also full of big rocks and unique formations. 

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7. Watch the Sunset at the Keys View

girl looking at the beauty of the Keys View

Address: 74485 National Park Dr, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, USA

The trip to Keys View, a 5,000-foot vantage point with expansive vistas of the Coachella Valley, is well worth the effort. Sunset watchers and enthusiasts especially love Keys View in Coachella Valley. From here, the horizon becomes a vibrant shade of red, yellow, and orange as the sun sets.

In the distance, you can see the San Andreas fault, Palm Springs, and the Salton Sea from Keys View. On a clear day, you can see Mexico. If the weather is clear, you will see a breathtaking panorama of desert landscapes. If you want, this is an excellent opportunity to familiarize yourself with the area’s topography.

As you ascend, you’ll notice a significant drop in temperature and a dramatic shift in the terrain. Thus, we highly recommend that you pack some warm clothes to wear to the top. Wear proper footwear as well to avoid meeting accidents at Keys View.

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8. Tread Along the Historic Path of the Barker Dam Nature Trail

Hiking Barkers Dam Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Barker Dam Trailhead, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Are you not a fan of long, tiring trails? The 1.3-mile-long Barker Dam Nature Trail is an excellent option for anyone seeking a quick hike in the woods. The Barker Dam Nature Trail is more than just a rocks-filled pathway.

As you go down the route, you’ll discover a dam built in the 18th century and even rock formations that we can trace back to early civilizations. If you’re bringing kids on your trip, worry not. Joshua Tree’s Barker Dam Trail is kid-friendly as the path is mostly level.

Along the walk, you’ll see signs with facts about the area’s plants, Joshua trees, and animals. At twilight, desert tortoises, jackrabbits, and other species emerge from their burrows, so keep your eyes out for additional wildlife observations.

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9. Watch Birds in the Cottonwood Spring Oasis 

Cottonwood Spring Oasis 

Address: Lost Palms Oasis Trail, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, United States

If you wish to visit one of the most magical spots in the Joshua Tree National Park, step on the Cottonwood Spring Oasis. As its name suggests, the Cottonwood Spring Oasis is a sanctuary in the desert since it offers a constant water source. Although it changes, the flow rate is currently about 500 gallons per day.

The Cottonwood Spring Oasis has a rich history behind it. An earthquake triggered the formation of the spring many years ago. Ever since then, the Cahuilla Indians, as well as indigenous miners, prospectors, and others close by, have been using the oasis. To this day, you may still see old gold processing machinery and concrete ruins around this area.

In addition, Cottonwood Spring Oasis is a haven for birdwatchers. Birds and other creatures flock to the region because of the abundance of water, trees, and shade. Gambel’s Quail, bushtits,  hummingbirds, and the titmouse with the pointed cap should all be on your list to see.

This is the perfect place to take photos of nature, birds, trees, and people. At night, the Cottonwood Spring Oasis shines through the abundance of stars in the night sky. If this oasis is good enough for you, wait until you learn about the Cottonwood Campground.

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10. Take an easy-going hike on the Ryan Mountain Trail

Man walking through the Ryan Mountain Trail

Address: Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Ryan Mountain, located in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park, offers a straightforward out-and-back climb to the mountain’s circular top. Stone stairs line a dirt path that ascends 1,050 feet in a 3-mile round-trip trek.

The 5,457-foot summit is crowned by a sun-exposed trail that offers stunning views of the surrounding jumbled rock formations and Joshua tree woods. The finest site to gain a birds-eye perspective of the park’s heart is at the peak of Ryan Mountain.

Joshua Tree’s Ryan Mountain Trail is one of the park’s most popular trails. This second-highest peak in Joshua Tree can be reached in a short, steady ascent. There’s no need to worry about making the trek up Ryan Mountain with your kids; they’ll have a great time, nevertheless.

The track has been well-used and easy to follow but still somewhat rough. Despite the uneven terrain and scattered pebbles, take a moment to take the scenery around you. In a flash, the Wonderland of Rocks spreads out before your eyes.

This route has a significant amount of ascent, so it’s important to keep your eyes on the view rather than your achy legs as you make your way higher.

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11. Explore Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail

Trail with palms

Address: Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

The Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is not a trail that you would want to miss if you’re visiting Joshua Tree. Visiting this beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert does not disappoint! 

If you’re on a tight budget but still want to experience a sanctuary, Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is your best bet. This pathway is just outside the Joshua Tree National Park premises, so you can hike there for free! This trail isn’t exactly for the weak, as it is a three-mile hike with some remarkably challenging spots.

But don’t worry! The hardship will all be paid off when you see the refreshing panoramic views of the valley with Joshua trees and unique rock formations. As you approach the oasis, you will see towering, bushy palm trees, which appear slightly out of place but majestic. 

Get your blood running and your heart jumping in excitement while trailing the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail. Don’t forget to bring a camera because you don’t want to forget the view that will amaze you.

12. Unleash the Cowboy in You at the Knob Hill Ranch

Knob Hill Ranch

Address: 57840 Cortez Dr, Yucca Valley, CA 92284, United States

Get your cowboy hats and boots ready when you visit the Knob Hill Ranch, located just on the left side of the Joshua Tree National Park. This thousand-square-mile ranch offers more than just a horseback riding experience. You and your family can enjoy a ranch vacation, trail rides, and guest house rental here.

The spacious guest house features breathtaking vistas of the desert and the surrounding mountains. It also has furniture and tools visitors may need for a comfortable stay. Additionally, visitors will have the opportunity to ride horses around the Mojave desert while staying at Knob Hill Ranch. 

Luckily, this horseback riding ranch is not just for the ones who know how to ride horses! Even if you’ve never been on horseback, you may participate in the ranch’s guided excursions available to all visitors.

Knob Hill Ranch provides visitors with the chance to take riding lessons as well as urges them to warm up on their horses in the corral before heading out on the trails. As soon as you feel confident enough, you may ride towards Joshua Tree and take in the scenery of the desert and the mountains!

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13. Book a Day Trip at the Lost Horse Mine Trail

statue at Lost Horse Mine Trail

Address: Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Joshua Tree National Park’s Lost Horse Mine is one of the park’s best-preserved gold mines. The 6.7-mile loop or a 4-mile out-and-back trip will get you to the mine. It’s a great way to see Pleasant Valley from the top of Lost Horse Mountain. To get to the mine, the out-and-back route follows an easy path and allows direct access.

If you’re searching for a modest hike, consider going to Lost Horse. Keys View Road serves as the trail’s primary access point. A four-mile round trip, the route is built along the Ryans’ ore-and-supply hauling road.

Located in the center of Joshua Tree National Park, this fantastic day trip weaves through desert washes, groves of beautiful Joshua trees, and historical monuments. The wildflowers on the Lost Horse Mine Hike light up the hillsides in the spring, and the stillness of the desert peaks seems alive with life.

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14. Have Fun at the World Famous Crochet Museum

World Famous Crochet Museum

Address: 61855 CA-62, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, USA

This is one of the unique sights in Joshua Tree, and it’s definitely worth a visit! A former one-hour fotomat booth in Joshua Tree can be found down a road off the main street.

In addition, the World Famous Crochet Museum is housed in this tiny structure! The Crochet Museum is crammed with crocheted animals, and many exist! Even the Crochet Museum itself has been recreated in crochet!

An incredible collection of crocheted things made by aunts and grandmothers in the 1970s may be found at the World Famous Crochet Museum. Even more remarkable is that Shari Elf has preserved these treasures in a retro trailer. The collection is more than just a “museum”. It’s a genuine work of art in and of itself.

The museum’s collection of crocheted animals includes donkeys, elephants, alligators, and rabbits. Additionally, there is Batman, a fruit bowl, and plenty of other peculiar stuff on exhibit.

Both Shari Elf and other crochet enthusiasts from throughout the world contributed to the collection. Shari began her collection with poodles, so there are many of them. Be warned.

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15. Savor the Taste of the Countryside at JT Country Kitchen

Countryside at JT Country Kitchen

Address: 61768 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, United States

A trip is not complete without eating authentic food from this side of the country. For this, we recommend you visit JT Country Kitchen. This restaurant is well-reviewed and loved by both locals and tourists.

They offer various countryside cuisines, including steak and eggs, country-style breakfast meals, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and more. JT Country Kitchen is especially popular for its homemade gravy.

Whatever your plans are in Joshua Tree, include JT Country Kitchen in your itinerary. They offer amazing food, great service, and a restaurant ambiance to get you in the mood.

Related: Travel Guide for Visiting California

16. Experience Relaxation Like No Other at the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel

Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel

Address: 10805 Palm Dr, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240, United States

The Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel is another perfect spot to relax and unwind. While it is well-known for being a historical landmark in the city and for its use of natural mineral waters, the hotel offers a variety of excellent amenities for its guests.

Enjoy a day at the pool with Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel’s eight large hot mineral water pools overlooking the St. Jacinto Mountains. The pools are available to all ages, so you can bring the whole family.

For accommodations, they have guest rooms and villages. The hotel is designed to be your home in the desert, with soft mattresses, sitting spaces, private outdoor spaces, amenities, and more.

Palm Springs is just down the road, and along Palm Canyon Drive, you’ll discover the main shopping center, which includes vintage stores and interior design boutiques. 

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17. Grab a Healthy Meal at the Natural Sisters Cafe

Natural Sisters Cafe

Address: 61695 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, United States

This vegetarian restaurant is a perfect place to stop for lunch if you do not like meat. The coffee at Natural Sisters Cafe will get you going in the morning or boost you in the afternoon.

Whether you’re looking for a healthy, low-fat, vegan, or gluten-free meal option, Natural Sisters Cafe is the place to go. Bring your kids to this coffee shop, where the cuisine and atmosphere are designed with families in mind.

You’ll pass Natural Sister’s Cafe just before you reach Park Blvd, the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, on your approach to the highway. A tiny shopping center has a parking lot just in front of it, and it’s easy to find a space.

18. Feel the Rhythm at the Joshua Tree Music Festival

Joshua Tree Music Festival

Address: 2601 Sunfair Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, United States

The Joshua Tree Music Festival is held twice yearly for three days and four nights. This once-in-a-lifetime musical event features music and offers fun activities for everyone. 

The Joshua Tree Music Festival combines a distinct desert vibe with a lineup of different musical acts to create a truly global music experience. It is specially created for people who have a love for music. 

Attractions such as the Music Bowl and 27 music workshops, didjeridu sessions, a late-night Astronomy Theater, and the World Market make this a must-see destination.

The festival is guaranteed to be family-friendly. The Kidsville part of the festival has a wide variety of activities to keep the younger members of your family occupied. Some available activities include Hula hooping, yoga, live art, and the astronomical theater.

Aside from that, it’s a stunning location. A tranquil lake illuminated by floodlights at night and desert rock formations are what you can expect.

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19. Drink Up at the Joshua Tree Saloon

Joshua Tree Saloon

Address: 61835 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, United States

Located about four miles outside of Joshua Tree, this old-fashioned bar is the ideal resting place for tired travelers. Not only do they welcome you and your pet with open arms, but your four-legged companion can join you for a meal of grilled American favorites.

The western-themed Joshua Tree Saloon is great for unwinding over drinks or dinner. On Saturdays, the Saloon features live music and a fully stocked bar with various cocktails and beers on tap. You can have some light fare or watch a game while sipping your favorite beverage at this pet-friendly establishment.

If you’ve been out all day photographing huge boulders, you’ll be starving when you get home. Therefore, the menu is chock full of burgers, sandwiches, and large plates of meat. On Sundays, there’s a boozy brunch and live music every night!

20. Spend a Fun-Filled Day at the Keys Ranch Tour

Keys Ranch Tour

Address: Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, United States

The Keys Ranch Tour holds a rich history of how William F. Keys and his family inhabited the area. Bill and Frances worked together for 60 years to make a living and raise their five children in this isolated area. 

They managed to build a ranch home, a schoolhouse, a workshop, and a shop. They also raised some animals like goats, chicks, and cows and grew a vegetable and orchard garden. Deep wells, windmills, and damming up the stony valleys around the property created a lake for drinking water.

People aim to maintain its historic character since it has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark Register Site. As a result, the ranch only allows visitors to come on guided walking tours.

The tours are only half a mile long and may last up to 90 minutes. There is a restriction on the number of persons who can visit. A ticket must be reserved 60 days in advance of travel. This is due to the many visitors wishing to visit the area.

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How to Get To and Around Joshua Tree

Getting around Joshua Tree is not easy as this desert area is large. Additionally, though some attractions at the Joshua Tree National Park sit next to each other, some far-flung attractions or spots are hard to walk to. However, there are plenty of Joshua Tree National Park guides that you can follow.

In general, here are a few ways to get around Joshua Tree:

By car

Cars queue at Joshua Tree National Park entrance
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

This is the best way to navigate through Joshua Tree, allowing you to reach your destinations easily. There are two main ways to enter the park by car: Park Boulevard and Pinto Basin Road.

Park Boulevard runs between Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree, so you can enter the park via the Northern and Western Entrances. Meanwhile, Pinto Basin Road cuts across the park from the North Entrance Station towards the Cottonwood Entrance along I-10.

By foot

Barkers Dam Trailhead in Joshua Tree National Park
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Inside the premises of the Joshua Tree National Park, there are some spots that you can get to on foot. For instance, you can walk from the Arch Rock Trail to Skull Rock. While it needs lots of effort, it can be convenient, especially when parking spots are tight.

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Tours in Joshua Tree National Park

1. Joshua Tree National Park Offroad Tour Top Recommendation

On this 4x4 tour, you’ll take the wheel of your own vehicle and guide it off-road through some of the most remote parts of Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll learn about the park in stops at historic sites like Keys Ranch and be able to admire views that few people get to see!

2. Half-Day Guided Hike in Joshua Tree National Park

Glamorous Joshua Tree National Park is one of California's best-kept secrets, with a prehistoric feel that has inspired artists and visionaries for generations. This private 3-hour tour provides easy access to some of the park's most iconic locations, with your expert guide open to customization and questions. Walk away feeling more connected to this vast, wondrous, storied park.

3. Joshua Tree National Park Driving Tour

The tour departs from Palm Desert, just a short drive from Palm Springs. You will start your journey with an introduction to the park’s history and natural wonders under the expert guidance of your professional guide. From Hidden Valley, one of the park’s most popular spots, you will have stunning views of rock formations unlike any others in America. From here, you will travel through Keys View to reach Joshua Tree’s other-worldly landscape for photo opportunities before returning to Palm Desert via the Cottonwood Visitor Center.

FAQs

What are the best tourist attractions in Joshua Tree?

It’s hard to choose between the many attractions and prioritize what to do in the Joshua Tree National Park. However, the Cholla Cactus Garden, Skull Rock, and Fortyninepalms Oasis Trail are some of the most popular and well-loved national park attractions. Also, the best things to see in Joshua Tree National Park are the famous arch rock, desert landscapes, and the clear night sky.

What are some fun things to do in Joshua Tree?

Joshua Tree offers several fun outdoor activities for everyone. The best activities within the area include camping, horseback riding, off-roading, hiking, rock climbing, birdwatching, stargazing, visiting the Barker Dam Nature Trail, and more. At Joshua Tree, you will never run out of things to do.

What is the best thing to do with kids in Joshua Tree?

Even though most of the outdoor activities in Joshua Tree are targeted at adults, children can still have fun there. Check out Knob Hill Ranch, where children can learn horseback riding. Other kid-friendly activities and things to do in Joshua Tree National Park include short trails, camping, and birdwatching.

Plus, more things to do in Joshua Tree besides hiking is to take photos around the area and see its country feel.

Are pets allowed in Joshua Tree National Park?

The sole path in the park where dogs are permitted to accompany their owners is the paved Oasis of Mara trail. Unfortunately, other trails in the area exclude pets. Pets are permitted on the roadways and the paths inside the campsites and picnic areas as long as they are kept on leashes.

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