Joshua Tree National Park, located in southern California, is a coming together of two distinctive ecosystems – the high Colorado Desert and the low Mojave Desert. Thanks to this unique combination, the park is home to a delightful variety of plant and animal species in a landscape smattered with boulders, buttresses, rugged mountains, desert plains, and gold mining ruins. For young and old alike, there is something for everyone at Joshua Tree National Park to see and explore.
Due to low humidity and the park’s remote location, Joshua Tree is an excellent spot for stargazing on moonless nights. The lack of city glare will allow gazers to glimpse planets, constellations, and distant galaxies. You can join a Night Sky program led by a ranger to help you and the rest of the group navigate in the dark. There is also a nearby observatory and nature center, Sky’s the Limit, just outside of the Twentynine Palms that offers “observing sessions” to the public nearly every Saturday night.
An Old West town built as a 1940’s movie set, Pioneertown is a must-see. Fueled by the dream of creating an Old West set that was actually a town that locals and travelers could visit, a group of Hollywood investors got to work on creating Pioneertown in 1946. Complete with a false-front facade of frontier stables, jails, and saloons, the town housed ice cream parlors, motels, and bowling alleys on the interior. While there isn’t much location shooting taking place these days, you can still witness mock gunfights on Mane Street.
Take a walking tour led by a ranger through a preserved ranch, depicting the life of a pioneer family. While many view life in the desert as desolate and harsh, miner and ranch William F. Keys called this place home for roughly 60 years. Keys owned upwards of 30 mining claims, digging for gypsum and gold. He also owned a crushed ore and stamp mill, in addition to building a ranch house, schoolhouse, workshop, and store in the area.
Walking and Hiking Trails
There are trails abound for every level of walker and hiker. Take a walk along Indian Cavern Natural Trail to catch a glimpse of desert tortoises and bighorn sheep. Climb rocks at Echo Cave, featuring over 8,000 known climbs and 400 or so unique formations or hike along Arch Rock Trail amid giant, 30-feet-tall boulders.