Best bets for your Joshua Tree weekend

Hiking, camping and reality-escaping in the closest national park.

Climbing and jumping around in the park's desert wonderland.
  • Climbing and jumping around in the park's desert wonderland.

As a recent transplant to Southern California, I've been anxious and excited to get out and explore what this part of the country has to offer. Joshua Tree has been at the top of my list since before I relocated here.

Last month I finally got a chance to hit the road and explore this desert wonder.

Roadside oddities en route to Joshua Tree include the Cabazon Dinosaurs (just west of Palm Springs).

Roadside oddities en route to Joshua Tree include the Cabazon Dinosaurs (just west of Palm Springs).

The ride was quick and scenic, along the mountain ranges and the wind turbines. From Swingers to Fear and Loathing, the stretch of highway from L.A. to Vegas is something I’ve romanticized. Swap meet and drive-in movie signs, relics from a time since passed. There was as much lost Americana as I had hoped.

Indian Cove camping

Arriving at our campsite, Indian Cove, was a sort of surreal experience. Giant rock clusters emerging from the earth surrounded us as we made our way to our site. Being one of my first experiences of the desert, it felt almost otherworldly.

We set up our tent, nestled at the base of a rock cluster. Although the campground was completely booked, we felt secluded and removed from the other visitors. Voices didn’t travel, light from the other sites couldn’t be seen. It was welcome isolation.

Rock clusters surrounding this Indian Cove campsite create a welcome seclusion.

Rock clusters surrounding this Indian Cove campsite create a welcome seclusion.

The site came complete with a fire pit, grill, and picnic table. We were outfitted to set up shop and prepare an awesome meal. A ranger came around the next morning, telling us what we already knew: we had the best site in the joint.

Wonderland of Rocks and desert sunset

The next day we spent the afternoon adventuring into the Wonderland of Rocks along the Boy Scout Trail. While we did see several cars at the entrance, we only came across a handful of people on the trail. Rock clusters to climb on, scenic, winding trails through the canyon, lizards scurrying by our feet. This hike was everything I had hoped a walk through the desert would be.

Obligatory sunset pic.

Obligatory sunset pic.

As the sun set, we made our way to the highest point near our camp, found a perch and got comfortable. A vividly beautiful show unfolded before us. Pinks and purples painted the sky. From our quiet seat on the rocks, we had our own personal sunset.

After the sun went down is when the show really started. No light pollution, no obstructions. Just dazzling, twinkling stars above. Part of the lure of camping here is to experience the desert sky at night. And Joshua Tree did not disappoint.

Jumbo Rocks

The next morning we packed up camp and headed to the famed Jumbo Rocks. While Indian Cove presented a landscape that felt like you were on another planet, the trip to Jumbo Rocks felt cartoonish.

Joshua Tree time-lapse

Cruising through the desert, I half expected to see the Road Runner and Wil E Coyote.

Once we reached the rocks I understood the name. How do these smooth, marshmallow-looking rocks even exist? They're, well, jumbo. A giant playground to climb on and under and over.

Before hitting the road to head home we wandered the main street, picked up souvenirs at Coyote Corner, and grabbed a well-earned burger at the Joshua Tree Saloon.

From the rock formations, to the sunsets, to the welcome escape from reality, this weekend desert adventure has only made me more eager to get back out there and explore.

Planning a trip? See more on Joshua Tree from last year's Getaway Contest.

Indian Cove campground

Indian Cove campground

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Comments

Do you remember which campsite number you stayed at?

Hi! We stayed at site #61..Sorry for the delayed reply :)

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