One of the many reasons due to which I feel privileged to live in Los Angeles is its abundance of natural beauty. With the San Gabriel mountains to the east and the Hollywood range to the north-west, LA has no shortage of options for adventurers and hikers looking to get away from the concrete and congestion of the main city. However, for those looking to go the extra distance, Joshua Tree National Park presents an excellent opportunity for a day trip. The park gets its name from the eponymous joshua trees found aplenty in the area. Located 134 miles east of USC, the park is reachable by car in around two and a half hours. Five of us decided to make this trip on a fine Saturday morning in May.
We set off around 8 in the morning from the USC area and, after stopping for refreshments, reached the park around 11. Our first stop was the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center, located near the north-west border of the park. We picked up maps, souvenirs and advice on what agenda to follow. Then we drove eastwards, past the Oasis Visitor Center in 29 Palms and entered the park from the north-east. The entry fee is $30 for a vehicle. Soon we came to our first stop – Skull Rock. To put it in a nutshell, this site comprises a lot of huge rocks in different formations, leading to a bunch of points of varying heights up for grabs for those willing to climb. We spent about an hour here.
Next on our agenda was to exit the park to grab lunch (there are no eateries inside the park). Then we came back in and strolled through the Cholla Cactus Garden. The garden has a defined trail snaking through it, which takes about 20 minutes to walk through. The cacti are a sight to behold, albeit without too much variety. After the garden, we did our first and only hike of the day – the Lost Horse Mine Trail. Joshua Tree has a number of hikes of varying difficulty, and this one was classified as moderate. It features a 4 mile hike to and back, however, we turned back about two-thirds of the way through because we wanted to visit another point before sunset. While not spectacular, the Lost Horse Mine Trail offers some nice views and good exercise. For me personally, this was the place where I got my souvenir – a fruit from a joshua tree! Note that the path leading up to the hike has a section which is supposedly navigable by car, but it is recommended to bring a high-clearance vehicle for this section.
Our final point for the day was Keys View. This is a great place for seeing the sun set. As far as a pure viewing experience goes, this one takes the cake. It is a wonderful experience to watch the landscape below, the clouds above, and of course, the setting sun. This place also has a couple of trails which one can climb to add that extra bit to an already wonderful view.
All in all, the day trip to Joshua Tree National Park was a memorable experience. The Southern Californian landscape is mostly dry and brown, which can be a slight dampener to people like me looking for more green views. However, the variety of points and vast array of sights and activities present at Joshua Tree National Park makes it a must-visit if you live in LA.
Published on June 3rd, 2019
Last updated on April 1st, 2021