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Joshua Tree National Park

Photo of Joshua Tree National Park

At any time of year, Joshua Tree National Park promises intense beauty.  The trees are just the starting point for exploring the seemingly barren desert as the park is home to lush oases’, low plains of tufted cacti, and mountains of exposed, gnarled rock.  Mormon settlers named the tree like variety of the yucca, a member of the agave family, after the prophet Joshua. The tree’s upright limbs and bearded appearance reminded them of the prophet whom was leading them to the promise land.  Saber-toothed tigers and wild dogs were predators in these parts some 8 million years ago while camels and horses roamed freely also.  The first human presence in this area is believed to be that of the Pinto Culture some 10 thousand years ago.

Keep your eyes peeled for jack rabbits, bob cats and the occasional cougar prowling around the less traveled areas.  Other frequently spotted residents of this desert are the road runner, the coyote, and the bighorn sheep.  If you are lucky enough to see a desert tortoise, remember that they are a protected species and humans are forbidden to touch or interfere with them in any way.

INFORMATION Contact Joshua Tree National Park, 74485 National Park Dr., Twentynine Palms, CA 92277 (p: 760 367 5500; www.nps.gov/jotr).  Admission to the park is $15 per vehicle.  There are two main roads through the park and by driving, you will be able to see virtually every feature that Joshua Tree has to offer.

CAMPING: There are nine developed campgrounds with individual sites from $10 to $15 per night.  Reservation for individual sites at Black Rock Canyon and Indian Cove can be made (p: 877 444 6777: www.recreation.gov).  The other sites are first come first serve.  Back country camping is free, but self registration is required.

Photo of a Joshua Tree at sunset

Map of a Joshua Tree National Park