Joshua Tree National Park

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North America, United States

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  • Joshua Tree National Park is a protected area of land of almost 800,000 acres, located in Southern California. From afar the park’s desert landscapes make it seem a little harsh and almost unwelcoming, but those who take a closer look are well rewarded with the realisation that within the park’s boundaries is a unique range of flora and fauna, some fascinating geological formations and incredible dark night skies.

    One of the main reasons that Joshua Tree National Park is such an interesting place to visit is that it encompasses two distinctive desert ecosystems: the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert.

    The two deserts chiefly differ in their elevation levels and provide a fascinating insight into the contrast between “high” and “low” desert. The Colorado Desert, located in the eastern half of the park is of a significantly lower altitude than the Mojave Desert in the park’s western half. These varying altitude levels mean that, although the two deserts are both part of Joshua Tree National Park, they differ greatly in appearance.

    Colorado Desert has higher temperatures and less rain than Mojave Desert and looks more like we typically expect a desert to look with a sparse, dry landscape dotted with creosote bushes and occasional patches of cholla cactus and spidery ocotillo. Mojave Desert is cooler, wetter and generally more vegetated. It is also home to the Joshua tree for which the park is named. The tree itself is named after biblical figure and leader of Israelite tribes, Joshua, as it is said that Mormon pioneers thought that the limbs of the trees resembled the limbs of Joshua leading them to the Promised Land.

    Dotted throughout the whole park, but particularly in the Mojave area, are a vast variety of geological formations, including enormous granite monoliths and twisted rock piles, which provide us with insights as to the natural forces that shaped this land. This rocky landscape is not only fascinating for geologists; it also provides an incredible playground for climbing and bouldering enthusiasts! Indeed, rock climbing is one of the park’s most popular activities and it contains more than 400 climbing formations and 8,000 climbing routes! Visitors of all ability are welcome to try climbing at Joshua Tree National Park but if you are a beginner it is important that you are well equipped and have had some training before attempting to engage in these activities.

    If climbing isn’t your thing then consider trying out some hiking instead. The park has a great network of trails which range from short nature trails to strenuous treks. See their website for details of some of their most popular hikes. Mountain biking and horse riding are also available within the park although these are restricted to certain areas.

    Joshua Tree National Park is home to a range of unusual animals but many of its creatures, including coyotes, bighorn sheep and kangaroo rats are nocturnal. Bird lovers will have more luck as various bird species including golden eagles, roadrunners, mockingbirds and mourning doves inhabit the park throughout the year with more species still appearing in certain seasons. The park contains five fan palm oases, all of which are good places to try and spot some birds!

    There are nine different campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park which is particularly handy as it means that visitors are able to enjoy another of the park’s wonderful activities – star gazing! The lack of light pollution in the park makes it a great location to lie back and enjoy exploring its dark night skies.

    Joshua Tree National Park can be visited at any time of the year but visitors are likely to find spring and autumn temperatures the most comfortable as the park can get extremely hot in the summer and can drop to below freezing at night during the winter! There is no public transport to the park so visitors must drive here. It is situated within a few hours’ drive of several major cities including Los Angeles and San Diego and can be approached from Interstate 10 or California Highway 62.


    Photo by Mark Smith License CC BY 2.0

    Photo by Jason Popesku License CC BY 2.0

    Photo by Vicente Villamón License CC BY 2.0

    Photo by Joshua Tree National Park License CC BY 1.0

    Photo by Joshua Tree National Park License CC BY 1.0

    Photo by Joshua Tree National Park License CC BY 1.0

    Photo by Joshua Tree National Park License CC BY 1.0

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General Information
Type of Activity: Nature
Activity: National parks
Area: North America
Country: United States
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