Legend of Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park has been inhabited since 5000 years. The first inhabitants being Pinto tribe of hunter-gatherer era were followed by sporadic Indian tribes. Due to arid nature of the region, Indians mostly thrived on acorn, cactus fruits and pinyon nuts for sustenance. In fact, bedrock mortars—holes ground into solid rock and used to pulverize seeds during food preparation—are scattered throughout the National Park. The gold rush era in the 19th century left the park area in ruins of mining which today are accessible by trails.
This unique desert park in Southeastern California is named after the unique “Joshua Trees” that grow here. One Mormon legend has it that the tree is named so, because it looks like the outline of Joshua (from the Biblical Book of Joshua) praying with his arms stretched towards the sky. Apart from desert vegetation, the rock monoliths in this park are stunning! Piles of rocks on stand perched on top of one another, seeming rather precarious, to the onlooker. The desert, the Joshua trees, and these rocks create a surreal landscape and provide the feel of being in a Flintstones cartoon.
Joshua Tree National Park location
The national park located in southern California is divided into two deserts – Mojave and Colorado with strikingly difference in appearance. The eastern part of the park is low-lying Colorado desert known for its sparse, almost forbidding vegetation and higher temperatures. As opposed, the western part is loftier, wetter, and more vegetated Mojave “high desert”. As visitors, we were astounded by this transition in the park vegetation between the two eco-systems. The western Mojave desert which has branching yuccas (Joshua Trees) and intermittent massive rock piles make the most photogenic natural landscape in California.
In order to reach National Park, the most convenient entrance is the western entrance through the town of Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree town is about 130 miles west of Los Angeles. The other entrances are the north entrance through Twentynine Palms town and southern entrance located at Cottonwood spring.
When and how to visit
The best time to visit the park is in spring and (April-May) and fall (Oct-Nov). The summer season can be very hot while winter season may even have snow in the higher altitudes of the park.
The park is ideal for half-day visit by car although enthusiasts also explore the park by bike. For a typical and fulfilling half-day visit, we followed National Geographic recommendation:
For a half-day visit starting from the park’s northern boundary, take the Park Boulevard loop either from the town of Joshua Tree through the West Entrance Station, or from Twentynine Palms, by way of the North Entrance Station. If the air is clear (ask at the entrance about haze conditions), take the 20-minute side trip to 5,185-foot-high Keys View, which overlooks a vast panorama of arid desert basin and range stretching south into Mexico. If you are starting from Joshua Tree, return to Park Boulevard and continue east over Sheep Pass to Jumbo Rocks, turning right (south) onto Pinto Basin Road for the drive down into long vistas in the Colorado Desert zone. Be sure to stroll the self-guided nature trails through the Cholla Cactus Garden and the Ocotillo Patch.
Backtrack to Twentynine Palms and the Oasis Visitor Center, which features a small cactus garden and superb desert ecology interpretive displays. It adjoins the historic Oasis of Mara (one of five spring-fed oases within the park’s boundaries), where Indians once found water, shade, food, and game. If you are starting from Twentynine Palms and the Oasis Visitor Center, proceed south as far as the Ocotillo Patch, then backtrack to Park Boulevard and follow it westward to Joshua Tree.
A hidden gem in many natural jewels of California, we highly recommend visiting Joshua Tree National Park for its unique landscape and vegetation