When I first started planning our trip to Joshua Tree, I have to admit I was pretty intimidated by all of the reports of how hard the climbing is there. Almost every single guide book I looked at or person I spoke to said, “the climbing in Joshua Tree is really hard.” And I’ll admit, when we got there and saw the climbs I wanted to do, I definitely understood!
But thankfully, the climbing wasn’t the main reason we were there. We had a lot of fun things planned, and after a gorgeous drive through Mojave National Preserve started out with a trip to the Oasis Visitor Center and a stroll around the Oasis of Mara.
After that, we headed to our campsite, set up camp, and took a nap! After getting pretty much no sleep in Valley of Fire (it was 85 degrees at 2am! Not exactly conducive to rest) we were completely bushed, and even though it was definitely warm in Joshua Tree we were tired enough that it didn’t matter. We woke up around 530 to head to Key’s View for the sunset.
It wasn’t the worst idea, and driving there and back was insanely gorgeous. We didn’t take any pictures though- to quote Sean O’Connell from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, “Sometimes… if I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
We got back to our campsite and it was just as windy as it was at Key’s View, and even colder now that it was totally dark. We built a fire, cooked dinner, and then were super naughty and ate dinner in our tent because it was FREEZING. I know, we’re bad, but I need to wash that tent anyway and it’s not like there are bears in Joshua Tree. I will say, cuddling up in our blankets eating steaming hot tin foil dinners was one of the more satisfying experiences of my life. It would have perhaps been even better if I’d been more adequately prepared for the cold, though. We’re not exactly strangers to the high desert, but I think I was so focused on the 80+ degree daytime temperatures that I didn’t even think about it getting cold at night. Thankfully I didn’t pull an Epic Road Trip fail and I did in fact remember to bring jackets for both of us, and I’m super grateful that I decided at the last minute to throw in a pair of leggings for myself. It saved my little skinny butt from being even more miserable than I was.
The next morning dawned a little chilly, but thanks to a fire, heated up leftovers from the night before, a snuggly puppy, and sunshine, it wasn’t too bad. Our friends Monica and Lyndi came to visit and hike with us, and we headed out into the park!
First stop on our list was the Cholla Cactus Garden. Here we were again a little naughty and put Teddy in a pack for the short little hike. Yeah, we know, we’re a bad example and pets are against the rules, but we didn’t want to leave him in the car, and he technically never set foot on the trail. Anything that the Park Service doesn’t like about dogs (pooping, wandering, spreading their scent, scaring animals, etc) was mitigated by the fact that he was completely contained in his little pack, it was pretty much like carrying a baby. I’m not recommending that you do this and I’m definitely not condoning rule breaking, but it was a super short little stroll (we’d never do this for a real hike). Plus, I will admit it was pretty damn cute. People pretty much lost their minds.
After that we headed to Skull Rock to explore around a little bit. Monica and Lyndi didn’t have much memory of Winnie the Pooh and his escapade to rescue Christopher Robin… so I felt a little silly with my quotes. Hahaha.
Next on the list was the Geology Tour backcountry road, which we were stoked about because dogs are allowed there! That’s pretty rare in a national park, and we were pretty happy to give Teddy a chance to run around somewhere other than the campground.
After that, we drove around the park some more catching up, and then headed back to the campsite for puppy nap time (it’s like having a four-legged furry baby, I swear… only probably a little easier). After they headed out and Teddy woke up, we headed out for another walk to check out more of our campground!
The next morning was pretty lazy. We hung out around camp, did some bouldering in the campground, ate breakfast, and took one last scenic drive through the park. I could easily just drive back and forth through that park and never get bored, it’s GORGEOUS.
We even did a bit more puppy pack hiking!
All in all, our first trip to Joshua Tree was a great experience, but I can’t wait to come back when we can spend a little bit more meaningful time there and not be so concerned about the dog. As much as I love him AND love the national parks, they unfortunately don’t go together so well. But I’ll sure we’ll return soon!
Our Joshua Tree National Park “Must Do”:
Driving through the whole park- it’s insanely diverse and awesome! But other than that, the Cholla Cactus Garden is really cool. Short, easy, and I think it might actually be impossible to take a bad photo of a cholla cactus. They’re just cool looking!