Thanks to our guest author Karen Schwarz of for sending us this story about her family’s trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

We’re just back from a great spring break trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California with our daughter, and wanted to spread the word about this fun and fascinating family destination that will not suck your wallet dry.


A family trip to Joshua Tree National Park article by Karen Schwarz

This is truly nature’s playground, where kids and parents can spend a relaxing couple of days clambering over enormous but do-able piles of boulders that dot the park’s beautiful 60 by 30 mile desert landscape. Each boulder formation has a unique and otherworldly look, depending on the volcanic action that created it millions of years ago. Our faves were Skull Rock and Hidden Valley, where nineteenth century cattle thieves grazed their stolen herds.

a view of Skull Valley at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua trees grow nowhere else in the world and they dominate vast stretches of the park, equidistant from each other, as if a landscaper planted them on a miles-wide grid. It’s a bizarre sight. Take the 20-minute drive up to Keys View for a quick lesson on earthquakes. From this perch you’ll see a portion of the infamous 700-mile San Andreas Fault. Also visible is Signal Mountain, which is 95 miles away in Mexico!

Joshua Tree National Park is 45 minutes from the airport in Palms Springs, and 2 ½ easy hours or less from airports in Ontario and Burbank, California. As you traverse the desert, you’ll pass 4,000 windmills that churn out enough energy to power the entire Coachella Valley. Find out how that works on a tour with Palm Springs Windmill Tours or Best of the Best Tours.

Planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park

For value and local feel, rent an AirBnB in the town of Joshua Tree. Locally owned restaurants are good, friendly and inexpensive. They get crowded, though, so try to be early for breakfast and dinner. For lunch, pack a picnic to enjoy in the park, as there’s no food available inside.

Inexpensive chain hotels and fast food joints are plentiful in Twentynine Palms. For the shortest wait entering the park, buy your car pass (just $20 for a week) at the Visitor Center the day before you plan to tour the park. Enter the park through the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, which tends to be less crowded. Access to the popular sites is just as easy as from the more heavily travelled West Entrance in Joshua Tree.

the rocky landscape of Joshua Tree National Park