Joshua Tree

I booked a ticket to Los Angeles back in December to get out and hike at Joshua Tree in order to start preparing for my up coming RV road trip.

Spirit Airlines often has crazy cheap deals; I’ve got a friend who uses them religiously for weekend getaways. I took her advice and went for it, scoring a RT flight for under $100 for a short 3 day adventure.


My cousin (Cullen) agreed to pick me up (from LAX) and go hiking with me over the MLK Holiday weekend. I was able to save some money here by not having to get a rental car; being that my cousin lives in Huntington Beach, it wasn’t much on gas for him either. {Double win}

I did a little research via Pinterest to find what adventures lie ahead. Here is how the trip went:

Arrival to LAX: 10 AM

A short drive down to Huntington Beach to pack my cousin and see my Aunt, set us back a couple hours. The drive to Joshua Tree from there: 2.5 hours.

Arrival to Joshua Tree: 3:15 PMsnapseed

Sunset came pretty early at 4:45 PM. After entering the park (West) and taking a few photos at the entrance, we made it to Quail Springs to take a look around. We found ourselves climbing the rocks quickly after a small potty break.

The rock formations at Quail Springs caught my attention as soon as we drove up on them. There weren’t many people on the road side of these rocks, but we found them around back. Some where free climbing on the left side of the structures and others climbing with ropes, helmets and gear on the right side. The left hand side seemed a bit more inviting; so we started there, free climbing to the top.

This was so much fun! I felt like a kid playing on a gigantic jungle gym, trying to find the best way to get through the maze of rocks. I am really thankful that I invested in these hiking boots a couple weeks ago, they saved my butt a few times where the rocks were super smooth and didn’t provide much grip!
img_2315These were another great deal that I picked up at REI, on sale. Got them for $50. Original price was about $100, can’t beat that. They’re Hi-Tecs. Good Grip for trail hiking and waterproof! I also got some Yankz! shoe laces, never had to tie my shoes either ($10).

We played at Quail Springs for about an hour, making our way to the right side attempting to reach the top over there with little success {guess thats why they had their equipment}!

Once we got back to ground level, we continued on Park Blvd toward Hidden Valley. We spotted another large rock mass and pulled off to the right. At this point it was only about 30-45 minutes until sun set.

This rock was much bigger than the ones we just climbed and were pretty intimidating, but some other climbers managed to scurry up them. So up we went!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The climb was more strenuous and challenging, but the view from the top… totally worth it!

View at Sunset

Some one described the  sunsets at Joshua Tree like a “water color painting”, I couldn’t agree more to this. I’ve never seen mountains turn purple before my eyes, it was magic! Absolutely gorgeous.

As the sun began to sneak below the mountains, we climbed down before it got too dark and headed further East to see what else there was to see before we couldn’t. We got about 4 miles past Hidden Valley and turned around to head back into town.


Sundown: 7:15 PM

It was determined that we probably needed a map for the following day as there was little to no cell signal the further into the park you go. We stopped at Coyote Corner (a local gift shop right) off 29 palms hwy. 

Hunger was kicking in and we still hadn’t picked a place to lay our heads… Pizza was the meal of choice. We found Pie for the People across the highway.
IMG_2565.PNGThe parking was pretty easy, with parking available around the building and road side. We parked on the side and came in through the patio.

What seemed like a semi busy pizza joint, was actually pretty busy. The line went to the patio door from the front of the building, the group ahead of us got wind that the wait would be about 1 1/2 hours to get a pie. Since we were pretty hungry we decided to skip out on the pizza and froggered across the street to the Mexican restaurant (Castaneda’s). It wasn’t pizza, but it filled us up!

When dining on fish tacos, I searched for a place to stay. Most of the local BnB’s and Inn’s were either full or rather pricey, with a hefty nights value of $200+. Needless to say, that was not an option for one night. Palm Springs was another option, but a 45 minute drive sounded terrible. Then I spotted the Fairfield Inn in Twentynine Palms (a short drive east of Joshua Tree, basically the next town over), less than a 15 minute drive and proximal access to the North entrance. $115 nights stay for us, I wasn’t going to complain! {accommodations were pretty amazing} The Fairfield offered a large room with 2 queens and breakfast. A good deal, if you ask me.

Bed time: 8:30 PM

Want to plan a stay here? I booked through

There were 4 things on my list of to-do’s for Joshua Tree:

  1. Cholla Cactus garden
  2. Skull Rock
  3. Arch Rock
  4. Hike!

I knew I wanted to see the cactus garden at sunrise (6:45 AM), since I’d read it was pretty amazing with the sun glaring off the spines.img_2352

I took a screenshot of the park map on my phone before going to sleep to make life a little easier in the morning without cell service and because I didn’t buy a map {money saving tip}!


Wake up time: 5:45 AM

Honestly, I thought sunset was stunning…


After breakfast we set out heading East to arrive at the North entrance where we would drive Southwest to get to the Cholla Cactus Gardens. They did not disappoint either, the sun was glaring off the cacti and the gardens were vast. Unfortunately, this is not the season for any floral blooms. You can imagine how much better it would have been to photograph those.

Arrival to Cholla Cactus Garden: 7:15 AM

Next on the list was Arch Rock, which was on our way back North before reaching Skull Rock. You will find the Arch hiding in White Tank campgrounds. There are no signs for the rock and the grounds are rather large and open. We parked to the left and starting walking on first trail we saw.  Wandering past a few signs that told us about how the rocks formed, we continued down the trail and kept heading right. I spotted another sign, which turned out to be the Arch Rock sign. We climbed a few of the granite boulders to reach it.

Arrival to White Tank: 7:45 AM

We noticed that the rocks here was vastly different than those from yesterday. More rough and porous looking with a reddish hue to it.

climbing Arch Rock

Of course I climbed to the top of it! Be it scary or not, it was a feat I needed to conquer. The top of the arch started to narrow out a little, making it a bit difficult to sit upon. The view was amazing, especially since the sun was still rising!

the view from here
Cullen pointing to me on top of the Arch


White Tank Campground is pretty big with rocks going on for a few miles. We didn’t go too far into White Tank, but we did try to climb as high as we could by jumping from rock to rock looking for a way up!

Temperature: 45ºF

The weather didn’t feel this cold when we first arrived to the park. It seemed to get colder as the day went on for us. After leaving White Tank we drove Northwest to get to Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks. There was a small sign on the left side of the road pointing out skull rock, but you can see it pretty clearly from a short distance.


img_2430In all actuality, the rock really only looks like a skull from one side. There is another formation called elephant rock in the same area of skull rock, it’s set back a little further and fairly easy to get to if you’re willing to climb around to it. We played here for quite some time. I really wanted to try and get up to the top of elephant rock {I wasn’t able to reach it easily without a possible injury coming down, unfortunately}. As I stated earlier, the rocks here are much more rough. On our decent from elephant rock we continued to barrel through the maze of rocks. I was able to catch a few videos of Cullen rock hoping. In the process of getting to the best location to capture it, I ended up getting stuck between rocks. I was able to jump down with a minor cut from the rocks {Tip: wear pants and bring a small first aid kit, just in case}.

boo boo

Looks harmless, but if you look closely you can see the indentions in my knee from the rocks. eek! I made it out with a band aid and a memory.


Time check: 8:30 AM


Across the street from Skull Rock is Discovery Trail  which is a .68 mile hike. We took a left, planning to go all the way around and not realizing  that half way down there is a fork in the trail.

If you plan to complete the .68 mile trail, then you’ll need to to take a right at the fork. If you continue on, you’ll be taking Skull rock trail, which takes you way further than expected! Nevertheless, its a good hike! After trailing for quite some time we turned around and realized our mistake once we arrived back at the fork. Here are some of the things we came upon …

The Discovery Trail is great for kids, along the way you’ll find some more informational plaques that cover some scientific facts about the formation of the rocks and how they protruded from the earth in different shapes and colors. There is even a small look out point with binoculars over looking the skull rock feature, heres a glimpse through the lenses.

Next stop: Jumbo Rocks

Arrival Time at Jumbo Rocks: 9:15 AM

Jumbo Rocks over view

When we arrived at Jumbo Rocks we decided to have a look around, but there were much more campsites here than at White Tank. Since it was still early, most people were cooking and waking up for the day. We took a little time to climb some rocks and get a better view of what was around . After  about 10 minutes we hopped down and drove down the road in search of higher grounds to hike.

A short drive down Park Blvd. heading west you can find Ryan Mountain Trail. It’s a 1.5 mile hike. Don’t let this sign fool you, if you haven’t had much hiking experience then you may or may not be prepared for the challenge! We are only beginners to hiking so we found this to be moderately challenging.img_2455

Ascent Time: 9:47 AM

The start of this trail is uphill, mostly rock step stairs. What seemed like it may be short hike started out fairly strenuous as you climb up. Once you think you’ve reached a more level surface it turns into more stair steps {uphill}. At this point you are curving around the mountain side. Don’t get me wrong… the views are awesome from here.

Looking back


As we traversed the mountain, things began to get a little more tough. You’re thighs start to feel the burn, your butt feels it and you don’t realize your calves are burning until you hit the second to last curve of Ryan. On the way up you’ll be sweating. When you reach the summit, you’ll be freezing! {Tip: pack a small backpack with water, a light jacket and a small snack}

It was so windy at the top of Ryan Mountain. As you can see here we are bundled and wind blown. Thankfully we had packed bottles of water, snacks and chapstick. We took about 15-20 mins to sit down and replenish. I took in the rays for a bit seizing the opportunity of sunlight and warmth!

What a View!

Seriously, this was amazing. From here you can see the snow capped mountains in the far off distance, the layers of mountainous landscape are truly beautiful. Another water colored view! I am always amazed by how the landscapes in the United States transition, sometimes seamlessly but often drastically. Soak in the view when you arrive!

Summit Arrival Time: 10:32 AM

After descent of Ryan Mountain we had enough for the day, we spent almost 5 hours in the park playing and hiking what we didn’t get to yesterday. It was time to start getting back to L.A. before traffic hit.

Joshua Tree Park Departure Time: 12: 10 PM


On out way back to L.A. we stopped at In-N-Out Burger in Morongo. I’ve never eaten In-N-Out, even though they’ve expanded to a few cities in Texas. I figured it was probably a good idea!

Two number 1’s and a potty break later we were off.

Over all, Joshua Tree is a pretty amazing place to explore. I plan to make it back out with the hubs next time. Honestly; I think I may consider some other choices on packing next time, but I will say I did learn that I need to update my hiking gear game and what is priority to pack. FullSizeRender-2.jpg


See what I packed for Joshua Tree below:

Other items not featured in photo: black leggings, patagonia T-shirt, l/s shirt, nike hoodie, forever21 parka jacket, 2 pairs of wool compression socks, Pink collegiate T-shirt, pj pants & top, undies (duh), hair ties, leopard scarf, sunglasses and a hat


Items I packed but you may not have seen or I did not use and why:

  • cropped leggings-too cold for crops
  • extra t-shirt-wasn’t needed
  • l/s shirt-wasn’t needed
  • nike shoes-wasn’t needed
  • sleep mask– wore to sleep and on the plane
  • toiletries-used everything packed, except sunscreen
  • travel pack backpack-Cullen wore this to hike Ryan Mountain holding our stash
  • mini waist pouch {a.k.a tiny fanny pack}-wore this thing as much as possible. It carried my first aid kit, phone, chapstick and mini towel
  • crew neck sweater-wore this to the airport back home, kept me warm

Other items not featured in photo: headphones, blow up neck pillow, 1 pair of regular socks, cami tank top, booties and jewelry items

If you make out to Joshua Tree keep you’re eyes and mind open to what ever the land gives you. Enjoy your travels!


4 thoughts on “Joshua Tree

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s