10 Day California Coast Road Trip | Day 2: Joshua Tree National Park

Overview: Left Las Vegas, Nevada and drove to Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms, California. Spent the day hiking and exploring Joshua Tree.

Day 2 started off by waking up early and hitting the road, leaving Las Vegas behind. We headed south to Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. About three hours away from Las Vegas.

Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

About Joshua Tree National Park

Two deserts, the Mojave desert and the Colorado desert meet and form the area of Joshua Tree. Visitors can explore 800,000 acres in the National Park that have been sculpted by wind, rain and extreme temperatures over the years.

How To Visit Joshua Tree in One Day

We arrived at the Twentynine Palms, California (west) park entrance around 10am and were a bit nervous that the park would be really crowded (having been to National Parks in many many states, we know how they can get crowded and limit entrance!) Thankfully, we were totally fine and the park wasn’t that busy yet.

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As we drove in, we saw Bighorn Sheep scaling the rocky mountain side. It was so much fun to see these guys, as these were the only ones we saw on the whole trip!

YouTube video

Hidden Valley Trail

The park rangers suggested taking the Hidden Valley trail to start off our day of hiking. The trail was a 1.0 mile loop that had amazing views of the landscape and fun rocks to climb! For little boys who like to climb…this was a dream come true! While this trail should only take on average, 25 minutes, it took us almost two hours because of all the climbing the kids did!

Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen -
Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen
Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen
Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

The landscape is very strange feeling. It’s so desolate yet calming at the same time.

Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

Trail to Barker Dam

Once we completed Hidden Valley trail, we hopped back in the car and drove to the trail head for Barker Dam, an easy 1.1 mile loop trail leading to the Barker Dam.

Joshua Tree National Park Barker Dam Trail | Gathered In The Kitchen

Because there has been SO much rain in California (we visited in March 2023), there was actually water dammed up! A unique sighting to see in the desert!

Joshua Tree National Park Baker Dam Trail | Gathered In The Kitchen

2,000 year old Petroglyphs

Along the Barker Dam trail, you can venture to see 2,000 year old Petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls.

2,000 year old  Petroglyphs in Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen
2,000 year old  Petroglyphs in Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

The “Joshua Tree”

The “Joshua Tree” is a very strange combination of a palm tree and a pine tree with funky limbs! It’s actually super interesting! … that’s my interpretation at least 🙂

Joshua trees only grow in desert regions in elevations of 2,000 – 6,000 feet.

Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen
Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

Geology Tour Road

Geology Tour Road, Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

4-Wheel drive was recommended to travel on the Geology Tour road. Since we had rented a Suburban with 4×4, we were able to travel the road with ease. However, there were some steep areas with sharp turns. We did see a couple of Jeep Wranglers as well as a camper van driving on the road.

While we didn’t travel to the end, the road provided a nice view of the desert land and mountains in the distance.

Geology Tour Road, Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

Cholla Cactus Garden

We then drove to the Cholla Cactus Garden which we hiked around in…carefully! Haha! The entire “garden” is filled with only cactuses! Again, such a strange and interesting landscape, especially for those of us who are not from the desert regions of the country!

Joshua Tree National Park - Cholla Cactus Garden | Gathered In The Kitchen

Like the good mother that I am, I made my children pose in the blinding sun so I could have a reference for how tall the cactuses actually were!

Joshua Tree National Park - Cholla Cactus Garden | Gathered In The Kitchen

After leaving the Cholla Cactus Garden, we saw two coyotes running along the desert terrain.

Coyotes at Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

Ryan Mountain Trail

After the cactus garden, we headed to Ryan Mountain to catch the beautiful sunset over the mountains! The trail had a nice path with lots of rock steps.

Joshua Tree National Park Ryan Mountain | Gathered In The Kitchen
Joshua Tree National Park Ryan Mountain | Gathered In The Kitchen
Joshua Tree National Park Ryan Mountain | Gathered In The Kitchen
Joshua Tree National Park Ryan Mountain | Gathered In The Kitchen

We left Joshua Tree National Park and headed into the town of Twentynine Palms, California which is where we stayed and ate at a delicious, local Mexican restaurant. Then we called it a night!

Extra Notes:

We avoided hiking Skull Rock because by the time of day we were able to hike it, it was extremely busy. We would suggest hiking this trail first thing in the day or later in the evening when the park has quieted down.

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Joshua Tree National Park | Gathered In The Kitchen

10 Day California Coast Road Trip | Day 2: Joshua Tree National Park

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