This is crazy to admit, but I've lived in Southern California for thirty-eight years and this past summer was my first visit to Joshua Tree National Park. It took Dan, my British husband, who had visited Joshua Tree National Park previously, to get me there. It's a truth that locals often miss the best things in their own backyard.
We drove from our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, to the entrance on the Twenty-Nine Palms side. It took us over an hour to drive to the entrance and we stopped for a donut break at The Jelly Donut in Yucca Valley. The Jelly Donut is a great spot for a treat, but it also gets bonus points for being located across the street from the most amazing and enormous cactus. Our picture of the world's biggest cactus didn't turn out, so consider this a command to go check it out!
It was a hot day and Joshua Tree National Park was practically empty. We visited in late August, when the local schools were already back in session, so we missed the tourist season. I'm guessing the heat also keeps people away.
We spent a few hours driving through the park to the exit on the other side, closer to the Salton Sea and our hotel. The sky was a brilliant blue and filled with wispy, white clouds. Perfect for dramatic pictures. The Joshua Trees are amazing. I had no idea that they could bend into so many different shapes. No two looked the same.
We stopped at a look-out point with views of the Coachella Valley.
At the look-out we saw a bee warning sign. The California drought is so bad that the bees are dehydrated and desperate for water. They will try to drink human sweat. Yikes! We did see a lot of bees every time we got out of the car, but we didn't get stung. Be aware of this if you visit the park. The rangers recommend leaving bottled water (or any drinks) in cars and keeping car windows up.
Also, we found out the hard way that GPS does not work in a majority of the park. No cell coverage. We did get a little lost and it would have been a good idea to have a park map.
Joshua Tree National Park is stunning and a perfect half-day excursion from Palm Springs.