Joshua Tree has to be the nearest national park to a major US city that is known to the fewest people.
Just an hour and half from our home in Pasadena, Joshua Tree is a winter-only kind of place due to the extreme Summer heat in the Mojave Desert.
Its seasonality means it doesn’t enter the minds of LA people who are focused on the LA Basin and things along the highways north and south of Los Angeles. That works out well for having peace and tranquility in a park so close to 17 million people.
Joshua Tree is named for its peculiar trees that are so concentrated there but present all over the Mojave. Up close, they don’t appear to be trees at all and are lousy as fire wood (don’t worry, we only tried to burn pieces we found on the ground).
A dangerous playground
The most important thing before you consider any risk is to know how to climb. There are usually courses at your local REI or other outdoor store. You can also first go with an experienced climber. We don’t recommend that you start climbing without the right gear and knowledge. We have both and are still extremely careful every time.
Joshua Tree has very limited amenities for campers. There are bathrooms and places to get water, but this is desert camping and shade and firewood are in short supply. We bring our sun shelter so that we can escape the sun.
There are reservation-required campsites and first-come, first-served as well. Sites used to be free but now range from $10 to $15. This is a perfect place for a weekend getaway, provided you check the weather forecast first.