Are you a Socal city dweller looking to get away from it all? Well if you’re an LA resident, look no further than Joshua Tree National Park. At roughly three hours outside of Los Angeles, the park is perfect for a weekend camping getaway, or a day trip if you’re willing to hit the road on the earlier side. The park is home to a variety of features that attract visitors nationwide, including otherworldly rock outcroppings and vast swaths of unique desert vegetation. Whether you’re a hiker, rock climber, or just want the perfect Instagram pic, here are a few must-visit locations within Joshua Tree National Park.
If you’re checking out Joshua Tree for the views, Keys View is a must-see. Overlooking the Coachella Valley at roughly 5,000 feet above sea level, this spot can be easily accessed via car. If you’re entering the park from the West Entry Station, Keys View should be one of the first stops you make as you traverse through Joshua Tree.
Another popular photo spot, Skull Rock is named for its unique cranial shape. The rock itself is located right off the side of the park’s main road but is surrounded by piles of boulders that are perfect for climbing and exploring. You can expect a lot of people here for the gram and the gram alone, so go early if you want to beat the heat and the crowds.
If you’re looking to hike within the boulder stacks that surround Skull Rock, then Split Rock is your next natural destination. Encompassed by a two-mile looping trail, Split Rock is an enormous hunk of desert granite that looks like it was sliced in half by a hot butter knife. Surrounding this incredible landmark are groves of stones that make the environment look like something out of a Star Wars movie.
Similar to Split Rock, the hike to Arch Rock feels akin to an alien landscape. Emerging from the desert are peculiar stone gulleys and pathways that guide hikers towards Arch Rock. Perfect for viewing the sunrise/sunset, Arch Rock is also a great frame for any wannabe influencers looking for their next big photo-op.
Cholla Cactus Garden
The drive from the western section of Joshua Tree to the Cholla Cactus garden feels like something out of a movie. As the large rocky outcroppings of the desert begin to become scarce, they are replaced by thousands of cholla cacti. Similar to arch rock, this spot is also perfect for the rising or setting sun. A quarter-mile trail takes you through the midst of the cactus garden, but hikers are advised to remain wary. Accidentally running into one of these living pin cushions can ruin your day real fast.