A new year has arrived for me, and I turned the big 2-7 on Saturday, November 5. This year for my birthday I wasn't interested in the idea of planning and organizing any sort of big celebration, but I decided to plan a weekend Getaway from LA. instead. There are so many places to visit that are within driving distance from LA, and Joshua Tree National Park has been on my bucketlist for quite some time now. Now that I went on a Getaway from LA trip for my birthday this past weekend, I hope to continue doing this for the years to come! It was just my love and I for the weekend, and we had such a fun, adventurous, relaxing and all around memorable weekend that I already can't wait to go back.
Joshua Tree National Park is a 1,234 square mile protected area in Southern California, roughly 130 miles inland from Los Angeles (about a 2.5 hour drive). It's known for it's sprawling desert landscapes, unique giant rock formations, and of course, Joshua Trees. Joshua Trees are funky, unique, and beautiful looking, and I read online that they were named by Mormon pioneers after the prophet Joshua because the branches of the tree reminded them of him waving his arms, welcoming people to the promised land. Joshua Trees can grow up to 45 feet high and live up to 900-1,000 years. They only grow up to an inch per year, which is a reminder to me, and to all of us, that growth is a process and that the sweetest things in life take time. Being in Joshua Tree reminded me to be patient with myself as I grow, be patient with others as they grow, and to accept that living a good life is a journey rather than an "OK, I've arrived and I'm good to go now!" My goals for this new year of my life are to stop trying to have everything figured out at once, but to learn to embrace this journey and all of the uncertainties that come with it. I have a feeling that 27 is going to be a good one.
Joshua Tree National Park: West Entrance
We drove from LA to the desert on Friday night and stayed at a Best Western in Twenty Nine Palms. We woke up early Saturday morning and headed into town, making our first stop at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. I'd highly recommend you also make a stop here as well, as the center is only 5 miles from the Park West Entrance (the most popular entrance) and you will be able to get a map and ask any questions about visiting the park. We only planned to spend half a day in the park, and the employees at the Visitor Center were very helpful in letting us know about the highlights of the park from the West Entrance and the "must see" spots for first-timers. From the Visitor Center, you will drive about 5 miles to the Park West Entrance. You will pay $20 to enter the park, or you can buy a National Park Annual Pass for $80 (which is what I did as a birthday present to myself - can't wait to explore more National Parks this year!). As you drive into the park, be prepared to fall in love with the thousands of Joshua Trees and amazing cliffs/rock formations at each and every turn!
The Visitor Center is located at 6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92256.
Click here to read more about Joshua Tree National Park and the various entrance locations.
Hidden Valley Trail
The first stop we made after entering the park was the Hidden Valley Trail, about a 20 minute drive from the West Entrance. I read online that this was the perfect location to start your Joshua Tree park adventure, as it has a little bit of everything: plenty of Joshua Trees, awesome looking rock formations, views of courageous folks scaling the huge boulders and cliff sides, and an easy, 1 mile loop hiking trail. The trail is well-marked, easy to follow, and I'd say it was more of a natural walk than an actual hike. It was pretty warm out when we went, so I'd recommend bringing sunscreen, wearing a hat, and of course, bringing a camera to take pictures of the beauty surrounding you at each and every step!
Click here to read more about the various trails in Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park's highest viewpoint, the Keys View, lets visitors get an interesting panoramic view of the Coachella Valley. You'll see the Salton Sea, Palm Springs, and the San Andreas fault from the lookout point. This viewing point is only about a 15 minute drive from the main road and is easy to park at and hop out and quickly enjoy the views. Also, the drive from the main road to Keys View was one of my favorite in the park! There are Joshua Trees everywhere in the park, but this stretch of road in particular was FILLED with Joshua Trees of all sizes lining the roads. The dirve had me ooh-ing and ahh-ing pretty much the whole time.
Click here to read more about the Keys View at Joshua Tree Natl. Park.
Skull Rock & Jumbo Rocks
Skull Rock (named because, well, it looks like a giant skull!) is located right along the main road, and you can park on the shoulder of the road to hop out and advantage of a photo opp. If you're feeling adventurous like we were, stay around for a while to explore the jumbo rocks surrounding Skull Rock. You can see huge, bubbling rock formations as far as the eye can see, and the landscape was pretty incredible. It felt like we were either on Mars/another planet or on a Flintstones movie set. We jumped around and adventured until we were pretty tired and our road trip snacks were calling our names (and you betcha I got the good stuff - cheetohs, chocolate, peanut butter pretzels, trailmix, chips, etc.), so we headed back to the car. This was definitely one of the highlights in the park for me!
Cholla Cactus Garden
While I loved MANY things about Joshua Tree National Park and truly can't wait to go back, the Cholla Cactus Garden was hands down my favorite thing we saw and experienced (well, other than the Joshua Trees themselves). The Cholla Cactus Garden is filled with unusual, ombre-colored cacti that look like they should be on another planet. It almost felt like we were walking through an unusual underwater reef - but on dry land. You can follow a short quarter of a mile trail through this garden and it is all pretty mesmerizing - but make sure to stay on the path! My boyfriend meandered just outside of the trail and he got many cacti pricks caught in the bottom of his shoes - oops. Also, don't touch the cacti! I was reading online that the pricks are extremely painful and difficult to remove from your skin. I would recommend anyone and everyone to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden when you visit the park, and be prepared to fall in love with these cute little creatures!
Click here to read more about the Cholla Cactus Garden.
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Sculpture Museum
When I visited LACMA about a year ago, I fell in love with Noah Purifoy's Junk Dada art exhibit. In the 1960's Noah would search the streets post-Watts riots in LA to collect materials to create incredible, politically charged pieces of art. All of his work at LACMA is so colorful and full of varying textures and materials. I found it amazing that he literally turned trash into treasure to ignite thoughts, feelings, and reactions in others. So, when I heard that he also had an outdoor sculpture exhibit in Joshua Tree, I knew I had to stop by. It was only a 10 minute drive from downtown Joshua Tree and was well worth the detour. Noah began creating this sculpture garden when he moved to the Mohave Desert in the 1980's. This sculpture garden covers quite a bit of land (it took us about an hour to walk through the entire landscape covered) and has been constructed entirely out of junked materials. His art is unique, thought-provoking, and sometimes just plain bizarre, but man, we loved it. From intricate sculptures made out of toilets, blown out rubber tires, broken computers, burnt furniture, and SO much more, there are plenty of unique pieces of art for you to see and experience here - many of which are politically and socially charged. Noah intended for these sculptures to become part of the desert environment in which they live and to decay naturally over time.
While Noah Purifoy died in 2004 (RIP), his art will continue to live on in museums, in nature, and in the creative minds of those he inspires. Today, the Noah Purifoy Foundation continues to keep his vision and his works alive. The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Sculpture Garden is located at 63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California 92252. It is free to enter.
Click here to read more about this unique outdoor art exhibit.
To Caffeinate, Eat, and Drink
We loved the varieties of eateries available to us in Joshua Tree, and I did some solid Yelping before we visited. Here are my recommendations below for your visit:
We stayed in the most lovely and beautifully designed AirBnB small home, complete with a full kitchen, comfortable bedroom, and a gorgeous living room with a record player (our favorite feature - we had it playing almost non-stop). I loved staying here because it was just enough space for two people, had a beautiful backyard with large patio to drink our morning coffee on, was less than 1 mile from downtown Joshua Tree, and only about 10 minutes from the West Entrance of the park. And, did I mention it was super adorable? Also, our host was wonderful and provided us with recommendations on what to do/where to eat while we were in town. Thanks for everything, Becky!
Click here see if the the same AirBnB home we stayed at is available for your visit.
Overall, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED Joshua Tree. I was blown away by this incredible, beautiful, sprawling National Park and the small, adorable, and eclectic town of Joshua Tree just outside of the park's West Entrance. I loved how peaceful it all was, how the pace of life physically felt slower than life in LA, how clear the night sky was to see thousands of stars (and my first time seeing the Milky Way! See picture below.), and how the weekend was the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. Thank you Joshua Tree for a wonderful birthday Getaway From LA, and thank you to YOU for reading this blog post! I hope you get the opportunity to one day explore this one-of-a-kind Natl. park and special town.
Until my next Getaway From LA!
WANDER BEYOND THE CITY LINES...
As much as I love to explore L.A., it's good for the soul to getaway every now & then. Join me as I escape from the city to explore new locations, both locally and globally!
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