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Joshua Tree National Park Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Culture

Our “America the Beautiful” tour of the country’s national parks begins in sunny California at a fascinating place – the Joshua Tree.

Yucca brevifolia, also known as a Joshua Tree.

Yucca brevifolia, also known as a Joshua Tree.

Name:  Joshua Tree National Park
Year Established:  Became a National Monument in 1936 and a National Park in 1994
Location:  SE California; 140 miles east of LA
Season:  Open year-round
Cost:  $15 for a 7-day vehicle pass; $5 for single person, single entry; free with America the Beautiful annual pass ($80)
Transportation: There is no public transportation to the park. Basically, you need a car. There are three entrances (west, north, and south).
Accommodation:  9 different campgrounds with multiple sites; $10-15 a night for campsites

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Description:  Established as a National Park in 1994, the park is named after the Joshua Tree. Mormon settlers first named the tree because it reminded them of a biblical story in which Joshua raises his hands to the sky in prayer. It covers a land area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island including two counties – Riverside and San Bernardino, and two deserts – the Mojave and Colorado. There are many activities available in the park, such as: camping, hiking, climbing, bird watching, driving along the paved roads, and star gazing. Much wildlife like birds, lizards, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes and golden eagles can be seen there.

The beautiful Joshua Tree National Park.

The beautiful Joshua Tree National Park.

Personal Experience:  Early in the morning, we rented a car in Los Angeles and hit the road. On our two-hour drive, we saw wildfires burning in the distance, as well as tons of wind turbines. Before entering the park, we enjoyed an Indian-style pizza at Sam’s Indian Restaurant.

Indian + Italian = Delicious! Chicken tikka pizza.

Indian + Italian = Delicious! Chicken tikka pizza.

Inside the national park, we camped at the Hidden Valley campsite for two nights. On the first night, we arrived just before sunset. We had enough time to set up camp and take a look around the campgrounds, and we spent the night star gazing.

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Star gazing is a favorite activity here.

The next day, we hiked to the top of Ryan Mountain. It was a moderate hike that took about an hour and a half total, and it provided excellent views.

Joshua Tree

Panorama from the top of Ryan Mountain.

We also visited the Integratron, which our friends in LA recommended. Located 20 miles from the park, George Van Tassel claimed he built the structure based on telepathic instructions from aliens. We partook in a Sound Bath, which is a “60-minute sonic session that consists of 25 minutes of crystal bowls played live and the balance of the hour to integrate the sound and relax in the sound chamber to recorded music.” It was a very peaceful and relaxing experience, and we felt great afterwards.

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Inside of the Integratron before our Sound Bath.

Since we didn’t have any food other than sandwich meat and no firewood, we ventured into the nearby town of Joshua Tree and found the Joshua Tree Saloon which boasts great burgers and craft beer. Back at our campsite, we enjoyed a campfire and got some rest.

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Hiking along the Hidden Valley trail.

Before we headed back to LA, we hiked the Hidden Valley trail, where we saw no other people. Taking in the stunning desert landscape, we enjoyed a moment of peace and solitude. Sometimes, you just need to take a walk in the desert before you go back to the grind of the big city. We had a great time at the Joshua Tree, and we would even recommend staying there for a few more nights if possible, as there are many more trails to hike.

Keep an eye out for a video highlight of the Joshua Tree, as well as many more incredibly national parks, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.