California Day 1: Joshua Tree

This is the beginning of a wonderful series highlighting my trip to California for Labor Day Weekend. Connor and I flew out super late Friday night. Anyone surprised? Haha!! Our flight took off around 10pm CST and we landed close to 1am PST at LAX. It was very late, so we rushed to get our rental car at Enterprise and to get some food. Unfortunately we ended up in a giant SUV, but it ended up working out! I imagine most of the midsize cars were taken earlier in the day. We wanted to go to In-N-Out but we missed it by like 15 minutes. Instead we got some Taco Bell since it was right next to our hotel. It was honestly so good. Then we headed to the hotel. The first night we stayed at the Holiday Inn by the airport. It was probably a 5 minute drive from Enterprise, so it was a good spot and not too pricey. I would recommend it for easy access to or from the airport.

We got 4 or 5 hours of sleep and started our journey to Joshua Tree National Park. Our main reason for this trip was visiting this park. It’s about 2.5 hours away from LA, so it wasn’t a bad drive. We were up decently early so we had an easy ride there without traffic. We had breakfast at Inn-N-Out which was pretty funny. It opened at 10:30 so we figured we had to. It was my first time there and I was impressed. I feel like my “burger” was pretty packed for not having any meat on it. Also, In-N-Out was very crowded when we got there. I was surprised since it was early, but it must really be the best fast food.

We got to Joshua Tree around noon and got started on our adventure. It was 30 dollars to get in the park, but you can go in for a week straight with the receipt. That was perfect since we ended up going back into the park 2 more times that day! We decided to drive out to the furthest point we wanted to see first. The road through the park was super nice with signs and places to pull off to see the “exhibits.” We started at Cholla Cactus Garden. This wasn’t really a hike, more of a quick stop for photos. The cactuses were really cool and of course I got them stuck to me even though I tried to avoid them haha.

The next stop was Jumbo Rocks. This stop was super fun since you could climb around the rocks and wind through them. I’m terrible at climbing but I still got some nice views. Connor did a bit more exploring than I did for sure. We were able to see the Skull Rock too which is pretty popular and actually right in front of all of the rocks.

Our longest hike was Hidden Valley Trail. This was our longest hike due to the heat. And by long I mean 1 mile. It was so hot outside that we opted to stick to the shorter trails and exhibits. Hidden Valley was probably my favorite. It was a perfect way to see all of the different features of Joshua Tree in one trail. It is full of rocks, cactuses, Joshua trees, and more. It made for some really pretty pictures and lots of water breaks!

We made some other stops to walk around and see the actual Joshua trees, but that was the end of our daytime adventure. On our way out we stopped at the visitor center so I could get some post cards. It is a good place to stop on your way in as well to get some directions and ask questions to the rangers.

After our afternoon in Joshua Tree we grabbed a quick coffee. There is a tiny coffee shop there called Joshua Tree Coffee Company. They make their own coffee and have a cute patio area. We both got a cold brew and relaxed on the patio.

Then we checked into our Airbnb (linked here). We stayed in Yucca Valley which is super close to the park. It was probably a 10-15 minute drive from the Airbnb to the park. Our Airbnb was super awesome. It was on a bit of a mountain with a nice view. The decor was so cute and very Joshua Tree. There was also this cute little pool (very little). We never actually used it, but it added to the aesthetic. I highly recommend checking out Airbnb’s if you plan to go to Joshua Tree. The hotels didn’t seem great in the area, and our Airbnb ended up being super nice for the price.

After a quick break we drove back to Joshua Tree. It was time for sunset! We were really excited to see the sunset from Keys View. It’s a nice view for sunset because it is over a Valley with mountains surrounding it. We were pretty late to sunset, but we did make it!! Parking is crazy over there since so many people go for sunset, so leave well in advance so you can get a parking spot and a sunset watching spot. The sunset was beautiful since it was such a clear night, but the drive back was even more beautiful. The bright, colorful sky with the Joshua trees made for the best drive and some amazing photos.

After sunset we needed some food since had only eaten In-N-Out all day. The food selection isn’t amazing near Joshua Tree. There is a lot of fast food around and some more local spots. Honestly the local spots didn’t look too yummy, but we ended up at Pie for the People. We each got a slice for dinner since they were giant. They had a bunch of other options for full pizzas, but we didn’t want to wait (very tired from traveling the day before and being in the 100 degree heat all afternoon).

We ended our day back in the park. We drove 5-10 minutes in to see the stars. There isn’t any light in the park and the sky was super clear. We watched the stars for a bit and then headed back to the Airbnb. They were so pretty and it was nice to see so many stars for the first time in awhile. The view would have been even better if we drove further into the park.

That is about it for our first day. It was my first big National Park experience and I loved it. There is something very peaceful about Joshua Tree and the landscape as a whole. I would love to go back during the colder months to do some of the longer hikes. I really want to find Heart Rock!!!

8 thoughts on “California Day 1: Joshua Tree”

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