Planning a trip to Joshua Tree for the first time? Perhaps you are heading through southeastern California with a few days to spare. Whatever reason you are considering visiting, you may have some questions about how to make the most of your adventure.
Although Joshua Tree remains breathtaking all year round, there are certain perks and potential downsides to visiting during each season.
Depending on your priorities and preferences, you may discover reasons to take a trip during any of the four seasons. Read on to discover our best advice for activities and travel during whatever time you choose to visit this park.
Navigating crowds, weather, and lodging may change based on the time of year, so arriving prepared will help you to make the most of your trip by seeing what matters most to you. Let us be your guide!
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Why You Should Visit Joshua Tree National Park
This national park is more than simply the destination to see the iconic namesake tree.
Joshua Tree is one of the best destinations to experience the unique high-altitude desert, filled with volcanic rock formations, dusty trails, cactus varieties, bristly groundcover, networks of juniper, and, of course, spiny Joshua trees.
The sandy expanse of this national park is dotted with these classic western trees, offering shade and sanctuary to small reptiles and insects native to the desert. Joshua Trees also provide spindly leaves that can transform into clothing and basket weaving.
However, the future of Joshua Trees is coming into concern in recent years with wildfires, rising temperatures, and air quality changes killing millions of trees.
If you are considering paying a visit to these noble trees, you can enjoy the privilege of viewing this hardy plant as it struggles to persist through difficult desert conditions.
The smaller, resourceful seedlings have begun to grow on mountains at higher elevations in the park, potentially being the future hope of this species’ survival. Growing numbers of tourists to Joshua Tree National Park show support for the iconic tree by visiting and respecting the wildlife.
The annual visitation of this park surpassed 3 million visitors for the first time in 2021, following a steady rise in the last decade.
You can take part in this wave of interest in the scenic desert with plenty of wide-open spaces to serve each attendee with awe and wonder. However, you will not visit Joshua Tree only to appreciate the landscape from afar.
There are countless opportunities to enjoy and interact with the natural terrain without fear of causing damage or changes to the environment. Though you should be gentle around Joshua trees and cacti, the gigantic rocks can withstand even the most energetic climbers.
Active tourists can opt for hikes along trails, rock climbing, and mountain walks. More meditative travelers may prefer seeking sunrise and sunset spots, wildlife watching, viewing cactus gardens, and stargazing.
You may visit this park for the special desert trees, but rest assured that there are plenty of other experiences that will get you to stay!
Overall Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree
For comfortable weather and flowering foliage, the best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is April through May.
During the milder spring and autumn months, you can enjoy long days of activity with temperatures generally remaining within the 70s and 80s in daylight and falling comfortably into the 40s and 50s at night.
Though the threat of rain is never a serious concern in this area, spring and fall offer the best guarantees of a dry trip, with only one-half inch of precipitation falling throughout these two months.
The new growth of spring can offer vistas of seasonal flowers, birds passing overhead, and perhaps even blooming cacti.
Though these times of year are among the most popular months to visit Joshua Tree, navigating larger crowds can be a worthy cost of catching the flourishing life of the park at these key moments of the year.
However, since the entire park makes up close to 800,000 acres, you can be confident that you will be able to find peaceful areas among the sweeping desert landscape.
If peak travel times create difficulties with scoring flights, you can choose from a few airports within a 3 hour’s drive. Palm Springs provides the closest airport to Joshua Tree, which is less than one hour away.
However, the further drive from Los Angeles International Airport or Las Vegas McCarran Airport may give you better fare deals on flights and offer more direct flight options.
Cheapest Time to Visit Joshua Tree
The best deals when visiting Joshua Tree can be found in September through November.
The all-around cheapest interval to travel to Joshua Tree falls between the blinding heat of summer and the sharp chill of winter.
This season offers pleasant temperatures that stay comfortably mild in the range of the 70s to 80s in the daytime and 60s through 40s at night. Since it will become progressively colder over this season, the frequency of visitors declines slightly as well.
This means you can find cheaper flights and cheaper lodging with less popular demand. Another way to save money during this time of year is to opt for camping within the park.
Though you must pay a small fee, you will save on hotel bills and gas from driving back and forth. This season is one of the ideal times to camp due to the comfortable temperatures both day and night.
As you proceed into the fall season, you may need to pack for more warmth, but camping is still highly pleasant in these chilly conditions. The clear skies of autumn can yield especially stunning views of mountains and landscapes through the angled sunlight.
Least Busy Time to Visit Joshua Tree
You will find fewer crowds at Joshua Tree during the colder months of November through February.
Despite what you may think about the sunny desert terrain, this national park can still reach temperatures below freezing during the wintertime. During these coldest months, temperatures can fluctuate between the mid-30s and low 60s.
Though rare, conditions may occasionally permit snow along the mountains, which make for a breathtakingly beautiful sight. Travelers will appreciate the warmth of the sun if they choose to visit Joshua Tree during the winter.
With a few extra layers and perhaps a thermos of hot coffee, a trek through the rocky attractions can still offer just as much beauty and wonder as in the warmer times of the year.
One wintertime activity that is rising in popularity is facing daring rock climbing during the quieter months of cold. The lesser threat of snow during winter makes Joshua Tree a more appealing option for climbers who may not be able to climb in more snowy areas.
Overall, you can expect the months of December and February to yield fewer crowds, with a little over 250,000 visitors in each of these months.
Worst Time to Visit Joshua Tree
Due to dangerously high daytime temperatures, the worst time to visit Joshua Tree is June through August.
During the sweltering summer months, the desert can reach temperatures of 100 degrees or more. With an average temperature of low to mid-80s during the summer, the risks of heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sun exposure can quickly become dangerous to visitors.
One reason the extreme heat can be especially dangerous is due to the lack of shade or refreshment points throughout the park.
If you are bold enough to brave the park during these hottest days, you must come fully prepared with your drinking water and sun protectants. Because of these weather concerns, the summertime is the least popular time for tourists to visit the park.
However, most attractions are still open during these months, and you can find a few good reasons to consider visiting during this time while accounting for the risks.
If you avoid the heat of the day, you can enjoy exploring the park after nightfall with very pleasant temperatures in the 60s. If you enjoy exploring at night, you can enter the park at no charge after regular business hours since the gates into Joshua Tree are always open.
Taking advantage of the balmy summer nights, as well as the fewer crowds can make summer a compelling option to visit Joshua Tree. Furthermore, touring the empty nighttime park may allow you to view more wildlife during their waking hours.
Things to Consider
Ready to book your trip now? Check out these final recommendations to ensure you have a fun and seamless trip:
Bring More Water Than You Think You Need
Even if you choose to visit Joshua Tree during the cooler months of the year, do not assume that you can make it with minimal water. Drink enough to keep you sufficiently hydrated, and consider bringing electrolyte drinks as well to provide even more nutrients.
Look Out for National Park Deals
Joshua Tree National Park does require a fee to enter during the daytime, between 8 AM and 5 PM. A weekly pass into this park will cost $30 per vehicle.
So you may want to consider buying a package deal like an annual pass or a national park network pass such as America the Beautiful National Park Pass. These options cost more than a weekly pass but can provide big savings if you plan to return here or to other parks.
Never Underestimate the Power of the Sun
With the frequently clear California skies and sunny stretches of desert, you can easily become scorched by the sun’s harmful rays.
Bring outdoor gear to provide shade like umbrellas, hats, and glasses to protect your skin and eyes. Reapply your sunscreen every few hours, as well, to ensure that any exposed areas do not get burned.
Be Considerate of the Wildlife
Respecting both the plants and animals within this national park is both an expectation of visitors and an investment for the future. Even seemingly small actions like disposing of a used bottle or a cigarette butt can create big consequences like a choking hazard or a wildfire.
With conservation efforts growing for the iconic Joshua Tree, you can do your part by attending this park and admiring these venerable trees while also being considerate of the wildlife.
Keep Your Resources Handy
From downloaded maps to contact with local park rangers, these tools can keep your trip going smoothly and safely. Since cellular GPS systems may become spotty within the park, it is always wise to map out your trails fully before you embark.
Keeping up with current announcements from park authorities can alert you to any closures or emergencies that may impact your schedule.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have any more questions? Find the answers below to these common questions:
How many days do you need in Joshua Tree?
Though you can certainly experience a good deal of the park’s main attractions in one day, you will probably prefer to have at least 2 or 3 days. The lowest entry fee allows a week of entry for $30, so you may prefer to spend more days there to get your full money’s worth.
What is the best time of day to visit Joshua Tree?
To avoid heat and crowds, the morning hours are some of the best times to experience Joshua Tree. If you have multiple days to explore, numerous locations display gorgeous sunrise views. Hiking and sightseeing can be most comfortable before midday.
How long does it take to drive through Joshua Tree?
It can take between 2 and 3 hours to drive through the park. If you have a limited amount of time to experience Joshua Tree, driving along Park Boulevard is a great way to pass through many of the best sites more quickly than hiking. Along this route, there are opportunities to stop for shorter hikes and attractions to extend the trip as long as you like.
What time can you see the Milky Way in Joshua Tree?
You can see the Milky Way best during the spring and summer months in Joshua Tree. Springtime is a popular season to visit for daytime activities, but summer provides the most pleasant nights due to the day temperatures.
Is Joshua Tree a dark sky park?
Yes, Joshua Tree National Park is a member of the International Dark-Sky Association, which means you have a much better chance of catching the Milky Way and other constellations. This area contains minimal light pollution to allow you to see the stars in pure dark conditions.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree?
The best time to visit Joshua Tree is during the spring and fall seasons. You can spend the highest number of comfortable daytime hours in spring and autumn here. However, these pleasant temperatures might come at the cost of higher crowds.
Whatever season you can go, you can expect to see the iconic trees among plains, mountains, and the occasional oasis. There are no boring sections in this desert, with teeming life found among hardy cacti, including lizards, insects, snakes, and wildlife.
Once you determine your preference for crowds, lodging, weather, and common activities, you will be nearly ready to embark on your journey. Just don’t forget your hiking boots!