Winter Escape: Joshua Tree National Park


Jan 5, 2010
Outside Magazine
Joshua Tree National Park

   Photo: Courtesy of NPS

You can find otherworldly landscapes all over the Southwest, but few are easier to reach than Joshua Tree—just an hour from Palm Springs or two and change from L.A. The park is named for its Seussian forests of hydra-headed yucca, but the real attraction is the rocks. The best way to appreciate the monolithic eggs and 747-size mounds of boulders is with your hands. The trad climbing on J-Tree's tacky granite is legendary. Beginners will want to take a course from the Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School (from $125; With midwinter highs in the sixties, though, it's easy to spend a weekend exploring whatever spot you choose. If you're sticking by the car, shoot for one of the smaller campgrounds (Ryan, Belle, and White Tank), around scramble-friendly rock gardens. Or head off-trail, into the laby­rin­thine backcountry—say, in the Wonderland of Rocks, around Willow Hole—then follow your waypoints back. Lodging: Good options are scant, so book a month early to snag one of the two rooms with saltwater hot tubs at the new Sacred Sands B&B, in the town of Joshua Tree (doubles from $269, two-night minimum; NEAREST AIRPORT: Palm Springs, 45 minutes.