It may still be a bit too early to head for Joshua Tree NP. As you will notice when you enter the park either from the south or the north, it is uphill for miles until you enter the main part of the park, which varies between elevations of between 2,000 and 6,000 feet, with much of the park over 3,000 feet. And with elevation comes cooler weather.
At these elevations it is decidedly high desert and will not start to warm up until late winter or early Spring. Joshua Tree, even with its nine desert campgrounds, is too cold to spend the winter. Plan on visiting the park in the shoulder seasons or you might find snow on the ground and a ferocious cold wind blowing across the open areas.
But when Spring does arrive, it is one of the best desert wildflower hunting adventures because of the variation in altitudes. You can follow the blooming cycle from low to high altitude. The visitor center at the entrances can tell you what flowers are blooming, where in the park you can see them, even where they will likely begin blooming next week and the week after in higher altitudes.
Some tips for visiting Joshua Tree:
- Avoid Spring Break, as the campgrounds fill up with college students and rock climbers.
- Arrive with full gas tanks (all vehicles) as it is a long way down the hill to a gas station.
- Most of the campgrounds in the central part of the park are dry-camping. Make sure you waste tanks are empty, your water tank full, and your batteries at full charge. Bring some extra water in plastic jugs or bladders.
- Pick up a wildflower guide and park map from the visitor center on the way in.
- Plan to hike. There are terrific hikes to Native American petroglyph sites, old ranching and mining operations, palm tree filled oases, and vista points where you can see as far as the Salton Sea.
- Take special notice of the forests of Joshua Trees, Bigelow (jumping cholla) cacti at lower elevations in south end of park, unusual rock formations (loved by rock climbers), and many other unique sites.
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