Staying Safe at Joshua Tree National Park

A vast park situated in the Southern California Desert, Joshua Tree National Park comprises parts of both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. A popular destination for hikers, it’s imperative that park visitors take the necessary safety precautions before visiting this unique region.


The weather at Joshua Tree is the greatest safety threat you face when visiting the park. Desert temperatures can get scorching hot during the day then dramatically drop to freezing at night. It is essential to come prepared with plenty of water if you plan to visit Joshua Tree, and be sure to bring much more with you than you think you’ll need. 

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and bring layers to adapt to changing weather. Inclement weather including frequent flash flooding is also common here, so be sure to find higher ground, seek shelter, and avoid canyons and washes in case of rain.


Venomous animals like rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders are prevalent throughout the park. Always watch where you step or climb and be particularly careful around rocky areas. You’ll want to avoid touching or feeding any wildlife you encounter, as doing so can have dangerous repercussions. Avoid touching cacti and other prickly or thorny flora you come across. 

Other Concerns

Abandoned mines are an important safety issue to take note of when visiting Joshua Tree. Though most of the park’s mines have been sealed, those that have been missed are over 100 years old and pose a dangerous threat. Do not enter any mine you encounter. 

Cell phone coverage is limited within the park, so if there’s an emergency, head to the ranger station in Indian Cove or the parking lot at Intersection Rock for emergency phones.

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How to Spend a Weekend in Joshua Tree National Park

Located in the Southern California Desert, Joshua Tree National Park comprises parts of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, two distinct desert ecosystems residing at different altitudes. Named for the iconic Joshua Tree which is prevalent in the region, you’ll want to make sure to hit all the highlights during your weekend visit to this unique national park!

What to Do


Hike to Keys View to see a spectacular sunrise or sunset at the iconic overlook. Jumbo Rocks is another popular hike in the park due to its fascinating giant rock formations. Joshua Tree boasts many exciting hiking trails, like Lost Palms Oasis Trail and Ryan Mountain Trail. 

Cottonwood Springs

This delightful desert oasis is the perfect respite from the heat of Joshua Tree National Park. Rife with birds and willows, you’ll certainly enjoy a visit to these natural springs.

Rock Climbing

One of the world’s most popular areas for rock climbing, there are plenty of established rock climbing routes in the park.


The dark night skies make Joshua Tree National Park optimal for stargazing and astronomy.


The dramatic desert geography in this national park makes for incredible photos, drawing photographers from all over to this scenic landscape.

Where to Stay 

You won’t find any hotels within the park itself, but there are plenty of overnight accommodation options in the nearby towns of Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree. There are also several campgrounds located inside the park, though they tend to fill up quickly so making a reservation ahead of time is encouraged.

When to Go 

Spring and fall are the most ideal seasons to visit, though hot, clear days with low humidity characterize this park year round. Winter days tend to be a bit cooler and winter nights are freezing cold. Fall and spring experience the mildest daytime temperatures while summer temperatures remain hot day and night. 

How to Get There

Palm Springs International Airport is the closest airport to the park, though Los Angeles and San Diego are both only road trips away. Driving to Joshua Tree is also a good option as the park lies only 140 miles east of Los Angeles.

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Watching Wildlife in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most unique environments in the entire United States, famed for its Joshua Tree that characterizes its sunset line. Most of the mammals in the park are of a paler color to blend in with the weathered rock, suited for desert climates – which means they are mainly nocturnal creatures.

As desolate as it may appear during daytime hours, Joshua Tree is a vibrant environment, with plenty of animals hidden from the sun’s hot rays during the day. For example, the desert tortoise (estimated to be 15 or 20 million years old), which spends 95% of its life underground, is a rare find and feat in this climate. Listed as an endangered species today, the tortoise is struggling to battle the ravens, badgers, and other predators that snatch them up as a treat.

Like all desert areas, there are plenty of birds and lizards you can spot by day.

Joshua Tree’s Top Animals

  • Squirrels
    • These include the white-tailed antelope squirrel, California ground squirrel, Dusky chipmunk, and Mojave round-trailed ground squirrel
  • Mice & Kangaroo Rats
  • Pocket Gophers
    • These little burrowing rodents can be seen in the evening hours when they come up to catch the final rays of the sun as it dips below the horizon.
  • Rabbits & Hares
    • You can spot the desert black-tailed jackrabbit and the desert cottontail in this park.
  • Bats
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Skunks
  • Ringtails
  • Mule Deer
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep
  • Tarantulas
    • The largest desert spider in North America, the tarantula calls Joshua Tree home – although contrary to popular belief, they are not poisonous to humans. However, the bite can be awfully painful if they are provoked to bite in defense of their burrow. Mating in the fall, you are most likely to see one from September through November.
  • Roadrunner
    • The iconic roadrunner, a large black and white ground cuckoo that’s quick enough to catch and eat small rattlesnakes, is truly something to behold in Joshua Tree. They can run up to 18 miles per hour, preying on lizards, rodents, and insects found in the terrain.
  • Sidewinder
    • A small subspecies of the rattlesnake, the sidewinder moves by looping along sideways in a J-shaped curve, which helps it travel through sand dunes with ease.
  • Yucca Night Lizard
    • This narrow lizard lives its entire life in the protective bark of the decaying Joshua Tree, finding small crevices where it can feed on ants, termites, and other insects.

Viewing Locations

Belle: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gophers
Black Rock: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gopher
Cottonwood: Foxes
Hidden Valley: Tarantulas, ringtails, skunks
Indian Cove: Foxes, ringtails, rodents
Jumbo Rocks: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gophers
Sheep Pass: Bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, squirrels, gophers

When Should You Go?

The best time of year to go to Joshua Tree to search for wildlife is during the spring months. The wildlife is most active after sleeping through the winter when the weather is beautiful and not too hot yet. Depending on the rainfall, during this time the desert flowers are something you will never forget. The summer months can get particularly hot, making it hard to hike and wildlife view during the day.

Categorized as Wildlife Tagged