Day 1: Pioneertown and Joshua Tree National Park
Knowing that this summer’s road trip through the midwest would definitely be the hottest one we’ve experience, temperature why, we figured why not kick it off with an afternoon in Pioneertown and Joshua Tree National Park. I kid you not when I say temps were in the high 90’s! We will be heading back to Joshua Tree when fall or spring comes around to experience more of what the park has to offer.
Pioneertown is only about 2 hours from our home in Orange County and was on the way to Joshua Tree and our next major destination, Zion National Park. Pioneertown is an old, sleepy western town, that took all of 15 minutes to walk through, but you gotta do it for the gram. From there Joshua Tree is only an additional 20 minute drive to hit the visitor’s center.
First stop was getting our Junior Ranger badges. Joshua Tree is also park of the International Dark Sky parks so you can pick up a Night Sky Ranger booklet too. This can be turned in at any Dark Sky park so feel free to work on it while on the road and turn it in at another park you hit. Dark Sky parks offer a point in the park where it’s so dark you can see millions of stars, including planets and the Milky Way. While we didn’t stay in Joshua Tree to experience this, we did at Canyon Reef (more on that later).
If you’re looking for some recommended easy hikes, here you go:
Barker Dam Nature Trail – 1.8 miles
Hidden Valley Nature Trail – 1 mile
Arch Rock Nature Trail – 0.5 m
Skull Rock Nature Trail – 1.7 miles **
Due to timing and heat, we did the Skull Rock Nature Trail and then drove through the park, stopping to visit the Chola Cactus Garden.
Joshua Tree has so many cute Airbnb’s and hotels you can stay at if you want to spend a couple of days exploring. Or, if you’re into camping, you can do that too.
National Park Tip: If you have a child entering or exiting 4th grade, you can get a FREE park pass that allows you to enter all National Parks for free and get discounts at monuments.