2 Days in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary

Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park, one of my favorite National Parks in California, USA! 

I went to this 790,636 acres wonderland of rocks and spiky Trees for the first time with my friends in 2017. The serene beauty of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert amazed me so much that I planned my solo weekend trip in Joshua Tree National Park again in 2021.

2 Days in Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary

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In the middle of a vast wilderness in Southern California, north of Palm Spring lies the coolest place called Joshua Tree. If you want a memorable Joshua Tree itinerary and all the information on 2 days in the Joshua Tree itinerary, you’ll find it here. 

This travel guide will give you all the ideas and details you need for a perfect Joshua Tree weekend getaway, from major cities like Los Angeles or Las Vegas with family, friends, or solo. 

When to Visit Joshua Tree National Park? 

The first time when I went to Joshua Tree National Park with friends, it was early spring, the end of March. The second time I visited it was in early December. My 2 days in the Joshua Tree trip were life-changing, I saw the sky full of stars and enjoyed the chilly weather. 

You can follow my 2 days in the Joshua Tree itinerary to create great memories for yourself.

Early spring is the best time and also the busiest time to visit Joshua Tree. The temperature is mild during the day and cools down at night. March-May is the best time for hiking, and rock climbing. 

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Fall is another great time to be in Joshua Tree National Park. During September, October, and November the temperatures are nice and you’ll love the autumn vibe herein.

Summer is the least popular time to explore due to high temperatures (36-38 degrees Celsius). The high temperature is one of the reasons why people hate living in California. During June, July, and August the temperature is so dangerously high. In the month of December, January, and February the temperature is freezing chilly. 

How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park? 

Joshua Tree National Park is an affordable weekend getaway in California. The rock formation around it is amazing. People often wonder which entrance is best for the Joshua Tree. 

In my opinion, the Joshua Tree itinerary is perfect if you drive from Los Angeles or San Diego or fly to Palm Spring. 

Drive from Los Angeles

Two or three hours east of LA around 150 miles lays this beautiful touristy spot. By taking 10, 60, or 210 highway east you can reach Joshua Tree. Check Google Map for the fastest route and for a more scenic drive you can drive through Angeles National Forest or San Bernardino National Forest. I will highly recommend downloading Guides by Lonely Planets, a must-have travel app. You can access the offline map of Joshua Tree National Park through this travel app.

Drive from San Diego 

Joshua Tree is located 145 miles northeast of San Diego. You can take the interstate route 15 out of San Diego, then head to Highway 60 East and then 62 North. For a different route, head through Anza Borrego State Park via Salton Sea, Cottonwood. 

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Fly to Joshua Tree 

If you’re planning for a weekend itinerary in Joshua Tree and stay in a different area then take a flight to Palm Springs (PSP), the closest airport to Joshua Tree. You can also come to San Diego (SAN) and Los Angeles (LAX) airports. From the airport, you can book a car or hire public transportation to reach the place.

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How to Get Around Joshua Tree National Park? 

The best way to explore Joshua Tree is by car through Park Boulevard or Pinto Basin Road. It’s very easy to design Joshua Tree National Park itinerary smoothly because all the roads are paved and you don’t want to do any off-roading. I used to start my journey early in the morning around 8.30 am and it was super fun. 

Or, you can also check RoadRunner Shuttle Bus Service which runs throughout the northern section of the Joshua TreePark throughout the day in the fall and spring. From Twentynine Palms, the bus enters and stops around Hidden Valley, Ryan Mountain, and Barker Dam. 

2 day itinerary in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park

What to Pack for Joshua Tree National Park?

To design the Joshua Tree itinerary, you should know that this place is arid and has all the features of the desert type of climate. Therefore, for the memorable journey carry all the below essentials to keep yourself safe and secure. 

  • America the Beautiful Pass: Without the pass, you can’t enter the Joshua Tree desert or other federal lands. Therefore buy the pass for a year which covers you and everyone in your vehicle. 
  • Sunscreen: To prevent red patches all over your skin,please bring mineral sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. 
  • Food, Snacks and water: It’s desert, you may not find dining options everywhere. Hence, pack your food and snacks ahead of time. I bought protein bars, PB&J, beef jerky, biscuits, cashews, and chocolates. Bring at least 5 gallons of water with you and consume 2-3 liters of water daily.
  • Warm layers: No matter what the day temperature is, the night temperatures drop and winters are super chilly. Carry gloves, pullover, and wool zip-up, down jacket. 
  • Hiking essentials: Whether you’re camping or not but carry good hiking boots, headlamps, and a camera. I always carry a Canon 5 D Mark III. 
  • Offline Maps: While I was there my internet was not working, thank god I have Guides by Lonely Planets which saved my life from getting lost. 

Two Days in Joshua Tree Accommodation

Are you planning a 2 day Joshua Tree trip? Joshua Tree is brimming with incredible funky accommodations. Morongo Basin towns on the west and north sides of the park have great traditional options to stay. 

Camps:

  • Jumbo Rocks Campground: This popular campsite among climbers and prior reservation is required.
  • Indian Cove Campground: Among the Wonderland of Rocks, 13 miles east of Joshua Tree Village and 10 miles west of Twentynine Palms lays this campsite. Undoubtedly, one of the best campgrounds in California.

Hotel: 

Pioneertown Motel: It has 29 guest rooms and Airbnbs operate in two-bedroom cabins.

Apart from these, there are a lot of options available. In my opinion, you can stay at Pioneertown Motel. I stayed with my friends, the place is good and the staffs are really helpful. 

Where to Eat in Joshua Tree? 

Good news to all foodies! There are many great places to eat near the Joshua Tree. The picturesque cafés and delicious food are the highlights of this place. Some of my favorite cafes are as follows –

  • Joshua Tree Saloon: This is a fun place that offers an unbelievably delicious menu, fun vibe all at an affordable price. 
  • Crossroads Café: To taste homemade food in the unknown land comes here! All vegan and vegetarian options are available.

Joshua Tree Itinerary for 2 Days

Explore Joshua Tree, National Park: To enter Joshua Tree National Park you have to pay $25 and do all the sightseeing.

Hiking and Rock Climbing: There are a lot of hiking spots in Joshua Tree National park. After every physical activity you will need water, remember there is no water station, and hence carry a lot of water and sunscreen

Visit Pioneertown: Twenty minutes northwest of Joshua Tree lies this expensive old TV/movie set where you can go for a gun show, and many fun shows. 

2 Days in Joshua Tree NP
2 Days in Joshua Tree NP

Best Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

For 2 days in the Joshua Tree itinerary, it’s better to reach the place before the night. You can drive up on Friday night and dedicate two days to the Joshua Tree National Park. Before entering the park you can check out the Morongo Basin, another amazing beautiful place.

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You can also go around funky stores while entering the park, check Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum. Then have your dinner at Joshua Tree Coffee Company or Pappy & Harriets and come back to the hotel and sleep tight.

Let’s get ready for the 48 hours in the Joshua Tree! 

DAY 1: 

Morning  

You’re here to explore, not to sleep, so set your alarm clock and get up early as possible to enjoy a drive through the iconic landscape among the Joshua Tree Yuccas. The stunning sight is worth the view – the odd-looking trees are wonderful. 

Remember to purchase your pass the night beforehand for no hustle and bustle.  

Keys Ranch Tour (1.5 hours)

To add an extraordinary meaningful experience in 2 days in Joshua Tree itinerary, come to Keys Ranch Tour. Drive to the meeting point before 9.30 am and discover the colorful lives of Bill and Frances Key. It has been listed under the National Register of Historic Places for its extraordinary history.

This place is accessible only between October to May at certain times. Buy tickets in advance which cost $10 for 12+ year old, $5 for 6-11 year old, and free for children who are less than 6 years old. In this place you will watch rugged mountains, and, rugged mountains.

Keys Ranch
Keys Ranch

Barker Dam (40 minutes) 

Around 11 am the Key Ranch tour will end, so drive back to the point and come to Barker Dam. It is 15 minutes drive and was constructed by early cattlemen, including CO Barker, in 1900. This hike is a 1.3-mile loop easy trail surrounded by boulders, ancient petroglyphs, and Joshua Trees all around. 

I love the scenery and walking around this place. 

2 Days in Joshua Tree itinerary | Barker Dam
Barker Dam

Hidden Valley (1 hour) 

Around 12 you can walk to Hidden Valley via Barker Dam. This place is rumored to be a cattle rancher in the 19th century where they would hide their herd. This trail is fairly populated and you can witness the vast rock formations and gorgeous views. It is a 1-mile easy hike and a great spot to include in the Joshua Tree day trip itinerary.  

Afternoon:

Halls of Horror (1.5 hours) 

After lunch, head off by car and visit this amazing place for hiking, rock climbing, and clicking amazing pictures. The 0.6-mile path has an outstanding landscape where rocks are narrowly spaced and wedged into the top of that space. There are bolts, large gaps, and an amazing formation of rocks. You can walk to Jessica’s Crack from where you will get an amazing view. 

Ryan Mountains (2.5 hours)

Get panoramic views from the second highest peak in Joshua Tree National Park, Ryan Mountains. Seeing the Wonderland of Rocks covered with snow was the best view I ever had. This trail is uphill and if you want to skip walking then you can drive to Skull Rock. 

Ryan Mountains
Ryan Mountains

Skull Rock (30 minutes) 

10 minutes from Ryan Mountains lies this big boulder of rock that looks like a human skull from a specific angle. Before coming to this place download the offline map and carry plenty of water with yourself. It’s a 1-hour easy hike for an amazing picture. 

Keys View at Sunset (1 hour) 

You can visit Arch Rocks but I would suggest coming to Keys View that sits at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet. From here you can witness the best sunshine and the view of Coachella Valley. I love this place, the sun-setting view, the vibe, and the environment. 

To the corner of Keys View lies Cap Rock and Park Blvd where you can walk to see how the sunset behind the giant rock formation casts shadows all over it. 

Keys View
Keys View

Nighttime Stargazing

Include stargazing in all 2 days in the Joshua Tree itinerary. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. This place is great for astrophotography and witnessing the cool Milky Way. 

Day 2:

Morning 

Cholla Cactus Garden at Sunrise (30 minutes)

You don’t want to miss the sunrise experience at Cholla Cactus Garden. You won’t find a crowd there. Therefore, you can click hundreds of pictures at a different place without any hesitation. Remember, not to go close to cacti because you cut yourself from its spines. 

Cholla Cactus Garden
Cholla Cactus Garden

Drive the Pinto Basin Road

South of Joshua Trees lies a beautiful scenic road that many visitors skip but it is one of the hidden gems of Joshua Tree National Park. It is quieter and completely different from other spots. The south of it is the Colorado Desert which looks completely different and lifeless. On the way, you will find cacti and wildflowers. 

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Split Rock Loop Trail (2.5 hours) 

Split Rock Loop Trail is a 0.2 miles loop trail that is well known as ‘Face Rock’. You will encounter meanders along with desert plant life, boulders, and mountain views in the distance. This trail is sandy and has interesting rock formations and landscapes. It is not much crowded compared to Skull Rocks. 

 Split Rock Loop Trail
Split Rock Loop Trail

Afternoon

Cottonwood Spring Oasis (30 minutes)

Even for a day in Joshua Tree, Cottonwood Spring Oasis is a must-visit. This spring was the result of the earthquake and since then there is the flow of water which was used by the Cahuilla people. Here, you can see remains of gold mills and ruins from miners. You can lay back and watch colorful birds and have your lunch peacefully. 

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Mastodon Peak (40 Minutes) 

On 440 feet of elevation gain sits this amazing Mastodon Peak which offers panoramic views of the park’s southeastern side. 

Lost Palm Oasis

With 1026 feet elevation change this 7.2-mile moderate hike is my personal favorite. During Spring you can witness blooming wildflowers, bighorn sheep, and the canyon of lost palms. Wear proper good hiking shoes and enjoy the calmness of the place. Check out this post if you are looking for the best and cheapest hiking shoes.

Lost Palm Oasis
Lost Palm Oasis

Driving Back Home 

A 2 days trip to Joshua Tree comes to an end with an enriching experience and full of great memories. If you’re planning on visiting Joshua Tree in 2 days then this itinerary will keep you busy from sunrise to sunset. You can drive Interstate 10, 25 miles east of Indio to leave Joshua Tree and reach your home. 

Joshua Tree Travel Tips: 

  • The beauty of the Joshua Treewas mesmerizing; I saw desert wildflower blooming, ethereal sunrise and sunset, and a panoramic view of the Ryan Mountains. Summers are extremely painful so visit during the spring or fall season.
  • Joshua Tree is on the list of International Dark Sky Parks, so plan your visit during a full moon to watch the Milky Way. 
  • Before going to Keys View, seek all the information about haze conditions to get the best view of the landscape. 
  • You won’t find any stores inside the park, so carry all the essentials, food items, and water either from Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs, or towns of Desert Hot Springs, Joshua Tree, Twenty nine Palms, or Yucca Valley.  
  • If you want to organize a campfire and enjoy yourself with your friends then carry your wood. 
  • To enter the park you’ve to pay $15 per person and $30 per vehicle. To enter Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks you’ve to pay $80. All these passes are available at the visitor’s centers or park entrances.
  • This place is great for astrophotography and witnessing the cool Milky Way. 

It is a desert oasis, hiker’s dream place, unique landscape, and off-roading landscape, all in one! To all adventure junkies, the surreal geologic features of Joshua Park, vast home for a variety of plants and animals, this desert ecosystem is perfect for all explorers. anni

If you have three days and are wondering what to do in Joshua Tree in three days then you can include a few more places like Lost Horse Mine, Desert Queen Mine, and Jumbo Rock Campground hike. 

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FAQ on Joshua Tree Itinerary

1. How Many Days Do You Need in Joshua Tree?

A: To explore and enjoy the day to the fullest you need 2-3 days. I always prefer weekend trips which are less stressful and much fun. 

2. Is Joshua Tree Safe at Night?

A: Yes, worry not, Joshua Tree is safe to stay at night. You can enter the park at night and interestedly you don’t have to pay for tickets for that too. Remember that the parks are patrolled. 

3. Are There Rattlesnakes in Joshua Tree National Park?

A: Yes, there are rattlesnakes and many venomous creatures in the park. So, be careful with your steps because you may encounter scorpions, black widow spiders, and different types of snakes. 

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