Seasons & Climate
Joshua Tree National Park's 794,000 acres -- 585,000 of them designated as wilderness -- straddle two distinct desert climates. The eastern half of the park is hot, dry, Colorado Desert, and most points of interest lie in the higher, slightly cooler and wetter Mojave Desert. The Mojave will occasionally get a dusting of snow in winter, but neither section sees more than 3 to 6 inches of annual rainfall. Winter temperatures are in the comfortable 50s or 60s (lower teens Celsius) during the day and often approach freezing overnight; summer days can blaze past 100°F (38°C) at noon, and even nighttime offers little relief in August and September, when lows are still in the 80s (upper 20s Celsius). At the park's higher elevations, however, the summer climate is much more bearable. Overall, the fall tends to be the best season for hiking.
Best between February and May, the springtime wildflower viewing is dependent on rainfall, sunshine, and temperatures, but you can see brilliant blooms somewhere in the park most years. Rangers lead interpretive walks to the best displays, and 24-hour recorded information on prime viewing sites (updated at least weekly during the Mar-May wildflower season) is available from the park at tel. 760/367-5500. Information is also available online at www.nps/gov/jotr.
Avoiding the Crowds
Joshua Tree chief of interpretation Joe Zarki knows all about the park's natural flora and fauna. He offers the following tips for maximizing your enjoyment even during the most crowded months:
- Joshua Tree's greatest visitation occurs in spring, when temperatures are moderate and wildflowers are blooming. From March to May, the number of monthly visitors is 150,000 and up. Compared to summer, which sees about 60,000 to 70,000 people each month, these figures are staggering. The fall months are also popular, with numbers around 100,000. If you can, time your visit outside of these crowded periods, and stay away during spring break. If you can't, try to visit during the week to avoid the crush of weekenders from nearby Los Angeles.
- Choose to enjoy the more popular activities (such as designated nature trails and easy hiking routes) before 9 or 10am. Most people see the park between 10am and 4pm, so the evening hours can also offer some respite from crowds. Remember that the sun sets after 7pm from May to September. In addition, you'll enjoy cooler temperatures during the morning and evening hours.
- Campers eager to stake their claim in the campground of their choice need to be diligent in the spring, because all but two of the park's campgrounds are first-come, first-served. (Black Rock Canyon and Indian Cove take reservations.) Generally, it's best to arrive between 9am and noon to snatch an available space. The campsites near popular rock-climbing areas (Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, Indian Cove) fill first. If you're staying over a weekend in peak season, try to claim your site Friday morning, before weekenders arrive.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.