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Joshua Tree, California is an amazing vacation destination year-round but there’s something particularly inviting about a summer getaway this direction. When you can’t wait to savor the sights and make the most of the seasonal fun, let this be your ultimate guide to an unforgettable stay at Joshua Tree in the summer!

Activities to Enjoy in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is an iconic place to explore with good reason and well worth your time to visit when you head this way in the summer. Not only is the terrain mesmerizing, but there’s always something new to discover when you know where to look. Whether you’re one for taking to the trails, exploring by vehicle or you can’t wait to make the most of the beauty of the summer evening hours, Joshua Tree National Park is packed with options for customized fun!

Trees in the Joshua Tree National Forest

Start with a Ranger-Led Program

If it’s your very first summer visiting scenic Joshua Tree National Park, participating in one of the many ranger-led chats or tours available is always a great idea! Not only do these events provide incredible insight into park specifics but it’s a good way to get idea for expanding your experiences within the park itself during your visit. While these ranger chats and tours change month by month, some of the most popular events include Key Ranch tours, guided hikes, and talks that cover everything from the wildlife that call Joshua Tree National Park home to the specifics on the trees that gave the park the name in the first place! No matter what even you decide to participate in, you’re sure to be in for an engaging and educational treat from start to finish. Ranger-led events tend to run anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half at a time.

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Take a Geology Tour Road Drive

It’s no secret that temperatures tend to soar in Joshua Tree over the summer months. That said, those intense temperatures don’t have to stop you from making the most of safe and exciting sightseeing opportunities in the park. When it’s too warm to walk, jump in your air-conditioned vehicle and consider taking a Geology Tour Road drive instead! This 18-mile route runs through the many dynamic landscapes that make up Joshua Tree National Park and offers up stunning views for tourists. Along the way, there are a variety of lookout points where you can pull over and take pictures and admire the view too. Those who choose to explore the entire length of Geology Tour Road will want to be sure to set aside around two hours total for the experience and will want to be sure they’re settled into a four-wheel drive vehicle in order to maneuver parts of the route that are a bit more demanding than most passenger vehicles would handle.

Explore Cottonwood Spring Oasis

Within Joshua Tree National Park, time spent exploring Cottonwood Spring Oasis this summer could end up being the highlight of your visit! The spring was originally formed in the earth due to earthquake activity and was subsequently used by the Cahuilla Indians for centuries afterwards. The spring sits just about seven miles from the south entrance to Joshua Spring National Park and is a captivating landmark to encounter where visitors have previously found artifacts of Cahuilla life in the area including ollas, clay pots and even bedrock mortars. The spring has also played a vital role in hydrating miners and prospectors through the years looking to make a living off of gold discoveries. For that reason, the spring also hosts the remains of old-fashioned gold mils which required a robust water supply for processing and can still be viewed to this day to some degree. Those who visit Cottonwood Spring Oasis in the summer who have a passion for birding will find that this is one of the absolute best places in the park to spot a variety of winged species. You really only need to take a seat, pull out the binoculars and give it a few minutes to land on an incredible variety of bird or two in the area! For a fun way to end the day, consider visiting Cottonwood Spring as evening closes in. This area is notorious for offering up some truly breathtaking sunset views if you stick around until the sun goes down. Participating in this part of the adventure comes with the added benefit of cooler evening temperatures to enjoy as well.

Visit Skull Rock

While Joshua Tree National Park is filled with iconic landmarks to explore, travelers visiting Joshua Tree in summer won’t want to miss out on seeing one of the most identifiable of them all while they’re in the area—Skull Rock. This incredible boulder is named for the human skull it resembles. It’s a highly accessible landmark within the park so even if you don’t have a lot of time to spare, it’s easy to fit into your itinerary. While the boulder can be seen from some of the main park boulevards, those excited to get up a bit closer will find both the Jumbo Rocks Campground and the Live Oak Picnic Area to be great options to viewing. Many summer visitors with a Skull Rock stop on their to-do list head this way later in the day when the sun is lower in the sky, temperatures are more comfortable, and the contrasting colors makes for a great shadow display across the landmark. If you stick around long enough, you’ll likely find that plenty of visitors have stopped by specifically to enjoy stargazing from this destination as well!

Keep an Eye Open for Bighorn Sheep at Barker Dam

If you happen to be an early riser and you’re looking to start your day with time in Joshua Tree National Park at least one day this summer, heading to Barker Dam is a good place to begin your adventure. An early morning visit is a great time to get a possible glimpse of the Bighorn sheep that call this area home! Barker Dam also hosts a trail by the same name that provides a good path for viewing. It’s only a little over a mile long and enjoys minimal elevation changes. Within the span of an hour, it can be fully traversed and provide great access to incredible views. You’ll want to have your camera ready in case you do come across those inspiring wildlife moments!

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Hiking Fun

Many travelers with their sights set on a summer trip to Joshua Tree do so with every intention of setting aside time to lace up their boots and hit the trails in scenic style. While Joshua Tree has long been loved for its amazing landscapes that provide novice and experienced hikers alike with incredible routes to check out, summer is a season that demands a bit more planning when it comes to hiking adventures. That said, it’s still one of the most popular activities to enjoy this time of year, as long as you think and pack ahead with purpose. Summer in Joshua Tree is nothing less than hot. However, it’s worth planning a safe and exciting hike route for those who understand the challenges that await.

No matter what route you’re planning to hike in Joshua Tree this summer, you’ll want to be sure you’ve packed an impressive amount of sunscreen and water. There are areas along most hiking routes through and around Joshua Tree that ironically lack that tree shade you might expect in the name. That means it’s important and more often than not, vital that you are well protected from harsh rays and have packed enough water to stay hydrated both out and back along your route with extra to spare. It’s also important to keep in mind that cell service can be less than ideal in some of the more remote places throughout the park. This makes hiking in pairs and giving others a heads up on your trekking plans a must before hitting the trails. Also do keep in mind that in most cases, dogs aren’t allowed on Joshua Tree trails. This is a rule set up in the name of maintaining the integrity of the landscape. It goes hand-in-hand with leaving no trace of your adventures—a rule outdoor adventurers from near and far tend to hold dear with good reason.

In the event that even an early morning hike is accompanied by rising summer temperatures, setting your sights on manageable and short routes is always the best way to maximize the fun. The Cholla Cactus Garden Hike through Joshua Tree National Park is a great route to choose in this scenario. At just .25-miles long, this hike includes minimal elevation fluctuations and only requires 30-minutes to complete. It’s an easy route for hikers of all skill levels that runs along the eastern side of the park. Much as the name indicates, hikers will enjoy views of the iconic Cholla Cactus along the way! If you have some time to spare and temperatures are still in your favor, consider hiking the Hidden Valley Trail too. This route is a mile long and is also rated easy for hikers. The elevation change is only 100 feet, and it takes about an hour to complete in total. This is a popular route through Joshua Tree National Park in the summer that features inspiring desert scenery as well as massive boulders and options to spot reptiles scurrying around as well.

Amazing Restaurants to Discover

A trip to Joshua Tree in the summer is bound to come with a long list of outdoor activities travelers are excited to check off. However, it’s also inevitable that these activities will lead to impressive appetites to attend to! Fortunately, the Joshua Tree area is filled with fantastic and flavorful eateries to enjoy that are well-worth checking out while you’re in the area. Among them is Dillon’s Burgers & Beers. Located at 49574 Twentynine Palms Highway, Dillon’s burgers & Beers is a must when you’re looking to curb a craving or two. This restaurant sits within reach of Palm Springs within the town of Morongo Valley. It’s a laid-back burger joint where it’s easy to settle in, enjoy mountain views and make the most of menu options that range from veggie burgers and double cheeseburgers to chicken burgers and even bison burgers! No matter what you order up, you’re going to want to be sure to pair it with a side of fries and an ice-cold beer to match. Sides like the coleslaw and tater tots also come highly recommended.

The Red Dog Saloon is another savory and inviting options when you can’t wait to enjoy a delicious meal this summer. This cowboy-themed stop is found at 53539 Mane Street within the area known and loved as Pioneertown. While this destination once served as a Hell’s Angels biker bar, it now enjoys its southwest-infused vibe where guests will find an impressive listing of Tex-Mex selections to choose from and enjoy. Options here range from beef brisket tacos and fresh margaritas to chips and queso to go along with savory quesadillas just to name a few.

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Areas to Stay

A Joshua Tree summer adventure is something everyone should enjoy and when you’re looking for a nearby place to settle into while visiting, Yucca Valley is always inspiring. Just under seven miles from Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley is an inviting place to book a vacation rental at an elevation of 3,300 feet. This area is known for its beautiful desert terrain, starry evening skies and friendly atmosphere. It’s very much considered the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, but also enjoys its own highlights to discover. Yucca Valley has a rich western history that it puts on display while also maintaining a thriving business scene that brings the area into the modern age flawlessly.

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When you’re looking for a luxurious and conveniently located vacation rental for your next Joshua Tree adventure, the team at Hi-Desert Dwellings has you covered. Reach out today to learn more about our incredible property options and to start planning your summer vacation in California!