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Fun things to do in Joshua Tree National Park with kids

We has been wanted to visit more National Parks and finally visit the famous Joshua tree National Park with our kids. We had a great experience so if you are looking for fun things to do in Joshua Tree National Park you have to check this blog post. Also If you want an easy trip and don’t miss the main attractions I have you cover.

Joshua Tree National park is located about a half hour north of Palm Spring, in southeastern California, east of San Bernardino and Los Angeles. It expand approximately in 800,000 acres. Part of its magic is because the high Mojave California Desert meets in the low Colorado Desert. Yes, two dessert. How awesome is that? This created a a unique collection of great flora and wild life. People come here also to do see this amazing dessert and unique nature, hike, camping, photography and do of course rock climbing because the rocks formations are amazing or simple to enjoy the serene desert scenery.

The park is It is named after the Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) native to the Mojave Desert. It is says that the name “Joshua tree” comes from a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The shape of the trees reminded them of the biblical story in which Joshua keeps his hands outstretched to the sky, praying.

Why visit Joshua Tree National Park with kids?

As I said the beauty of this dessert draws attention to the fun things to do here. I like the different hikes you can do and the different view points. It is something very unique about this National Park. You can explore long a short hikes off course you need to be prepare if you do long hike with water, checking the weather and more. Its amazing ecosystem and exotic flora and trees is something you really appreciate when visit. It also has amazing night skies, incredible and super fun rocks to climb. My kids Loooove them, I feel is a natural playground which help to make it fun for the whole family.

When to go to Joshua Tree National Park with kids:

Since Joshua Tree National Park is located in a dessert and the summer hot temperatures can be unbearable (over 100) The best time to go is in Winter & Spring so you can be able to enjoy the park during cooler weather.

The temperature during our visit (the fall) was a balmy 60 °F or so and windy but comfortable for hikes. It’s pretty rugged out there with minimal infrastructure – bring lots of water.

If you want to enjoy the starry skies in Joshua Tree National Park summer is best time. It is good to know that in the summer the average high is 100 F and low at night 75 F yes very warm 🤣. So winter night are freezing in color days and occasionally snows.

What is the best month to visit Joshua Tree?

The busy season in Joshua Tree runs from October through May because weather cools down like when we were there 🤣

The best month are in winter from late October to February and in spring month March to May when dessert wildflowers boom. December is mostly cloudy and overcast. Very chilly temperatures happen in winter December, January and February.

How to get To Joshua Tree National Park?

From San Francisco takes 7 hr 54 min (501.3 mi) via I-5 S. We did a road trip and stop at Solvang, driving 5 hours straight!

Fly takes 3 hours and 40 minutes

How much does it cost?

The entrance to Joshua Tree National Park as National Park is $30. We used our 4th graders National Park when we visited

4th Grader National Park Pass in Joshua Tree National Park

We finally made it, and used our free 4th Grader National Park pass for the 2nd time, now just 48 more to go 🤣

Where to hike in Joshua Tree National Park with kid?

Here is my list of kids friendly hikes we have done:


📌Cholla Cactus Garden

Distance 0.25 mile elevation 10 feet (3 m)

This was one of our favorite hike/view points. It is really a short walk. It is Located 20 miles north of Cottonwood Visitor Center. Just a loop that doesn’t take much time to finish but you need to be careful with not getting the cactus needles! It says that they jump but they don’t really they just get attracted by static when you get so close. We all got them be very careful.

Here you cab view thousands of the called cholla cactus that is desnenly concentrated. don’t get off the trail, and wear closed-toe shoes.


📌Arch rock / Twin Rank

Distance 1.4 miles elevation 100 feet

Another fun easy hike that is located in the called Arch Rock Trailhead Parking lot (Twin Tanks Parking). It is a sandy and rocky area to get there you follow a short loop trail. You won’t miss it everyone is walking towards it. The arch is located halfway along the loop. be careful when climbing specially for kids. Actually climbing is fun for kids and adults if you do with caution. My kids climb all the way up, I didn’t but the formations are just gorgeous and as I told you is a natural playground!


📌Barker dam 

Distance apron. 1.1 miles elevation 50 feet (15.2 m)

This is a longer trail but same of gorgeous. It is another loop just keep going the Marker dam is located half of the way. Park Located Barker Dam parking area. It was pretty busy when we got there so we needed to wait for people to leave. once find parking we used the restrooms. Yes there are restrooms there and a long line!

Walk around several beautiful boulders to get there just about a mile. It is popular and it was crowded but kids enjoyed climbing on the boulder along the way! On the top of that list was the hike to Barker Dam, one of the only areas of the park with water and the site of a good assortment of Indian petroglyphs as well.

This place has a cultural history background it was a water-storage reservoir built by early ranchers.  It is situated between Queen Valley and the Wonderland of Rocks near the Wall Street Mill. constructed of concrete surfaced with stone on the downstream side.  Don’t walk on the wall!

📌Cottonwood Springs Nature trail

Distance loop of 1 mile elevation 25 feet (7.6 m)

It is also an area where you can camp but only have 62 campsite check more information Here.

This easy hike start at east of Cottonwood Visitor Center and used to be an oasis. This trail is open year round. The marks are not easy to follow and there are twist but it is good idea tor bring a map and downloaded the map before you lost signal. We didn’t do the whole trail but enjoy the part we saw. The palms with cottonwood trees are Very picturesque, but I wish the oasis still there. Oh global warming!

It is located seven miles inside the South Entrance, lies in the Colorado Desert. There is fascinating cultural history associated with the Cottonwood Spring Oasis, as well as great opportunities for birding and hiking.

📌 Keys View

Distance 0.25 miles elevation 25 feet (7.6 m)

Depend on the air quality you can see Mexico from this point. This has a killer view of the Coachella Valley the San Andreas Fault, and the high peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. Just an truly dessert view. It is wheelchair accessible and just a short.

Just drive to the northwest entrance of the park. It is a short walk in a paved loop to see a fantastic panoramic view.

📌 Hidden Valley natural trail

Distance 1 mile elevation 100 feet (30.5 m)

We love exploring here! It just a one mile loop full of beauty. Here decently you get a sense of what Joshua Tree National Park is about. Big orange/beige boulder and populated by Joshua Tree of different size and so many different species of desert plants and don’t miss the gerogyph! Almost at the middle of the loop. More boulders to climb and our kids love that. easy and flat walk/hike.

It is a rock-enclosed valley that was once rumored to have been used by cattle rustlers with a beautiful ecosystem. There are different signs along the trail to help identified the different plants along the way

📌Skull Rock

Distance 1.7 miles elevation 160 feet (48.8 m)

Is a popular stop along the main park road, near Jumbo Rocks Campground.   We decided to visit skull rock on our trip to Joshua tree National Park. It was so easy to get there and even visible off of the main Park Boulevard.

Skull Rock is an iconic boulder in Joshua Tree National Park that  resemblance to a human skull. Created by  surface layer erosion exposed the rock, a form of granite called Monzogranite.   Skull Rock parking area just east of Jumbo Rocks Campground; also accessible from within Jumbo Rocks Campground

There is a little loop hike of about 1.8 miles round trip and with so many bolder to jump around to climb all around and throughout this area on the rocks themselves. However  we decided to skip the loop. This is none of the most popular parts of the park so expect to be busy. We spend more time in other areas. 

The formations are beautiful and a fun natural playground.

📌 Indian Cove

Distance 0.6 miles elevation 50 feet

It is a Bick tuck away from the regular path. A short loop where you can observe plants and learn about their traditional use by Native Americans

📌 Oasis of Mara

Distance 0.5 mile minimal elevation

Located at Oasis Visitor Center, Twentynine Palms. The Water rising to the surface along the Pinto Mountain Fault has allowed the formation of the Oasis of Mara. This is home to plants and wildlife
that depend on the presence of water at or near the surface.

For hundreds of years Native Americans used the oasis as a camp and trading spot. Water attracted
miners and ranchers to the oasis in the late 1800s. Over the years water levels have varied

📌Ryan Ranch

Distance 1 mile 135 feet (41.1 m)

Located Ryan Ranch trailhead, just 0.5 mile make an easy walk or hike of Ryan Campground. Enjoy an easy hike along an old ranch road and see a historic adobe structure.

Where to stay with kids in Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree has 7 campgrounds, but they are popular and fill up quickly on the busy season specially in spring. They require reservations online at recreation.gov.

There are also great hotel outside the park, Palm Spring is an hour away so you can easily stay and visit the National Park during the day.

Check Hotels in Palm Spring here or deals here

There are 4 campground that required reservation and 3 first come first serve!

Campgrounds that require reservations:

📌 Indian Cove

Located at the West of Twentynine Palms, this is the popular one because is close to a beautiful natural trail that I described above and it is not crowded as other part of the park. It has access to the aptly Wonderland of Rocks. A 5 miles trail with and expansive range of monzogranite rock formations, reachable by the Willow Hole Trail, that is a moderate hard route! As I told you this place is for everyone level!

Indian Cove Campground is located off of Highway 62, thirteen miles east of Joshua Tree Village and ten miles west of Twentynine Palms on the north side of the Wonderland of Rocks. It dead-ends at this secluded area. There are vault toilets but no water at the campsites. Water is available at the small ranger station roughly two miles north of the campground.

Just 62 sites $25 per night

📌The Black Rock Canyon

Located at the south of Yucca Valley, in the northwestern corner of the park. The Black Rock area is where the most beautiful Joshua tree forest is located!

99 sites $25 per night

📌Jumbo rocks 124 site $20 per night

📌Ryan 31 sites $20 per night

First come first serve sites:

📌Belle 18 sites $15

📌Hidden Valley 45 sites $15

📌White tank 15 sites $15

Find more campgrounds here

Is Joshua Tree National Park Child Friendly?

Absolutely we love exploring and hiking there with our kids. This place is for any age because there are trails and things to do for any level.

If you would like to organize your own tour check this driving tour

Where to eat

There is no food available for purchase in the park, so be sure to bring your own along with plenty of water.

What are the Hiking Essentials for Joshua Tree National Park

  1. Sun Protection – hat and sunscreen to keep the sun off you and protect your skin. Get it here
  2. Whistle and/or Signal Mirror - for emergency use like this one
  3. Waterbottle preferable no plastic! reused reduce recycle. My favorite are hydroflask I have them per years
  4. Don’t forget those electrolics!
  5. Food  there is not food at the park very hard to find. pack those salty snacks
  6. First Aid Kit - band aids, ace wrap, antiseptic, moleskin, etc. Check this one
  7. Map – while many trails are well-marked, maps are helpful tools and dont forget to download the application and have it on your phone when phone signal os gone
  8. backpack to carry essentials. I love my Gregory backpack
  9. and don’t forget a Hat!

I hope this is helpful! Enjoy the beautiful park

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