Take Interstate 10 out of Los Angeles and keep driving, until the shopping malls and industrial estates give way to dusty hills littered with wind farms. By the time you’re on Highway 62, following the road as it cuts straight through an unforgiving landscape, the smog and traffic of the big city are all but forgotten. You could, theoretically, just keep driving along Highway 62, barely aware of the park that lies just beyond it, aside from the strange Joshua Trees that pepper the otherwise barren landscape.
Our first introduction to the park was just before sunset; leaving the small town of Twentynine Palms behind us, we drove into the desert as the sun began to dip low behind the hills. The already other-worldly landscape began to shift and shape before us, coloured by the oranges and purples of the setting sun. We pulled the car over and got out, and were immediately struck with the immense noiselessness of our surroundings. It was an incredibly strange experience – most of the time, when you get out, into the “wild”, you encounter a cacophony of sounds – birds singing, crickets chirruping, unidentified animals rustling somewhere unseen – but here, a mere two hours from the metropolis, there was absolutely nothing to be heard.
I had, of course, expected the Joshua Trees, but I had not anticipated their striking beauty, or the huge boulders that were stacked, like the playthings of giants, at various points throughout the park (which provided hours of exploration).
One of the many, great things about park is that you can do as much or as little as you like. Obviously, the further into the park you go, the more you get to see, but you could just drive through the park, perhaps stopping at a couple of the information points, and still see some amazing scenery.
An easy, yet beautiful walk, is through the striking Cholla Cactus Garden, which is a little less organised than its name might suggest.
The longer walks range from three miles (two hours) to eight miles (five hours) – though for the hardier there’s overnight hikes and backcountry camping (though you might not want to rough it quite that much on honeymoon). We did a three hour walk to Fortynine Palms Oasis; a fairly easy hike (though the heat, even in late afternoon, was still something to be reckoned with) through a landscape that was almost quarry-like.
We stayed outside of the park, tucked off the highway, just outside of Joshua Tree town itself, in a great little place called Spin and Margie’s Desert Hide-a-Way (rates from £83/night). Styled like a Mexican hacienda, the four suites and cabin are situated in low buildings, arranged around a sandy compound. They are each entirely self-contained, brightly decorated and very comfortable – ideal for people if you like to feel independent, and have a rustic romance about them. We didn’t see anyone apart from the cleaner in the three days we were there – we had booked ahead and turned up to find the key and a welcome note on the bed in our allocated cabin – and it was great to have that kind of space to ourselves after a day spent exploring the park. There’s also quite a few eating options in the surrounding area so you don’t have to cook if you don’t want to – but you will need to drive to reach them.
If you’re looking for a destination that’s a little bit different, exciting but easily accessible, Joshua Tree is a great choice, and can be easily combined with stays in Los Angeles, Palm Springs or Las Vegas, or indeed anywhere in the US.
For more information, visit the National Park Service website.
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