Joshua Tree National Park

The closest National Park Unit to Los Angeles (in travel time), Joshua Tree is known as one of the world’s best rock climbing areas, but the desert hiking is fantastic, too. Straddling the transition zone between high and low deserts, trails here climb up prominent peaks, meander through cactus gardens, reach hidden oases, and wander near the ruins of ghost towns. Fantastic stargazing and wilderness camping make this park a must-visit in the cooler months — but can also bring in the crowds.

However, you can still visit Joshua Tree in peak season. You just need to know where the good Joshua Tree hikes are. Hike central Ryan Mountain for spectacular views of the park (and a great workout). Watch your limbs on the easy but spiky hike in the Cholla Garden. Explore the Lost Palms Oasis and check out the desert wildflowers and ghost town ruins near Mastodon Peak. Or don’t get lost in the Maze or take a break from the crowds on the Panorama Loop.

No matter what kind of hike you’re looking for in Joshua Tree National Park, there’s definitely something for you here. Just make sure to pack a lot of water, don’t forget your layers for the sun and the cold (it can get pretty chilly here in the winter months!), and make sure to check with the park rangers for the most up to date weather and trail conditions. Have a great time and enjoy hiking in the California deserts. Oh, and don’t climb the Joshua Trees, please. They’re very fragile.