Joshua Tree National Park is one of the 9 national parks in California. It is a land of intriguing rock formations and the park’s memorable namesake, the Joshua tree. On the National Park Service (NPS) website, Jane Rodgers describes these unique plants as “spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.” This is one of my favorite descriptions of these so called trees. The trees are actually a member of the Agave family called Yucca brefivolia. They can be found outside of the national park, but the huge numbers of these trees contained inside the park boundaries are worth a visit. So get your dog and prepare to learn more about visiting this amazing national park with your pet.
Before you jump in your car, here are a few facts to consider. Joshua Tree National Park receives almost 3 million visitors every year. Part of this may be due to its proximity to large cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, but much of this is due to the impressive natural landscapes. Joshua Tree has West, East, and North entrances. We drove through Mojave National Preserve and entered through the North entrance in Twentynine Palms (yes that is a town name). As we drove in, the Joshua trees slowly increased in density until we were surrounded by what could almost be described as a forest of them. It was a lovely drive in to the park.
At the end of May, the park was busy, but not overwhelmingly so. And the temperatures were wonderful. The average temperature in May is around 61 F. Note that the park ranges in elevation from 563 feet to 5,814 feet, so temperatures do vary within the park. And, if you were wondering, according to NPS.gov statistics, the busiest month at Joshua Tree National Park is March and the quietest month is July.
Dog Friendly Activities
Pet regulations at Joshua Tree National Park are similar to most other national parks. Dogs must be leashed. They have to stay within 100 feet of roads, picnic areas, and campgrounds. And pets are not permitted on trails or in the backcountry.
Luckily, Joshua Tree offers several unpaved roads that provide a pseudo hiking experience for you and your pup. To get to some of these locations, you may need a four wheel drive vehicle. If you want to check out the list of recommended unpaved roads to walk your dog along, visit the official Joshua Tree National Park pets page.
During our stay, we enjoyed a couple walks around the Jumbo Rocks campground (which will be discussed in further detail later in this blog post). Otherwise, we walked along roadside pull-offs to experience the intriguing Joshua trees and stretch the dogs legs.
Joshua Tree National Park offers exceptional campgrounds. In fact, Jumbo Rocks campground is one of the most memorable campsites we stayed at during our entire 3 month trip. Jumbo Rocks is one of 8 traditional campgrounds. Four of these campgrounds accept reservations, while the other four are first come, first served. There is also a group campground and backcountry campsites. For specific details about any of these campgrounds, visit the NPS.gov site.
Joshua Tree recommends making reservations from October through May. We arrived mid-week in late May. We checked Hidden Valley campground first. It was full, so we backtracked to Jumbo Rocks and easily found a site there. In hindsight, we are so glad we ended up at Jumbo Rocks campground.
Jumbo Rocks is a large campground, containing 124 sites. Many of these sites were level and easily accommodated our 23 ft RV. The large rocks gave an otherwordly feel to the campground and created natural privacy throughout the campground. In addition to the impressive rock landscapes, we were treated to a fantastic sunset on our first evening. The campground was large enough to walk around and we were even able to climb some of the rocks behind our campsite. We would happily stay here again.
Activities in the Surrounding Areas
We drove down to Joshua Tree National Park from Death Valley National Park. On our way we passed through the dog friendly (if temperatures are cool enough to hike with your pup) Mojave National Preserve. If you are interested in reading more about our experience there, check out our blog about visiting Death Valley in an RV with two dogs.
After leaving Joshua Tree, we headed towards Channel Island National Park. To do this, we had to drive through Los Angeles. We stopped at one city park to walk the dogs, but mostly just drove through this metro area. Once we hit the coast, we found several dog-friendly locations. So be sure to stay tuned for our next national park post about visiting the Channel Islands area.
Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is an almost otherwordly experience. It is not the most dog-friendly park, but there is still plenty to see and do when visiting with pets. Even just driving through this park is worth it. Seeing hundreds of Joshua trees scattered throughout the desert landscape is an experience everyone should check off their bucket list.
Have you visited Joshua Tree National Park? Share your experiences in the comments section below.