Joshua Tree National Park

Fact Box

Joshua Tree National Park
Established 1994
790,636 acres
Visitation (2010) 1,337,459

Joshua Tree is an oft forgotten jewel overshadowed by the likes of Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Death Valley.  But, for those looking for great hikes, rock climbing, rappelling, and the unique Joshua tree, this park has much to offer. Stunning rock formations rise abundantly from the desert park ripe for a scramble, climb or rapel. Hikers will be rewarded with great desert views and foliage, particularly in the February through May timeframe, as well as Joshua trees in various life stages.

Joshua Tree National Park's 794,000 acres preserve portions of two desert ecosystems, the Mojave and Colorado deserts of Southern California. Below 3,000 feet, the Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of the park and features natural gardens of creosote bush, ocotillo, and cholla cactus. The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the Joshua tree and Mojave yucca. The transition between the two deserts sports a high diversity of plants because it is compressed by the park's abrupt elevation changes. The Little San Bernardino Mountains, above 4,000 feet in the park's western most area, host a third ecosystem: California juniper and pinyon pine. The western part of the park also includes some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California's deserts and is a mecca for rock climbers from around the world. In addition, five fan palm oases dot the park, indicating those few areas where water occurs naturally and wildlife abounds.

The plant diversity of these three ecosystems is matched by their animal diversity, including healthy herds of bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, small mammals, 18 species of lizards and 25 species of snakes. In addition, Joshua Tree lies astride the Pacific flyway, thus hosting over 200 species of birds throughout the year. Humans have occupied the area encompassed by Joshua Tree for at least 5,000 years, leaving a rich cultural history. As a result, the park protects 501 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, and 19 cultural landscapes, and its museum collection houses 123,253 items. Considering that archeological surveys have been conducted for less than 5% of the park, we have only learned a fraction of what the park offers us.