With over three million annual visitors, Joshua Tree National Park has become one of the top ten most-visited National Parks in the country. Most visitors arrive from October through May, with the busiest times being weekends, holidays, and spring break season (March–mid April). During these busy times, the park can experience crowding issues, including long lines at the entrances, traffic congestion, full parking lots, and campgrounds filled to capacity. If visiting during one of the busiest time periods, we recommend to plan ahead and prepare. Here’s our best advice for creating a successful trip.
There is no food, water, or gasoline available in the park, so arrive fully stocked.
Download the NPS app. It puts all 400+ national park sites at your fingertips and has information on trails, campgrounds, ranger programs, and more. It also has offline maps that you can download and then use in the park when there is no cell phone service.
Buy your pass ahead of time on recreation.gov. This helps reduce the wait time at the entrance stations. When it’s busy and we have staff available, we open the bypass lanes for pass holders.
Entering and Exiting
To beat the crowds, plan to arrive before 8 am.
The park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You are welcome to drive in and out at any time.
For the fastest entry/exit, use the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, CA or the South Entrance off Interstate 10. The West Entrance in the town of Joshua Tree is the busiest.
Avoid exiting the park immediately after sunset.
Weekdays are typically less crowded than weekends.
Hiking and Sightseeing
To avoid crowds, access key attractions early in the day and explore the park’s less-traveled areas.
Plan to visit popular sites, such as Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, and Lost Horse Mine, before 9 am.
If camping, take advantage of trails within hiking distance of your campground.
Sunset is stunning from most parking lots and pullouts park-wide. Popular viewing areas include Cap Rock, Quail Springs, Ryan Mountain, and Indian Cove. Keys View is also popular but can be extremely crowded and can close down due to congestion on busy days.
Nearly 85% of the 515 campsites in the park are available by reservation only. If you plan to camp, we highly recommend reserving a campsite ahead of time. They can be booked up to six months in advance on recreation.gov.
The other 77 campsites are first-come, first-served and do not require reservations. They are in very high demand on weekends. There are often hundreds of people trying to book these sites. If you don't arrive by late morning/early afternoon on Friday, there is little chance you will secure one of these sites. Even if you arrive by late morning, there is still a chance you won’t find an open site.
Park only in designated parking spots or on graded shoulders along the road. Do not get creative with parking or park next to red curbs, in campgrounds, or in areas that will damage soil or vegetation. Driving off-road will lead to a citation of up to $180.
Choose your hike or stop based on where you find existing parking. If a parking lot is full, proceed to a different area.
Popular parking lots may temporarily close once they reach capacity. This includes Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, Keys View, Split Rock, and Lost Horse Mine.
Joshua Tree weather can include extreme heat, heavy rain, flash flooding, gale-force winds, hail, and snow. Check the weather forecast before you arrive.
As the spring season warms up, rattlesnakes become more active. On warm spring days, stay on trails and watch where you walk to avoid stepping on snakes.
During the busy season, we receive many more search and rescue calls. Know what kind of adventure you are getting into, and be prepared for it. Your safety is your responsibility.