If you plan to spend an entire day here, there will be time to sample one or more hiking trails or plan an all-day hike into the backcountry. Joshua Tree offers an extensive network of trails of varying length and difficulty. For "peak baggers," the park has ten mountains greater than 5,000 feet (1,524 m) in elevation. Or make it your goal to hike to all five of the park's fan palm oases. Other trails lead you to remnants of the gold mining era, a colorful part of the park’s cultural history. Joshua Tree is a popular wilderness rock-climbing area.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Temperature changes of 40 degrees within 24 hours are common. Bring a variety of clothes that you can layer on and off as conditions change, including planning for both extreme heat and cold weather.
And don't forget the other essentials: rain protection, a flashlight, a mirror and whistle, a first-aid kit, pencil and paper, a pocket knife, and extra food.
If you need topographic maps, they can be purchased at any of the park's visitor centers or from the Joshua Tree National Park Association.
Safety and Current Conditions
Dehydration: It is easy to become dehydrated in arid desert environments. If you are going to be hiking, you will want to take along two gallons per person. Drink the water and do not economize. When the water is half gone, it is time to turn back. If you are backpacking, you will want to give some thought to the trade-off between the water required to hydrate dried foods and the heftier weight of canned and fresh foods.
Stay Out and Stay Alive: Mining was an important activity in this area and numerous mining sites can be found within the park. If you choose to visit them, use extreme caution and do not enter old mine workings.
Sun Safety: The desert sun can damage eyes as well as skin. Wear a hat and sunglasses and use sunblocking lotion liberally.
Flash Floods: Although rain is relatively rare in the desert, when it does come it can really pour down. Even when it isn't raining where you are, rain in the mountains can run off so fast as to cause flash floods. Stay alert.
Travel: It is easy to get disoriented in deserts: washes and animal trails crisscross the terrain obscuring trails, boulder piles are confusingly similar, and there are not many prominent features by which to guide yourself. Have a topographic map and compass with you and learn how to use them before you head out.
Know your limitations. You should not attempt to climb cliffs or steep terrain without adequate equipment, conditioning, and training. Accidents can be fatal.