best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park
Last Updated: May 28, 2021

Best Time To Visit Joshua Tree National Park

When is the best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park? That depends on what you want to do in the park! It’s one answer if you want to see wildflowers in bloom, but an entirely different one if you just want to go hiking when there aren’t huge crowds at the park.

The consensus is that spring is the best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park, but certain drawbacks might make you want to visit in the fall or winter instead. Read on to learn why spring is the best season in this NP, what the second-best option is, and how to enjoy the park without the crowds!

When is the best time to visit Joshua Tree?

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is between March and May. The weather is great with an average high of some 85 degrees, there’s little to no rain, and the wildflowers are in bloom. The flowers actually start blooming in February in lower elevations, but by mid-April, even those on higher elevation are in bloom.

It’s worth noting that spring is the most popular season to visit the national park, meaning that there are a lot of people there. It’s more difficult to get a camping spot, especially if you haven’t reserved one in advance.

But, spring is not the only time you can go to the park – Joshua Tree NP is open year-round, and there are pros (and cons) for visits during any season. Read on to see why going there during winter is better for some people and to see what you should expect from each season at the park!

Spring (March-May)

Joshua Tree National Park Spring

Joshua Tree National Park is in California, straddling the Mojave and Colorado deserts. The weather is one of the main factors that impact the best time to visit. You won’t have a good time if the temperatures are extremely low or extremely high, which is exactly why spring is the best season to visit and fall the second best.

However, this is no secret, and spring is the season when the park gets the most visitors. You should look into reserving a place at the campsite weeks, maybe even months in advance. Also, if any of the hikes you want to do require a special permit, apply for that ASAP. There are also first-come-first-served campgrounds at the park, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a spot if you arrive earlier in the week. They usually fill up by Friday afternoon, so getting there on Thursday will probably get you a nice camping spot.

Joshua Tree National Park Campsite

The most popular campsites in the park are those near the rock climbing areas (Indian Cove, Hidden Valley, and Jumbo Rocks). These usually fill up first, so try to find a place at a different campground if you have no interest in rock climbing. Additionally, if you are planning to spend a weekend at the park, your best bet to find a spot is to get there early Friday morning, before all the weekenders from LA arrive.

Expect large crowds in the park during the spring season. It is the most popular time to visit the Joshua Tree NP, so you’ll have to deal with traffic on trails and busy campgrounds. However, it’s a huge national park with lots of trails to explore, so it’s not like you’ll be walking around with a group of other people. And the scenery is spectacular enough to make you forget all about your noisy neighbors at camp!  

One tip for avoiding the crowds in the spring is to go there on weekdays. A lot of people will come in from LA to spend the weekend at the park, but they’ll be back at their homes Sunday night. If you time your visit so that you’re in the park only on weekdays, you’ll have to deal with much smaller crowds.

Summer (June-September)

Joshua Tree National Park

You should visit Joshua Tree National Park in the summer only if you’re immune to heat. It’s in the desert in California and it gets unbearably hot in the park between June and September. Temperatures are often higher than 100 degrees, which means it’s almost impossible to do anything outside during the day. Summer is also the wettest season in the Mojave Desert, so be prepared for rain.  

Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to explore the national park during summer. It’s best to stick to the shorter trails so you can start hiking at sunrise and be back at the camp before noon.

An upside of the chaotic weather is that there are very few visitors at the park. You won’t encounter a lot of traffic on the trails, and that’s certainly an upside.

Joshua Tree National Park Hike

It’s still possible to explore the national park in the summer, but only if you take all the necessary precautions. This includes wearing lightweight and breathable clothes, bathing in SPF, and bringing a water cistern along for the hike. Jokes aside, it really is essential that you adequately prepare for hikes in hot weather. Sunburn and heat illness are serious dangers that could ruin your entire trip to the park. Plus, you need to worry about bugs and all the other creatures that thrive in the heat.

Additionally, summer is the best season to visit if you’re into stargazing. The Annual Night Sky Festival is held each September, and the naturally dark sky looks truly spectacular in late summer. If you choose to attend the festival, you will need to buy a ticket. Festival activities are varied, with everything from astronomy lessons to telescope viewings to keep the visitors busy!

It’s worth noting that some of the campgrounds are closed during the summer months, so make sure to do your research if you’re brave enough to camp in the park during the hottest season.

Fall (October-November)

Joshua Tree National Park Desert

If you can’t make it to the park in spring, then try to visit in the fall. It’s the second-best season to visit Joshua Tree National Park, particularly if you’re going to hike a lot.

It’s not too hot or too cold, the precipitation is minimal, and there’s even a music festival in October! The key difference is that you won’t get to see wildflowers in bloom, but autumn scenery is just as beautiful as spring scenery. Temperatures are in the 80s during the day and in the 50s at night, so it’s a great season for camping. And since the crowds are much smaller than during spring, it will be easier to find available camping spots even without reservations.

Joshua Tree National Park Summer

The number of visitors in the fall is around 100,000 per month, which is some 50,000 less than in the spring. It’s still a lot of people, but it’s a much smaller crowd than during peak season. It will be easier to find available camping spots, the trails will be less crowded, and the atmosphere in the park is generally more serene.

Additionally, most seasonal closures happen between February and June. This is raptor nesting season, and the closures are in place until the raptors leave their nests, which usually happens sometime in June. If you go in October or November, you’ll be able to explore more areas of the park like the Patagonia Pile, the Labor Done, Dino’s Egg, and many others. It’s worth noting that nesting areas can seasonally change.

Winter (December-February)

Joshua Tree National Park Snow

Winter is not a very popular season in Joshua Tree National Park, which makes it the perfect season for campers who want to avoid the crowds. The days are surprisingly mild with temperatures in the 50-60s, but the nights are often freezing. Also, there’s sometimes snow at higher altitudes in the Mojave Desert, so keep that in mind you’re going to hike to some of the taller peaks. It’s a rare occurrence but it can happen.

There’s still lots of sunshine in the winter, but the crowds are minimal. You won’t be limited in terms of things you can do at the park. The reservation campgrounds are open year-round, and most trails are easily accessible even in winter conditions. Just adequately prepare for hikes at higher altitudes and you’ll have a great time at the NP! And it will be easier to find an available spot at a campsite since the crowds are so much smaller.

Joshua Tree National Park Winter

Camping here in winter can be a great experience if you’re a van life camper! Sleeping in a tent is not as comfortable when the temperatures get freezing, but it’s an entirely different story when you’re in an insulated van with heating. Remember to reserve a spot in advance, since the number of allowed vehicles is restricted to two per campsite. Also, a car with a trailer counts as two vehicles, which is why it’s essential to reserve your place if you want to have a good time.

How Long Should You Stay At Joshua Tree NP?

Joshua Tree National Park Sunset

Ideally, you should spend two or three days at the park. This gives you enough time to explore different park areas, but you’re not there long enough to get bored. It’s best to camp at the park and it’s even better if you can find a spot on the campground that’s closest to the attractions that interest you most.

If you’re staying in the Joshua Tree NP longer, you’ll be able to do some of the longer hikes in the park. There are a few trails that take you to remote park locations that are definitely worth seeing, but not convenient to visit if you’re in the NP for just two days.

Joshua Tree National Park Trail

You can have plenty of fun even if you’re in the national park for just one day. There are a lot of short hikes and loop trails in Joshua Tree national park, and most can be completed in one or two hours. A single day at the park is enough to do 4-5 shorter hikes and see some truly amazing rock formations!

It’s worth noting that there is a limit to how long you can stay at the park. You may spend 30 days camping at the NP throughout the year, and only 14 of those days can be between October and May.

Top Things To Do At The Park

Joshua Tree National Park Rocks

Joshua Tree national park is best known for the unique rock formations and Joshua trees. A lot of the hiking trails will take you to different rock formations, so be sure to check out our guide to the best hikes in Joshua Tree NP to see which trails should be at the top of your list. Most trails are short and easily completed in just a few hours, so it’s perfectly suitable for total hiking newbies.

The park is also very popular for rock climbing, especially the area near the Hidden Valley Campground. Ryan Campground is the second-best option for rock climbers, and Jumbo Rocks campsite is not to be underestimated either. All three campsites are just a few feet away from some of the best rock climbing areas in the national park, but Hidden Valley has the most opportunities for experienced climbers.

You should check out the NP’s official site to see which climbing routes are closed for the season. Seasonal closures are frequent in the park to protect the wildlife and some routes are permanently closed because of their proximity to private property. If you’re going to the park specifically for rock climbing, respect the closures and look out for signs.

Joshua Tree National Park Stargazing

Joshua Tree NP is also super popular for stargazing. The park is at a high altitude and far away from big cities, so the skies are clear almost every night. And the precipitation is minimal throughout the year, meaning that you can go stargazing almost every night of the year. Astrophotographers are bound to stay up all night getting the perfect shot, juxtaposing the dark trees with the bright starry sky.

It’s worth noting that there are certain rules for stargazing, especially if you’re in the park during the Night Sky Festival. You can learn more about the rules at the Joshua Tree NP official website.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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