Discover the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park when you take a day trip from Los Angeles or San Diego. From the Park’s breathtaking views to the abundant wildlife and interesting geological formations, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a hiker, a climber, a photographer, or just looking to get away from it all, this unique park has something for everyone.
So come and explore the unique beauty and diverse landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park on your next-day trip.
Overview Of The Road Trip
Here’s the best itinerary for a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park from Los Angeles or San Diego!
Total Drive Times
Due to the fact that the starting city is not fixed, this trip differs from our other Day Trips.
The distance between Los Angeles and San Diego is similar, so we combined them into one itinerary.
Whatever your starting point happens to be, you should use it.
If you are driving from Los Angeles:
There is a slight difference in length between these two options.
The park’s entrance can be reached by taking Interstate 10 east until it reaches CA-62 near Palm Springs, California.
The distance is 131 miles (211 km), which takes 2.5 hours to drive one way. In total, it will take 5 hours and 262 miles (422 km) to drive from San Diego to Joshua Tree, and back.
If you are driving from San Diego:
When you reach CA-60, you’ll travel north through Interstate 15 and then east along the state highway. Once you reach the park’s entrance, you will need to head north on CA-62.
You can drive one way in three hours or 164 miles (264 km). The drive from San Diego to Joshua Tree and back will take you 6 hours, 328 miles (528 km).
A Peak Season’s Worries
According to the National Park Service, Joshua Tree National Park is the 11th most popular park in the country.
During the months of November through May, this park is at its busiest. As a result, temperatures can rise into the 90s and 100s in the summer.
Spring and fall are beautiful times of the year. During February and May, you can view spring flowers. During the winter, the ground will be covered in snow.
It may be more difficult to navigate the traffic if you are visiting during a busy season. You should have no problem getting here early and beating most of the slower crowds since this park is close enough to LA and San Diego.
What If This Were During February And May, You Can View Spring Flowers?
I think one day is plenty of time for everyone to see all the important things in this park. It is further emphasized by the fact that there are no services within the park, which further confirms this point. There are no options for lodging, food, water, or gas.
Los Angeles/San Diego To Joshua Tree & Back in a Day
5:00 AM – Leave for Los Angeles or San Diego
Considering this trip is during peak tourist season, we assume that you will have a bad experience.
As you can see, the goal is to beat the crowds into the park by leaving so early in the morning.
It is not nearly as important to arrive early if you are coming here during the off-season, as it is if you’re coming here during the season.
San Diego is about a three-hour drive from LA, and LA is about 2.5 hours from San Diego.
Visit Covington Flats at 8:30 AM
Before entering the park’s main entrance, we will drive a scenic gravel road.
To get to Covington Flat road, proceed south on La Contenta Road just before reaching Joshua Tree.
Among the largest Joshua tree groves in the world, one can be found at the end of this 11-mile drive.
Enter Park Boulevard At 10:00 AM
Take Highway 62 up to Park Boulevard and turn right after leaving Covington Flats. You can re-enter the park from the West Entrance and spend some time at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center.
We will drive Park Boulevard’s scenic loop after leaving the Visitor’s Center.
Hike At Hidden Valley At 10:30 AM
Rock climbers of any skill level can enjoy Hidden Valley’s rock outcroppings. It is a world-class climbing destination with more than 400 climbing formations.
Despite not being a climber, you should be able to enjoy the trails here even if you are not a climber.
- This hike is easy and takes you 1.3 miles roundtrip on the Barker Dam Trail.
- A short hike of just over two miles round trip is the Wall Street Mill Trail.
- Wildlife and abandoned towns can be seen on both trails.
Twentynine Palms is Reached at 12 a.m.
After 24 miles of scenic driving, the road splits. After leaving the park at Twentynine Palms, Pinto Basin Road continues south toward Mecca, while Park Boulevard continues north for another 9 miles.
You will emerge at Twentynine Palms if you take the northern route. After lunch, we’ll head back down.
1:00 PM – Lunch
Twentynine Palms offers a wide variety of food options. You’ll be able to find something to suit your taste buds, from BBQ to sandwiches to Mexican.
You can try some craft brews at Joshua Tree Brewery if you’re interested in trying local beer (like me).
Return to the park at 2:00 PM
After lunch, we will return to Joshua Tree National Park via the Oasis Visitor Center.
Before heading back to wherever you came from, this will be our final drive for the day.
Approximately 45 miles (72 km) separate the Oasis Visitor Center and the southern Entrance Sign. You can stop at various overlooks and trailheads along this drive.
Visit the Cottonwood Visitor Center at 3:30 PM
If you’re looking for dramatic desert views and Cottonwood Spring, try the easy Mastodon Peak Loop (3 miles round trip) or the harder Lost Palms Oasis Trail (3 miles round trip).
Exit and return to the hotel at 4:30 PM
The southern entrance to the park leads you to Mecca, a small town in the southwest of the park. You can get back to Los Angeles in 2.5 hours and to San Diego in 3 hours from here.
Arrive in San Diego or LA at 7:30 PM
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! The day has been long, but you just spent about 14 hours exploring Joshua National Park. During your visit to the park, you spent around eight hours!