Climbing and Bouldering Mecca at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park became a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world by offering unparalleled rock climbing and boulder...

Joshua Tree National Park became a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world by offering unparalleled rock climbing and bouldering experience. With over 400 monzogranite formations and more than 8,000 climbing routes, everyone can find their perfect wall that best suits their skill level. But if you're not up for climbing, there are plenty of other activities at the park including hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, nature viewing and even stargazing. Yes, Joshua Tree is home to some of the darkest sky in the world!

Joshua Tree National Park is mostly located at Mojave desert, one of the four deserts in the United States. However there is a smaller part of the park that lies within Sonoran desert (mostly covers southern Arizona). Besides Mojave and Sonoran, the other two deserts are Chihuahuan (western Texas, New Mexico, eastern Arizona) and Great Basin (mostly Nevada and Utah). Each of the four deserts has its unique feature and you can almost certainly tell which one is where using that feature as a clue. Sonoran desert, for instance, has giant Saguaro cacti, Chihuahuan is known to have yucca and creosote while Great Basin, the coldest desert in the US, is a home to sagebrush.
Mojave desert, the hottest one among the four (Death Valley is also located here), is a home to one of the most unusual plants in the world - a Joshua tree. 
Do you think it's a palm? No. A cactus? Wrong again. Joshua tree belongs to a family of yucca. 
The name was given by Mormon settlers in mid-19th century. The tree's shape reminded them of Bible's Joshua in prayer.
It looks cute and fluffy, but its 'leaves' are very sharp like needles. But each plant in a desert is like that - spikes and needles help keep predators away in order to save the most precious asset - water. 
Unfortunately, Joshua trees are really struggling in the past decade to adjust to the climate change. Their size is disadvantageous comparing to smaller plants living in a desert: they can grow up to 12 m / 40 ft which makes them very vulnerable to adverse effects of the climate change as less and less water is available for them at Mojave desert.
These beige boulders are made of monzogranite that is very hard.
Boulders were formed by magma deep underground and over time were shaped and polished by underground water.
Can you spot a climber?
One of my favourite trails in the park is Hidden Valley. It offers a unique opportunity to see a place that was completely hidden from the outside world by surrounding mountains and was discovered after the park had been established. 
Its isolation helped create a unique micro-climate that resulted in developing a different flora. For instance, it's rare to see pine trees anywhere else in Mojave desert. But they are somewhat abundant at Hidden Valley.
Window to the rest of the park.
Quintessential Joshua Tree National Park - boulders and Joshua trees.
100 year old Barker Dam predates a creation of this park. With a seasonal rainfall, such a dam is the only way to collect water for farming. Wild animals still use water from this dam for drinking.
A scenic road to Keys View, the highest point at the park.
Keys View offers some of the best views on Mount San Jacinto (3,302 m / 10,834 ft) and Mount Gorgonio (3,506 m / 11,502 ft).
San Bernardino Mountains divide Joshua Tree National Park into two distinct parts. The one north of the ridge belongs to Mojave desert while the one south of it belongs to Sonoran desert. As I mentioned before, each desert has its own unique trait. For instance, nowhere in Sonoran desert can you find a Joshua tree.
But yuccas are abundant.
Lost Palms Oasis trail is probably the most interesting trail at the park. It starts at a real oasis with tall palm trees and some other trees pretty unusual to a desert. The reason - spring water year around.
Fan palms are full of life in this lifeless desert.
Only poplar trees with very few yellow leaves remind about a real season - a deep fall. On the picture below - a dried-out river bed which is waiting for the next rainy season to become full of water.
Lost Palms Oasis trail brings you to a vista with stunning views of Southern California. You can see Salton Sea on the horizon, a result of diversion of Colorado River in 1905-1907 that filled the valley with water that has been slowly drying out ever since. 
Don't miss a stop at the beautiful Cholla Cactus Garden while driving the main park road that connects visitor centres.
Fluffy cacti look life plush animals.
The road is very windy, but absolutely beautiful. 

When to go
The best time to visit the park is mid-November to mid-May when the temperatures are generally cooler. Also mid-February till end of April (depends on a year) may offer stunning flower blossoming. 

There are three park entrance stations:
• The West Entrance is located 8 km / 5 miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village.
• The North Entrance is in Twentynine Palms, 5 km / 3 miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Utah Trail.
• The South Entrance near Cottonwood Spring is an access point along Interstate 10, 40 km / 25 miles east of Indio.
* - from the park's official website 

Additional Information
For additional information visit Joshua Tree National Park's official website.

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