Joshua Tree National Park
My original plans to camp in Yosemite over Christmas were ruined thanks to the foot of snow that fell the night before my trip. A quick shift in plans took me to Joshua Tree National Park, where the weather was probably warmer. The drive in was short and easy, and since I arrived on a Wednesday night I would have my first choice at campgrounds. This was a very peaceful solo trip, I only wish the moon wasn’t full and so bright so I could enjoy the desert stars a little more.
Date Range – December 23-25
Campground – White Tank
Distance – 170 miles
Closest Town – Twentynine Palms, CA
I arrived at camp around midnight, setting up in one of the few remaining spots in White Tank Campground. The night was calm and not too cold – probably in the low 40’s – so I left my tent fly off to enjoy the stars. It didn’t get too much colder at night, though I did wake up in the morning with some frost on my face. The nice thing about White Tank was it’s proximity to the Arch Trail. This being my first time at Joshua Tree, the Arch Trail was a great way to get myself introduced to some of the rock formations unique to the park.
Another trail I had heard great reviews on was the Cholla Cactus Garden, located about 15 minutes south of my camp. It was more of a nature trail, with rock-enclosed pathways leading through the garden. I would absolutely recommend this trail just based on the volume of these cacti placed together in an otherwise empty valley.
Cholla Cactus Garden
The second night was much tougher. I put the fly over my tent as the winds picked up, but the sand managed to crawl in anyways. By the time I was ready to go to sleep, wind gusts had picked up to around 50 mph. Definitely not ideal sleeping conditions for a tent in the desert.
After packing up my gear and dumping the sand from inside my tent, I decided to drive up to Keys View. The drive and vista was worth it, and is something to check out if you’re just making a short trip to Joshua Tree. This edge of the San Andreas Fault provides excellent views of Coachella Valley and Big Bear, which had a healthy snow cap this winter thanks to El Niño.
Keys View Lookout Point
Seeing as it was Christmas Day, my afternoon drive back was pretty easy with very little traffic. All in all, the park had much fewer patrons than I expected on a holiday weekend with winter conditions. I had a great time and look forward to visiting again when there’s a new moon in the sky.