Joshua Tree National Park

Archived Responses: 

Jan 2003

We're thinking of going camping with our 6 and 8 yr olds in Joshua Tree after visiting folks in San Diego over Easter Break. Any thoughts on kid-friendly hikes and campsites? Also, we had contemplated Death Valley, but it seems like distances are pretty daunting. Does anyone have experience with both areas and have strong feelings re one vs. the other? By the way, we are experienced campers, just havn't been to these two areas. Thanks for any advice! sara

As a child, my family went camping a lot and spent time at both Death Valley and Joshua Tree. However, I have a special love of Joshua Tree, and I really encourage you to go to that magical place with your family. We most often camped at Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley. If I remember correctly, we also enjoyed hiking, if not camping, at Rattlesnake Canyon. Easter is a wonderful time to go, as you are more likely to see flowers blooming, but it can get cold in the high desert then: we sometimes had snow. I remember hours and hours of rapturous rock scrambling. However, you do have to watch kids carefully: at one Girl Scout campout, a girl wandered off a ledge and broke her ankle and had to be taken out by a rescue team. Joshua Tree is one of my favorite places in the world. The stars are bright, the wildlife surprising, and after several days of grubby camping, you can go (at least that what we did) to Palm Springs to clean up with a swim in the public pool and eat a good meal. Enjoy yourselves! Elizabeth

Your camping trip is going to magnificant no matter what you do. I camped for close to a week years ago (pre-child) at Joshua Tree and absolutely loved it. We were there during Easter time as well which was a bit busy but fine. We stayed at the Jumbo Rocks site which was very easy to get to and there were gorgeous walks in any direction. I loved all those rabbits that were all of the place when you walked around. You are right about Death Valley though. Not only is it a good distance from JT but it entailed a lot of driving to see the sites. I remember it was about an average of 45 minutes between places and our campground (near Mosaic canyon, a must ! if you go) was a big parking lot. I might opt instead to go to the Anza Borega State Park which is really close to San Diego. My friend from there was completely enthralled by the place and how easy it was to access from San Diego. Have fun and I wanna go too! Ilona

Like the previous respondents, I would choose Joshua Tree over Death Valley, both because of the drive to get there, and because of the distances once you are in the park. If you do go to Joshua Tree, be sure to get the extremely helpful book, ''On Foot in Joshua Tree'' by Patty Furbush. Be forewarned: my husband and I are fit and experienced hikers, and usually beat the time estimates in guidebooks by quite a bit. Using this wonderful book, however, we never did a hike faster than she estimated! Melissa T

You are wise to think about how much time you want to spend in the car in planning your post-San Diego camping trip! Distances ''down there'' are indeed vast -- especially with kids in the car. It's a great time of year to visit the desert, but if you don't want to chew up your vacation time with a LOT of driving, you should consider Anza-Borrego State Park. (Click here for the rest of this review).