2 - 3 Hours
One Per Car
At Your Own Pace
Welcome to the Joshua Tree National Park Tour
Explore the rugged, mystical beauty of Joshua Tree National Park with a self-guided driving tour. This raw desert landscape features incredible vistas, stunning rock formations, and eponymous cartoonish trees. As you drive on the Joshua Tree National Park tour and listen to stories around each bend in the road, keep an eye out for desert animals like the roadrunner, tortoise, and even bald eagle.
You can start your tour at Joshua Tree Visitor Center, Cottonwood Visitor Center, or the Joshua Tree Cultural Center.
About the Tour
This self-guided driving tour begins at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center and follows the park road through this one-of-a-kind national park. As we leave civilization behind, we’ll hear about the Cahuilla tribe who once called this place home and get our introduction to Jim McHaney, who terrorized the townsfolk with his band of ruffians.
Then, of course, we’ll see the eponymous Joshua trees themselves. These funky plants look like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, but we can assure you they’re 100% real! Get the facts on why they look like they do and what the early Mormon pioneers thought they meant on this guided tour of Joshua Tree National Park.
Continue to a hiking trail that leads you to one of the park’s strangest sights: a bunch of rocks with cryptic spiritual inscriptions on them, left by an odd recluse almost 100 years ago. We’ll also fill you in on some of the wildlife you might spot while you’re in the park, from the pint-sized roadrunner to the elusive bighorn sheep.
Next, we’ll visit the ever-popular Hidden Valley Nature Trail, where the infamous McHaney Gang once kept their stolen cattle while waiting to sell them off. Then it’s on to Intersection Rock, a climbing hub that positively towers over the surrounding desert.
After that, we’ll head down into Lost Horse Valley and hear the dramatic tale of how it got its name. It’s a story involving horse theft, a risky move, and a tense encounter with the McHaney Gang. Keys Point awaits beyond this valley, the most famous vista point in the park, where visitors and locals alike flock to catch the sunset.
Up next, we’ll swing by the ominous Skull Rock and get a chance to visit some old, abandoned mines in Queen Valley. Then we’ll head to an observatory that’s perfect for stargazing and end up in the Oasis Visitor Center. Our tour concludes here, just outside Twentynine Palms.
Complement your drive with these top hikes!
Here’s a PDF of the top 10 trails that are along our Joshua Tree tour. You get an overview of the approximate time it takes to do each trail and how easy or difficult the trail is. A quick list of the hiking trails featured in this downloadable PDF is below:
- Samuelson’s Hiking Trail
- Willow Hole Trail
- Quail Mountain Trail
- Hidden Valley Nature Trail
- Barker Dam Nature Trail
- Wall Street Mill Trail
- Cape Rock Nature Trail
- Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail
- Queen Mountain Trail
- Split Rock Loop Trail
Get a short bonus Self-Guided Driving Tour of Palm Springs with your purchase.
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Where to start?
Starting Point Address: You can start your driving tour from any entrance closest to you.
Main Entrance (West): Joshua Tree Visitor Center – 6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252
South Entrance: Cottonwood Visitor Center – Pinto Basin Rd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Northeast Entrance: Joshua Tree Cultural Center – 6533 Freedom Wy, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
The starting points of the hikes are mentioned in the PDF.
How does it work?
- Once you book a tour, you’ll get a text/email with instructions.
- Download the app (while in good wifi/signal) and use your unique password to access your tours.
- To begin touring, go to the starting point and launch the app.
- The audio starts automatically once you reach the starting point. Stick to the tour route & speed limit for the best experience.
- Please note that no one will meet you at the starting point.
What You'll See
Town of Joshua Tree
What's in a Name
The Makings of a Desert
West Entrance Gate
Native American Music
Hidden Valley Nature Trail & McHaney Gang Hideout
Lost Horse Mountain & The Gold Thief
Lost Horse Valley
Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail
Road Runner vs Wile E. Coyote
Hall of Horrors
Split Rock Loop Trail
Sky's the Limit Observatory
Oasis Visitor Center
Preview The Tour
The weird, wiggly-armed Joshua trees look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, but they’re actually not trees at all! They belong to the yucca genus and are more closely related to a cactus than a tree.
Joshua Tree gets its name from the weird and wild plants of the same name, but those plants first got their name from the Mormons. Mormon pioneers who first saw Joshua trees thought they looked like the Biblical figure of Joshua with his arms raised in prayer and named them accordingly!
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the few places on Earth where Joshua trees can still be found. It’s also the meeting point between two vastly different deserts: The Mojave and the Colorado. You can find more information on Joshua tree specialities in our blog.
Without question! Though harsh, this landscape is unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere. The beauty and serenity you can find here is truly something special.
Dogs are allowed in Joshua Tree, but only in certain areas. If you’re planning on doing much hiking, check beforehand to make sure the trails you’ll hike allow dogs. It gets hot in Joshua Tree, and you definitely don’t want to leave your furry friends in the car!
Joshua Tree National Park covers a staggering 1,242 square miles of desert. That’s bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island! Read more on the sizing of Joshua in detail.
While Joshua Tree is quite a large park, you can definitely see it in a day if you plan carefully! If you want to do a lot of hiking or bouldering, however, it might be wise to give yourself two days to fully enjoy the park without feeling the time pressure. Take a look at our latest blog post for a day trip to Joshua.
Joshua Tree features some really amazing hiking and climbing opportunities for visitors of all skill levels. There’s also plenty of sightseeing for visitors who’d rather stick close to their vehicle. Whatever you do, you should definitely plan to catch a sunset while you’re in the park!
Winter is actually one of the nicest times to visit Joshua Tree! With mild daily highs around 60, you’ll be able to explore and embark on some of the park’s longer hikes without battling the desert heat. Learn more about Joshua in winter in our blog.
Most nights, the Milky Way is indeed visible from Joshua Tree National Park. Just make sure you’ll be out on a clear night and give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. Read more in our blog post about the milky way .
A weekly pass to enter the park is $35 per vehicle, $25 for a motorcycle, or $15 if you enter on foot or on a bike. An annual pass costs $55 per vehicle. Joshua Tree also accepts America the Beautiful passes, so if you’ve got one of those, you can get in for free!
Cellular data is extremely sparse within Joshua Tree, and WiFi is only available as visitor centers. It’s important to have offline navigation options when visiting the park.
The Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place each spring, and is a great opportunity to soak up some desert vibes. The park also hosts an annual Night Sky Festival in September for avid stargazers.
Climbers love Joshua Tree for good reason, as the park boasts around 8,000 different climbing routes. The whole park might not exist if not for one woman, Minerva Hoyt, who took it upon herself to protect this amazing landscape.
Absolutely! Joshua Tree is too large and too spread out to make the most of a bus or van tour, so a self-guided Joshua Tree Tour in your own vehicle or rental is a great alternative.
Inclusions and Exclusions
- App on your phone: A link to download the Action Tour Guide App and Password for your tours.
- Flexible schedule: Use any day, any time. Travel over multiple days or on your next trip within 1 year of your purchase.
- Easy to use: Stories play automatically by GPS. Hands-free. Get HELP all day: Call, Chat, or Email.
- At your own pace: No group. Take breaks for photos/ snacks/hikes. Go at your own pace.
- Offline use: No cell signal or wifi required. Offline GPS Map & route. Stop-to-stop direction.
- Don’t miss a thing: Full itinerary, travel tips, professionally narrated videos, text, and hidden gems.
- Transportation, parking fees, food, and drinks.
- Entry tickets or reservations to any attractions along the route.
- Car Rental: Please arrange a rental car at the closest airport or train station.