3-Days Hiking Trip in Joshua Tree
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
From the very first time I saw a picture of one of those magical sunsets in Joshua Tree, I knew I needed to see one with my own eyes. So, for my 28th birthday this year, I asked my boyfriend Tom, for a road trip to this beautiful national park in California. Since we now live in Phoenix, a drive to California would only take us about 4 hours, easy! So, I started my research before hand and we headed out to the adventure...
Don't blame me for this, but Tom, at this point had NEVER stayed in an Airbnb before! He thought Airbnbs were a kind of dirty hostel where the sheets haven't been washed in months, so it took me some work to convince him. I wanted an Airbnb because, well, there are not many hotels in the area and because I wanted a more unique experience. I convinced him with this amazing place: a cozy vintage trailer called "The Rusty Outlaw" in Twentynine Palms, CA, near the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. It had everything we needed, functional kitchen, full bathroom, closet, and the best part, a fire pit for our smore's! Tom was sold. Plus, it was very affordable (about $100/night for up to 3 people), our hosts Casey and Jack were amazing and did I mention you will have the most amazing starry night ever in the middle of the desert? We couldn't have chosen a better place.
🏠 Link to the "The Rusty Outlaw":
Also, get up to $30 off on your first Airbnb trip using the link below:
Bags and hiking backpacks ready! We left Phoenix around 9am on Saturday morning. It was POURING that day! We kept mentioning we always have bad luck with trips, like, it never ever rains in Arizona, but when it does, we are doing a road trip lol. Thankfully, California weather was amazing, so we were excited to leave the Grand Canyon State for the weekend. We entered California after 3 hours drive and after listening to all the Fleetwood Mac discography, and indeed, the weather was amazing. About an hour later, reached out Twentynine Palms, CA and we stopped for some BBQ at The Rib Co, restaurant recommended by Casey and Jack, our Airbnb hosts. Oh man, it did not disappoint! After lunch, we headed out to check-in at our Airbnb.
By the time we dropped our bags, it was about 4pm, one hour and a half before sunset. So we decided to head out to Joshua Tree National Park to get some pictures done without all the hiking gear. We got the 7-Days Pass which was $30 dlls which includes a map and an information brochure. It was the cheapest and with the minimal time pass you can get, they accept card, cash and they even have an electronic wallet system. Very fancy.
Later on, we checked out The Arch Rock, where I nearly fell, who knew some Coach booties are not good for hiking rock formations? Anyway, I did it for the gram.
Sunset was nearly there, so we decided to go back to the trailer, watch the sky transitioning from a pink sunset to a starry night and relax with some smore's. One of the best nights.
Another early start and a full day of hiking planned in Joshua Tree! We had breakfast at our airbnb and got our hiking bags and boots ready (what it's inside my hiking bag-pack post, coming next...) and left around 8:30 am. We were warned that the parking lots get full by 10am and they weren't wrong... most of the parking lots were full!! Thankfully, we found a tiny spot by the main road. Now, with our car properly parked, we started our first trail: Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail
To get to the trailhead: From Park Boulevard, take Keys View Road south 2.4 miles and turn left onto a dirt road leading to the trailhead for Lost Horse Mine.
This is a 6.7 miles round trip trail. It took us about 3.5-4 hours to finish. The trail is gentle with just a slight uphill grade. Lots of joshua trees and yucca growl along the trail which made it very nice to walk. But, definitely the highlight was the Lost Horse Mine, which is one of the best-preserved mills under National Park protection.
After finishing the trail, and feeling the strongest humans in the world. We head out to check out Ryan Mountain and Skull Rock.
I changed my dirty hiking clothes into something more glamorous and we walked around the Skull Rock area to shoot some pictures and to end our day, we went back to the Arch Rock to see the sunset and left a bit before it got too dark inside the park. Note that it's a national park and there are no street lights, so unless you have power vision, don't wait till it's completely dark to drive away.
Last morning in our beautiful Airbnb! Sadly, we got ready to leave and we headed out to our next two spots in our mini road-trip, but not before visiting Joshua Tree National Park for the last time. Since our next location is close to Slab City, we decided to drive through the park. It's about 1 hour drive from Twentynine Palms to the Riverside County. Plus, we wanted to take advantage of our 7 Days Pass. We checked out very quick the Cholla Cactus Garden and kept driving along Cottonwood Spring Road till we reached the South Entrance.
We kept driving south for about another hour and we arrived to a place that had been in my bucket list for so long: Salvation Mountain.
If you haven’t heard of Salvation Mountain, it’s an artificial mountain made of adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of latex paint! It’s covered by Christian sayings like "God is Love" and religious symbols ✝️ it was made by Leonard Knight, a local artist in the 90s. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004 but local artists still contribute to the art installation. The admission is free but donations are highly encouraged.
After wandering around the Salvation Mountain premises for about 1 hour, we drove for about 30 minutes to our next and last location before driving back to Arizona. A place I just recently found out about on Instagram. A place that looked so mind-blowing that I couldn't pass up: The Imperial Sand Dunes.
Literally, I felt like I was in the middle of the Sahara. The Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in the state and it's a favorite place for off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts, this dunes also offer fabulous scenery, opportunities for solitude, and a home to rare plants and animals.
We have a Chevrolet Camaro, so we definitely couldn't drive much into the dunes, so we parked by the road and walked a bit into the desert. We took some pictures and enjoyed the view. We would have loved to see a sunset here, but we had to go back home. So if you have the chance to stay longer, I highly recommend it. The admission to the park is free when we went in February, but permits are required from October 1 through April 15 each year. Permits are $35 per week in advance and $50 per week if purchased onsite. Season permits are $150. For more information, check out their website.
We made a stop for gas and started our journey back to Arizona. This was definitely one of the most amazing road-trips we've done so far and it made me love the West Coast so much for all the great places we can get to by just driving a couple of hours.
Hope you find this information useful for your next time visiting. Let me know any questions and stay adventurous!