Are you planning to taking a day trip out to Joshua Tree National Park? I always knew you had great taste, that’s why you’re here after all, right? Ha! But seriously, Joshua Tree is a great park for a day trip. Whether you’re visiting Joshua Tree from Palm Springs, or heading to the park from a day at Death Valley, there are so many things to do in Joshua Tree in just a day. Joshua Tree might be the most unique of the national parks I’ve been to thus far, in that everything is very specific to Joshua Tree. The rocks, the trees… it’s all pretty much guaranteed a, “Oh yeah, that’s Joshua Tree!” from any picture you show someone. And the nice part is you really can do it all. So hopefully this 1 day Joshua Tree itinerary helps you plan your day trip to this unique national park, and you find all the interesting things to do in Joshua Tree while you’re there.
The Short Version of a One Day Joshua Tree Itinerary
- Cholla Cactus Garden (for sunrise if you can)
- Find the most unique rocks in Joshua Tree – Arch Rock, Split Rock, and Skull Rock – and climb around
- Hike any of the many trails
- If you’re a climber, definitely do some climbing/bouldering while here instead of hiking
- Sunset at Keys View
The Long Version of a 1 Day Joshua Tree Itinerary
Early Morning at Cholla Cactus Garden
To properly spend a day in Joshua Tree you need to start early, ideally at sunrise. Your first stop of the day should be to this gorgeous cactus garden. There are cacti as far as the eye can see with a stunning mountain backdrop. If you made it for sunrise, prepare for some gorgeous light and sky. We unfortunately couldn’t make that work for our one day Joshua itinerary BUT, if I were to go back and do it again, I’d pull my ass out of bed and watch the sunrise here.
Even if you don’t make it for sunrise, it’s gorgeous and is one of the things to do in Joshua Tree you shouldn’t skip. You can wander around this gorgeous basin and see these unique cacti. So many photo opportunities as well!
Find & Explore Skull Rock, Split Rock, and Arch Rock
You’ve likely heard of or seen these unique rocks if you’re looking up things to do in Joshua Tree to build your one day itinerary. And for good reason! They’re super cool. However, and this might be an unpopular opinion, just going to these spots and seeing the rock is underwhelming.
What I recommend you do is check out the rock and then climb around in the rocks AROUND Skull Rock, AROUND Split Rock, and AROUND Arch Rock. Get your mountain goat on. It’s way more fun to climb around (be safe and careful of course) than it is to just.. see a rock and leave, ha. So, see the cool rocks but have more fun than that and climb around nature’s jungle gym too.
Hike the Trails
There are LOTS of good trails to choose from for your Joshua Tree day trip. This is also a great way to get up close and personal with Joshua Trees themselves, because they’re everywhere. If you ask “what to do in Joshua Tree” and see this list and wonder why “explore the Joshua Trees” isn’t on it, it’s because these countless gorgeous hikes are the best way to do that.
We did quite a few easy hikes since we were trying to hit so much stuff while we were there (and we visited during winter so our days were shorter). But here are the hikes I would add to your 1 day Joshua Tree itinerary and why:
Joshua Tree Hikes We Included in Our 1 Day Itinerary
Both of these hikes were very easy with lots of opportunity to go off and climb all over the famous Joshua Tree rocks as well as learn more about the environment around you. These would be good for a family as well as a solo traveler.
Hikes We Skipped But Would Do Next Time We Spend a Day at Joshua Tree
Both of these are simply just a little bit harder and we’d have done them if we had more daylight. They look fun and if you can work them into your one day Joshua Tree itinerary, I’d recommend it!
Sunset at Keys View
Now, this is a really impressive sunset spot and a RIDICULOUSLY easy Joshua Tree sunset hike if you’re looking for one. Once you “hike” up to the overlook spot, you can see the Coachella Valley and all the way out to the Salton Sea, with the Little San Bernadino Mountains all around.
I’d recommend you arrive a 20 – 30 minutes before sunset so that you can snag a spot up front. This is a popular sunset spot, and for good reason. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I’d say no 1 day Joshua Tree itinerary is complete without this sunset, it really is that wonderful.
Once you’ve got your spot, sit back and enjoy the colorful sky.
So there you have it, the perfect 1 day Joshua Tree itinerary for a day filled with beauty and adventure. There are so many things to do in Joshua Tree it’s hard to pick where and what to see, but with this list of Joshua Tree mainstays, you get to experience so much of the park’s beauty.