Joshua Tree National Park – November 2019

Hannah – Age 6 – National Park #9

As we were leaving Death Valley, snow began to fall and the weather was definitely changing. We took a detour from google maps to drive through the Mojave National Preserve.  It was a very windy day and we hardly saw any other vehicles throughout the entire preserve.  We would have liked to stop and explore more, but rain and snow were also in the forecast to hit Joshua Tree in the next day or two, so we knew our time was limited.

We arrived at the Joshua Tree National Park Oasis Visitor Center in the city of Twentynine Palms in the mid-afternoon.  The visitor center was small and crowded.  My mom and Hannah shopped the gift store while I tried to talk to a ranger.  It was so busy that I believe I ended up talking to a gift store employee.  He handed me a map and circled the main areas to visit, along with some really random sites that were not even on the map.    Map of Joshua Tree

Park Sites and Hikes – Day 1

Split Rock Hike
  • Split Rock Hike – 2.5 Mile Loop – This was my favorite hike we did and it is not even shown on the map.  If you look on the map it is located where the picnic table is above Jumbo Rocks – an off shoot on the other side of the road.  I am not sure why it is not called out – maybe it is a new trail.  Near the parking lot sits a huge boulder with a big split down the middle, giving it the obvious name “Split Rock”.  We started down a path nearby, not sure if we were actually on the loop trail or not, but it quickly became clear that we were.  It was a really fun trail with a lot of little ups and downs, and rocks for Hannah to climb in and around.  When we were about one mile in, the clouds started to get dark and we could tell it was going to rain soon.  We made it back to the car just in time.  We drove through the rest of the park that day in the rain.
Split Rock Hike
  • The Tallest Joshua Tree in the Park – This is also not on the map and was not as impressive as it sounds.  The “ranger”/gift shop employee made a point to star the location on my map, so we were looking for signs and other people to be stopped taking photos of it.  When we saw it, we were pretty underwhelmed and laughed that were looking so intensely for it.
Tallest Joshua Tree in the Park
  • Keys View – This looks like it would have been a pretty amazing view overlooking the Coachella Valley and it is also wheelchair/stroller accessible.  Unfortunately it was pouring rain when we got there, which did not stop us from getting out and running the 500 feet to the top to see it, but it would definitely be more beautiful on a sunny day.

As we drove out of the park that evening, we saw the most beautiful and close up rainbows I have ever seen.  They appeared to come down 100 feet off the road and it seemed there was a new one every corner we turned around.  The rain had slowly turned to snow and we were looking forward to getting back down from the elevation and checking into our hotel.

Rainbows at Joshua Tree

Twentynine Palms – Night 1

We once again had reservations at the Holiday Inn.  We found out when checking in that a lot of backpackers/campers were coming down from the park to try to find a hotel given the rain and snow forecast, so I was very glad we had the reservations booked ahead of time. (Thanks Mom!)  I did some research before booking this one and knew Hannah would LOVE that it had an outdoor heated pool. Of course, I was expecting outside temperatures to be higher than 40 degrees when I booked it.  But sure enough, that pool was heated to at least 80-90 degrees and it was actually pretty comfortable to swim in.  The best part was the view of Joshua Tree National Park in the background. 

Swimming in the outdoor pool with Joshua Tree in the background

It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so our dining options were limited.  We ended up finding a pretty nice Mexican restaurant open, and made a stop at the liquor store to help us celebrate Thanksgiving the next day. 

Park Sites and Hikes – Day 2 (Thanksgiving Day)

We woke up to unexpected sunshine and decided to get up to the park as early as possible to hike a few trails we missed yesterday. 

  • Skull Rock – This is just a stop along the side of the road.  It was packed the day before but was nearly empty this morning.  Hannah and I enjoyed climbing all over the rocks around here and into the small crevices. 
Skull Rock
  • Barker Dam – 1 mile loop – The Barker Dam loop was really nice and pretty flat.  Apparently in the spring there is water in the dam area, but it was completely dry when we visited.  The hike leads you through a ton of cool Joshua Trees.
Barker Dam Trail
  • Hidden Valley – This is a very popular loop hike and it was pretty crowded by the time we got there.  It was also getting cold outside, so my mom waited in the car.  Hannah and I started the hike and shortly decided to head back as it looked very similar to the other hikes we had already done.  And Hannah had enough hiking for awhile.

Frozen at Frozen 2

It was still relatively early when we got back to the hotel room.  We let Hannah watch some of the Macy’s Day Parade while we planned the rest of the day.  We heard there was a movie theater in the next town over, Yucca Valley, and Frozen 2 had just come out, so we decided that would be a fun thing to do that afternoon.   It was raining in Twentynine Palms, but snowing in Yucca Valley.  Being from Wisconsin, a little snow did not worry me.  I was more nervous about the California drivers handling the snow, but it wasn’t too bad of a drive and it was really pretty seeing a snow fall on the Joshua Trees – something that doesn’t happen too often here.

What we did not realize was that the movie theater did not have heat!  Since it was around 30 degrees outside, the theater was probably around 50 degrees.  We all kept our jackets, hats, and mittens on the entire movie.  We were literally “frozen” at Frozen 2. 

Lessons Learned

Some of the best sites at the National Parks are not even on the map!

Barker Dam Hike

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