To the casual visitor, Joshua Tree National Park is an interplanetary expedition within California borders—a tangle of contorted Yucca Brevifolia trees line a seamless backdrop of sky and desert that looks otherworldly. Its iconic trees once provided sustenance for its Native inhabitants—the Serrano, Mojave, Chemehuevi, and Cahuilla—before they were displaced from their homes in the 1800s by cowboys, ranchers, and miners. As Mormon pioneers passed through the park in the mid-1800s, they named the trees after Joshua in the Bible, whose hands were raised to the sky like the branches of the agave plant. To the experienced hiker and climber, the park offers more than 120 hiking trails and 8,000 climbing routes.
Since Joshua Tree’s natural monument designation in 1936, it has also become a haven for artists, spiritualists, and naturalists alike. But because the park may feel largely inaccessible for those who have historically been shut out of any of these groups, and because it can be confusing figuring out where you can go for beginner outdoorspeople, we have compiled a list of the best Joshua Tree hikes for both natural beauty and accessibility.
Note that it’s important to be prepared for Joshua Tree’s climate and landscape before going: All natural water sources in the park are reserved for wildlife, so it is recommended that each visitor bring one gallon a day to avoid dehydration in the desert.