Frequently Asked Questions

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The Basics

What time does the park close?

The park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. When the entrance stations are not staffed at night, we leave the gates open. You are welcome to drive in and out of the park during these hours. Stargazing is a popular nighttime activity.

Where is the visitor center?

There are four visitor centers. The Joshua Tree Visitor Center is located in downtown Joshua Tree at 6554 Park Boulevard. The Joshua Tree Cultural Center is located in downtown Twentynine Palms at 6533 Freedom Way. The Cottonwood Visitor Center is located near the park's southern entrance on Pinto Basin Road. The Black Rock Nature Center is a smaller visitor center located in the Black Rock campground in Yucca Valley at 9800 Black Rock Canyon Road. Visit our visitor center webpage for more information on visitor center hours and amenities.

When is the best time of year to visit?

Temperatures are most comfortable in the fall and spring, with highs typically in the range of 70-85°F (21-29°C) and lows around 50 (10°C). In the winter, highs are usually around 60°F (15°C) and near or below freezing at night. It occasionally snows at higher elevations. Summers are hot. The highs are typically over 100°F (38°C), and lows are usually around 75°F (24°C) at night. Springtime and holidays are the busiest times of the year and the park can be very crowded. During any season, Joshua Tree can be prone to strong winds and flash flooding.

What will the weather be like during my visit?

Check out the weather forecast for Joshua Tree National Park.

Do I need a reservation to enter the park?

No, there is no reservation system to enter the park. You are welcome to enter and exit the park at any time.

What amenities are in the park?

There are picnic areas, campgrounds, hiking trails, vista points, and pullouts with interpretive information. There are no hotels, restaurants, or gas stations. Make sure to have sufficient food, water, and gas/electric charge before entering the park. Vault toilets can be found throughout the park at campgrounds and popular trailheads, pullouts, and attractions. Flush toilets are available at the visitor centers and the West Entrance Station.

Where can I get water?

Water bottle fill stations are located at the Black Rock Nature Center, the West Entrance Station, and the Joshua Tree Cultural Center. Water jugs can be filled at the West Entrance Station, Indian Cove Ranger Station, Black Rock and Cottonwood campgrounds, and at Park Headquarters (in the Northeast section of the parking lot). RV fill stations are located at Black Rock Campground (near campsite 6) and Cottonwood (between the visitor center and campground). The center of the park does not have potable water. Please enter the park prepared with plenty of water stored in your car and/or backpack.

Is there cell phone reception and wifi?

There is very limited cell phone reception in the park, and cell service should never be relied on. Free public WIFI can be accessed at the Black Rock Visitor Center, the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, and the Joshua Tree Cultural Center. Before entering the park, download the official National Park Service app to access the free offline maps.

Is there an app I can use on my smartphone or tablet?

Yes, we recommend downloading the official National Park Service app. You can find information on visitor centers, campgrounds, trails, things to do, and more. You can also download an offline map to use when you don't have cell phone reception. For visitors seeking campsite and Keys Ranch tour reservations, download the Recreation.gov app to view availability and book reservations.

How do I report a lost or found item?

If you lost or found an item, make a report on our lost and found webpage. If your lost item was turned in to us, we will contact you as soon as possible.

Fees and Passes

Where can I purchase a pass?

We strongly recommend you purchase a digital pass before your visit. Buying a pass beforehand will help expedite wait times to enter the park. Passes can also be purchased at any visitor center or entrance station.

How much does it cost to enter?

The cost varies depending on which pass you purchase. The most common pass is the Entrance Pass which covers a single, non-commercial vehicle for 7 days. In 2022, this pass costs $30. Browse our Fees & Passes page to find out which pass is right for you and what it will cost.

Are there any discounted passes for military, seniors, students, or the permanently disabled?

Yes! Find out more about discounted and free passes on our Fees & Passes page. For the 4th grader "Every Kid Outdoors" Pass, apply on the NPS every kid outdoors webpage before arriving. Print and bring the voucher with you—images on cell phones are not acceptable.

Do you sell the "America the Beautiful" annual pass to all national parks?

Yes, it is available to purchase at all visitor centers and entrance stations. It can also be purchased online at https://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html. If purchasing online, shipping and handling charges apply and allow four to six weeks for shipping.

If I have a senior pass, do I need to pay to enter?

No, the senior pass will cover you and anyone else in the vehicle. Simply show your senior pass and ID at the entrance station.

Do I have to pay to just drive straight through the park on my way to another destination?

Yes, a pass must be purchased or shown to enter/exit the park.

Camping

How do I get campsite reservations?

Reservations are required at the following campgrounds: Indian Cove, Black Rock, Jumbo Rocks, Ryan, Cottonwood, Sheep Pass Group Campground, Cottonwood Group Campground, and Indian Cove Group Campground. Campsite reservations can only made on recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Reservations be made up to six months in advance (subject to availability).

How do I get a first-come, first-served campsite?

When you arrive at a first-come, first-served campground (Hidden Valley, Belle, or White Tank), look for an open site. If you find a vacated site without equipment, move into the site and set up camp.

How do I pay for a first-come, first-served campsite?

A ranger comes around to first-come, first-served campgrounds multiple times a day to register campers and take payment. You can also pay at an entrance station after you’ve moved into a site. We only accept debit and credit card payments for campsites. You do not need to seek out a ranger to pay. It is our job to charge you for the campsite.

What are my chances of getting a first-come, first-serve site on the weekend?

First-come, first-serve campsites are highly competitive on holidays, most weekends, and the springtime. They are full nearly every weekend from Sept-May and most weeknights during our busy spring season from mid-February to April. On the weekends, they are typically full by Friday afternoon. The earlier you arrive in a week, the better your chance of securing a site. To avoid disappointment, reserve a site at recreation.gov.

How many tents will fit in my site?

For reservation-only campsites, please check the campsite information on recreation.gov before you book. Not all campsites can accommodate the maximum number of people and tents. For first-come, first-served campgrounds, up to six people and three tents (if they fit) are allowed. If site capacity is exceeded, extra guests will be asked to leave or the site may be forfeited.

Can I sleep in my vehicle?

You are welcome to sleep in your vehicle at a lawfully occupied, designated campsite. It is illegal to sleep in your vehicle outside of campgrounds e.g., trailheads, dirt roads, parking lots, roadsides, etcetera.

If my campsite only allows 1 or 2 vehicles, can I bring an extra and squeeze it in?

No. You are only allowed to bring the stated number of allowed vehicles listed in the campsite information on recreation.gov. It’s typically two and sometimes one. For first-come, first-serve sites, it’s a two-vehicle limit if they fit. The stated vehicle limit is based on available parking space. If exceeding this limit, it typically leads to illegal parking, obstructing the roadway, and vegetation damage. If you bring an extra vehicle, you will be asked to move it. This applies to group sites too; do not exceed the vehicle limit.

If I have more vehicles than my campsite allows, where can I park the extra vehicle(s)?

There is no overflow parking in the national park. For extra vehicles, seek parking outside of the park and carpool in.

Does a trailer or camper count as a vehicle?

Yes, a vehicle towing a trailer, popup, tent trailer, or fifth wheel—or a motorhome towing a vehicle—is considered two vehicles.

What if I have more people than my campsite allows?

Then you will need to book an additional site. Exceeding the maximum number of allowed guests commonly leads to out-of-bounds camping, vegetation damage, and noise complaints. If site capacity is exceeded, extra guests will be asked to leave or the site may be forfeited.

How do I check-in if I’m arriving late?

You don't need to. There is no formal check-in process at the campgrounds. Once you arrive, simply move into your reserved site. A campground host or ranger may or may not greet you and go over campground rules. Campground rules are also posted at the entrance to each campground.

If I’m not going to make it to the first night of my reservation, will my reservation be canceled?

To avoid cancellation, please call 760-367-5554 and leave a message for the park if you are arriving one or more nights late. If you do not plan on using your reserved nights, please cancel them on recreation.gov to give others the opportunity to use the campsite.

Do the gates to the campgrounds close at a certain time?

No, we never close the gates. You are free to enter and exit the campgrounds 24 hours a day.

Can I have a campfire?

Campfires are allowed in the provided campfire ring within designated campsites. Occasionally, we have fire bans in the summer/fall due to high risk of wildfires. If there is a fire ban, check our alerts and conditions webpage to read more about it. If there are no alerts on this webpage about a campfire ban, then you are allowed to have a campfire at your site. Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry or outside of designated campsites in the campgrounds. Charcoal grills are okay to use. When you are done with the fire, dump excess amounts of water on it, stir it up, and check for any remaining heat. Do not leave a smoldering fire unattended.

Where can I buy firewood?

It can be purchased in town from gas stations, grocery stores, and roadside vendors. It is not sold in the park or at visitor centers. You may not gather park vegetation, whether living or dead, to fuel your campfire. Do not burn combustible objects other than firewood.

Can I leave my food and trash bags out during the day?

No, please protect these from the wildlife in a secure container or your vehicle. If you leave your food and trash out, rodents and ravens will likely get into it. This creates behaviors that are detrimental to the wildlife, to you, and to future visitors.

Do I need a horse to book an equestrian site?

Yes, they are reserved for equestrians. If you show up without a horse, you will forfeit the site.

RV-related Questions

Are there dump stations?

Yes, they are located at Black Rock Campground (near campsite 6) and at Cottonwood (between the visitor center and the campground). They cost $5 to use. Payment can be made before or after use at any entrance station.

Are there water fill stations?

Yes, there are water fill stations at Black Rock campground (near campsite 6) and at Cottonwood (between the visitor center and the campground).

What size of RV's can you accommodate?

White Tank and Hidden Valley campgrounds have a length limit of 25 feet combined. Belle campground can accommodate up to 35 feet but most only accommodate 25-30 feet RV's. For reservation-only campgrounds, check the individual campsite information for the maximum vehicle length allowed. If you're searching for a campsite to accommodate a specific RV length on recreation.gov, click on the "filter" button and adjust the vehicle length to the length of your RV.

What if my RV is slightly longer than the campsite parking length?

Then it will not fit, and you should choose a different campsite to book. If your RV extends out into the road, it is prone to being hit or causing an accident. Campsite information on recreation.gov has details about parking limitations for each site. If you book a site and discover your equipment does not fit, reservation changes depend on the availability of suitable sites. Modifications are subject to a fee and can be completed on the recreation.gov app or website.

When can I run my generator?

Generator use is only permitted 7–9 am, noon–2 pm, and 5–7 pm.

Outdoor Activities

What are some popular easy hikes to do?

Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, Arch Rock, and the Discovery Trail are all around one mile and very scenic. Check out our Hiking page or the official National Park Service app for more information on hiking.

Where is a good place to watch the sunset?

There is no bad spot to watch the sunset. Unique locations and stunning views can be discovered throughout the park. Some popular places include Indian Cove, Quail Springs, Cap Rock, and the Cholla Cactus Garden. Keys View is very popular but can be crowded and difficult to find parking.

Can I go into the park at night?

Yes, the park is open 24/7. We leave the gates open at night, so you are welcome to drive in and out.

Where is a good place to see the night sky and milky way?

There are many fantastic spots to view the night sky. You are welcome to use roadside pullouts and the designated stargazing areas of Hidden Valley, Ryan Mountain, and Quail Springs. Please stay awake and close to your vehicle. The Pinto Basin Road between Cholla Cactus Garden and Cottonwood has the darkest skies and the least amount of traffic. Before stargazing, check the current moon phase and the time that the moon rises and sets. For more helpful tips, check out our Stargazing webpage.

Where can I hike with my pet?

Pets are not allowed on hiking trails, except for the Oasis of Mara trail. To hike with your pet, we recommend hiking down a dirt road or walking your pet through the roads in campgrounds. Dogs must always be on a leash and can't be more than 100 feet from a road. This is for the protection of our animals and yours. Please read more about visiting with pets on our pets webpage.

What trails are accessible?

  • Oasis of Mara Trail near Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms. This trail is paved and suitable for all wheelchairs.

  • Lower Keys View Overlook - near accessible parking spots. This trail is paved and suitable for all wheelchairs. Views may be limited by signage and naturally growing vegetation.

  • Bajada Nature Trail near the South Entrance. This trial has areas of deep sand and is scheduled for improvements. The terrain of this trail is not suitable for most motorized wheelchairs.

  • Cap Rock Nature Trail at the junction of Park Boulevard and Keys View Road. The terrain of this trail may not be suitable for most motorized wheelchairs.

Can I ride a bike in the park?

Biking is allowed on dirt and paved roads in the park. Bikes are not permitted on trails or "off-road." We recommend only bicycling on the park's backcountry dirt roads which offer opportunities to explore many areas and have less traffic than the busy paved roads. If biking on the paved roads in the park, please be advised that there are no paved shoulders or bike lanes. The roads are winding and can be congested with heavy traffic during weekends, holidays, and weekdays in the busy spring season. Please ride with caution, wear a helmet and bright clothing, and travel on the right side of the road in a single file.

Ranger Programs

Are there any ranger programs going on?

Ranger program scheduling varies by season and available staff. Check in at the visitor center when you arrive to find out about current programming, or call 760-367-5500. Evening programs typically happen on weekends from November to April at select campgrounds. Ranger-led hikes and Keys Ranch tours usually run from October to April. Besides Keys Ranch tours, ranger programs are free to attend and do not require reservations.

How do I book tickets to tour Keys Ranch?

Tickets for the Keys Ranch tour are only available at recreation.gov. Tours typically run from October-April. Tickets are available up to 60 days before the tour date. No walk-up tickets are available. Ranch tours frequently sell out, and reservations are the only way to attend. Visitor centers do not sell tickets and cannot make changes to existing reservations. Keys Ranch is a protected historical site. Visiting is restricted to ranger-led tours only. Unauthorized access may result in arrest and/or fines.

Why aren't any tickets available for Key's Ranch tours more than two months in advance?

The amount of tours we provide per week depends on staffing and visitation trends. Because of these fluctuations, we only schedule tours 1-2 months in advance.

Nature

When and where can I see wildflowers?

Spring wildflowers are dependent on winter rains. After dry winters, the park doesn't see many wildflowers. After wet winters, we may get an abundance of wildflowers. Wildflowers usually begin blooming in the lower elevations of the Pinto Basin and along the park's south boundary in February and at higher elevations in March and April. Desert regions above 5,000 feet may have plants blooming as late as June. There is not typically one best place to see them. They are spread throughout the park and can be viewed on a variety of trails.

Where is the best place to see wildlife?

There is no one best place. During your visit, keep on the lookout and listen for verbal clues. Crowded visitor areas typically scare animals away. Wildlife is most active at night and after a rain event.

What is the most common wildlife to see?

Antelope ground squirrels, jackrabbits, coyotes, red-tail hawks, ravens, and great basin fence lizards. Animals can sometimes be difficult to spot in the desert. Many are nocturnal or crepuscular (meaning they mainly come out around sunrise and sunset). Some live in burrows in the ground or in cracks in the rocks. Reptiles don't like to come out if it's too cold and mammals don't like to come out if it's too hot. With that said, Joshua Tree has 57 species of mammals, 46 species of reptiles, and over 250 species of migrant and resident birds. So don't forget to look up from the trail!

How do I see a desert tortoise or bighorn sheep?

Timing and luck. Both species are not frequently seen in the park. Desert tortoises are spread throughout the park and are most commonly seen in the springtime. Bighorn sheep are most active in the early morning and evening. They roam in rocky, mountainous areas and sometimes hang out near water sources like Barker Dam. If you see either species, give them plenty of distance and enjoy observing from afar.

Are there rattlesnakes? Should I be scared?

There are seven species of rattlesnakes in the park. However, snake bites and negative interactions with snakes are very rare. If you are getting too close to a rattlesnake, they will usually let you know with their rattle. They are not typically aggressive towards humans unless they feel threatened to defend themselves. Stay on trails and do not place your limbs into holes, under vegetation, or rocky crevices. If you keep your distance, you should be fine. They see you as a predator and not their food source!

Where is a good place to see Joshua trees?

The Northwest portion of the park along Park Boulevard and Keys View Road is a great place to see the Joshua trees. If you have high clearance and four-wheel drive, the Covington Flat area is also an excellent place. If entering or exiting through the southern part of the park, few Joshua trees are found between Cottonwood and Wilson Canyon (near White Tank Campground).

History and Culture

What Native American tribes are traditionally associated with Joshua Tree?

The lands currently managed by Joshua Tree National Park include parts of the traditional homelands of the Maara’yam (Serrano), Nüwü (Chemehuevi), and Kawiya (Cahuilla), and the traditional use area of the Aha Macave (Mohave). Today, these communities are comprised of 15 tribes: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, Cahuilla Band of Indians, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Ramona Band of Cahuilla, Yuhaaviatam of San Manuel Nation, Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, and Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians.

How did the Joshua tree get its name?

According to legend, Mormon pioneers considered the limbs of the Joshua trees to resemble the upstretched arms of Joshua, leading them to the promised land. However, this tale is not substantiated in record and might be more myth than history. Joshua trees have gone by many names, including hunuvat chiy’a, huêlye, dirk pear tree, yucca tree, and dragon yucca. It is currently unknown how the name, Joshua tree, stuck while the others did not. Learn more about Joshua trees.

Last updated: September 3, 2022

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Twentynine Palms , CA 92277-3597

Phone:

760 367-5500

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