Joshua Tree National Park encompasses almost 800,000 acres (of which almost 600,000 are designated wilderness) in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties in California. It was established as a National Monument in 1936, and as a National Park in 1994. It is administered by the National Park Service.
The park is unique in that it straddles two distinct desert types: the low Colorado (a subsection of the Sonoran) and the high Mojave. Additionally, at its westernmost end it extends into the Little San Bernardino mountains, featuring stands of pine and pinyon. Elevation within the park ranges from 900 to over 5,000 feet. The famous Joshua Tree is found in the higher Mojave desert area, while typical Sonoran flora species such as cholla and ocotillo are found in the southern areas. In years with decent rainfall, wildflower blooms can be spectacular. An enormous variety of wildlife calls JTNP home, from bighorn sheep to rattlesnakes to the threatened Mojave desert tortoise. More than 250 bird species have been spotted within the park boundaries as well.
I made a brief visit to the southern part of the park to check out the wildflower action in March, after visiting the northern part last November when I did some hiking and bouldering.
Entry fees vary, depending on your mode of transit: by foot or on two wheels, a 7-day pass is $12, whereas for a passenger vehicle, it’s $25. The America the Beautiful Interagency Pass is accepted. Camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds, all of which have separate fees, or you can camp for free if you hike out at least one mile from a road into the backcountry, in which case, a (free) permit is required.
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