Joshua Tree National Park, 794,000 acres of desert wilderness – where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts merge in California near Palm Springs and Palm Desert. In this section of the world, relentless sun shapes the landscape and its creatures. Though there are beautiful cacti displays all over the park, like the Cholla Cactus Garden, the main attraction is the grove of Joshua Trees. This Yucca Tree species was given the name “Joshua Tree” by Mormon settlers passing through the area who thought the twisted trees looked as if they were reaching up to the heavens to pray as a biblical character Joshua did. Joshua Trees are almost entirely confined to region of the world.
The Joshua Trees are certainly the star of the park but what is also a spectacular sight are the rock formations, like Skull Rock. Throughout Joshua Tree National Park are enormous rocks that have been carved by wind and sand for over thousands of years. Much can be seen from the road, which takes about 3 hours to go through the park (not including side roads).
There are four accessible hiking trails. One is Bajada All-Access and is located just one-half mile from the southern entrance to the park and is a .25 mile (.4 km) loop. Another is Cap Rock and is a .4 mile (.6 km) loop located on the west side entrance. Keys View has a spectacular view of the park as well as a .25 mile (.4 km) loop. It is approximately 45 minutes from Cap Rock.
Finally, the Oasis of Mara is a .5 mile (.8 km) loop. The trail starts at the Oasis Visitor Center, which is a park museum with archeology, geology, zoology, botany exhibits and more. These trails have been designed for wheelchair access and are constructed to be almost entirely flat with a smooth pathway of finely crushed granite rock. Other points of interests usually have handicapped parking so you can at least get out to take some pictures. Sometimes the ground’s surface was smooth enough to explore a little. At noted attractions occasionally there will be accessible restrooms; otherwise, look for campsites all along the main road.
During the months of October and May, the Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place. It’s a weekend of two stages and lots of performers, none overlapping so you get to see them all. There is handicap parking & restrooms and a platform could be setup upon request. The festival stages are set up with good sight lines (slight slope down to the stages), and being a small festival, it is easy to maneuver around. Keep in mind, however, that it is still a natural environment. Most of the ground is hard packed dirt but some areas are sandy, so be careful not to get stuck. Also watch out for small rocks and scrubs.
The town of Joshua Tree is nothing to get excited about. It’s a very rural and rugged little town with no known tourist attractions. The one main road is a one stop shop for everything: post office, gas stations, restaurants, etc. There are hotels in the area that I’m sure have some tasty restaurants but my party opted into the local experience and had lunch a diner called, Country Kitchen-Home Cooking. Though breakfast is the specialty, Country Kitchen-Home Cooking serves classic diner food along with tasty Asian dishes like Cambodian noodles. This place is nothing fancy but my party was looking for something quick and it hit the spot. Heads up that only cash is accepted but there’s a gas station nearby with an ATM and no handicapped parking either; you will need to park on the street but there is a ramp into the diner. However, there is an accessible restroom.