Even before the pandemic, I sought to avoid people as much as possible – especially in nature. Over the years, I’ve developed some tips and tricks to avoiding crowds and during our recent visit to Joshua Tree, I put them to the test!
>> Please respect nature by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.
Here are my tips on how to avoid crowds in Joshua Tree National Park.
Try a not-so-popular activity
Since hiking and rock climbing are the most popular activities in Joshua Tree, we decided to try something else when we visited to avoid crowds – we biked!
We brought our road bikes and rode on the park’s paved road. While there were bumps and sandy shoulders, the road was relatively smooth and made for a great ride. We started our ride early Saturday morning and didn’t pass any other bikers. Plus, since we were visiting in January there weren’t as many cars.
If we had mountain bikes, we would have taken advantage of Joshua Tree’s backcountry roads.
Take advantage of the backcountry
Speaking of backcountry roads, an amazing way to avoid crowds in Joshua Tree is to explore the backcountry. Since visitors are allowed to go anywhere in the park, you don’t have to stick to the popular trails and roads.
While you don’t need a permit for day hiking in the backcountry, to backpack or camp, you must park and register at a backcountry registration board. There is no fee to do this but be sure to Leave No Trace!
Choose your season wisely
While spring offers wildflowers and fall offers soft autumn light, winter and summer are the best times to visit if you want to avoid the crowds.
We visited in January and being from Phoenix, the weather was comparable and very moderate. While the mornings and evenings were chilly, the sunny afternoons were warm enough to wear shorts and sandals.
Followed by winter, summer is the least popular season in Joshua Tree due to the intense daytime temperatures (often over 100F). While there are limited crowds and it will be easier to score a campsite, proceed with caution… and lots of water!
Skip the popular trails
While there are a ton of resources that list the “best Instagram spots in Joshua Tree” or the hikes you have to do – there is no one best trail, place to watch the sunset, or campsite. Joshua Tree is so massive that it’s easy to find a new favorite spot to explore!
When we visited, we were flexible with our plans and choose the hikes based on how full the parking lots were. For us, the best places to explore were where there were no other cars!
Buy your pass ahead of time
To completely avoid contact with others, buy your recreation pass ahead of time! Getting your pass online lets you skip the line of cars at the entrance of the park and eliminates interaction with the park rangers. I would also suggest downloading or printing a map of the park ahead of your visit.
Avoid arriving at the park between 10 am and 2 pm and leave well before or after sunset to avoid crowds.
Holidays and weekends are the busiest times to visit so consider adjusting your schedule for a more relaxed visit.
Be mindful of where you stay and enter the park. The main entrance is in the town of Joshua Tree and can have long entrance lines. We stayed in an amazing, secluded Airbnb in Twentynine Palms and didn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes to get into the park.
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A final note:
If you are going out in nature right now, especially National Parks, please take all the proper precautions. Quarantine before, get a negative COVID test, and quarantine after. Pack all of your food so you don’t have to make any stops and wear a face mask at all times!
Are there any tips I missed about avoiding crowds in Joshua Tree National Park or do you have any questions about your upcoming trip? Let me know in the comments. And if you want to keep up with my adventures check out my other blogs on National Parks (like Yosemite and Bryce Canyon) and follow me on Instagram!