Joshua Tree Weekend USA National Park

Joshua Tree in December: 8 Fun Things to do on a Joshua Tree Winter Getaway

I was so excited about a weekend getaway to Joshua Tree in December. I have probably been to Palm Desert more than 50 times and had never been to Joshua Tree National Park.

For most people, Joshua Tree is a day trip from Palm Springs but when you see all the fun things to do in Joshua Tree, you’ll want a whole weekend.

This is the perfect National Park winter trip because it’s warm during the day and a little chilly at night. Also in Joshua Tree in winter, the sky gets dark earlier allowing plenty of time to stargaze in this Dark Sky Park.

Visiting Joshua Tree is an easy drive from Los Angeles. It’s also a great stop on a California Road Trip. This travel guide will give you all the details you need for a romantic getaway, weekend with friends or cool family trip in the 11th most visited US National Park.

Joshua Tree Weekend Guide

Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree

Our trip to Joshua Tree in December made us love this place as a winter trip. But there are reasons to choose Joshua Tree all year long.

Joshua Tree in Spring and Fall are Peak Season

That’s the best time for weather but it’s also the busiest. March-May will see beautiful Spring wildflowers. If you don’t want to experience the crazy crowded times, pay attention to Spring break, Easter vacation, and music festivals when doing your planning. October and November are when summer temperatures start to cool down and is great for hiking.

Joshua Tree in Winter

Winter has dreamy daytime temps but it gets chilly around sundown and into the 30-40s overnight. If you are super lucky, you might see the one day that gets snow. To me, winter is the perfect time to go to have great Joshua Tree weather and visit one of the best west coast national parks with no crowds.

Joshua Tree in Summer is Crazy Hot

Summer is extremely hot (typically between 100-120°) however, if you are interested in astrophotography and getting those cool Milky Way shots, you need to go around the time of a New Moon between April – August. I’ve seen websites that say nighttime temperatures are nice during summer but I disagree.

Joshua Tree Weekend Getaway

Joshua Tree in Winter – The Weather in December

Most people have questions about what to expect for Joshua Tree winter weather. Truthfully our weekend in Joshua Tree in December was warm (60s) during the days. Perfect for doing anything active. Right as the sun started to go down it got chilly enough for a jacket but it wasn’t uncomfortable.

Overnight, it dropped down to the 40s and it was chilly when we started in the morning. Snow is a possibility, however only 2 days of rain are expected for Joshua Tree December weather so I would think it’s unlikely. There was no rain or snow for us.

December is not the coldest or wettest part of the winter in California so the weather was what we expected – sunny days and a little chill at night.

RELATED POST: Best Places to Visit in California in December

Joshua Tree Winter

Getting to Joshua Tree

There are actually 3 gates to enter Joshua Tree depending on the direction you are coming from. The main entrance is the West Entrance in Joshua Tree. The North Entrance is in nearby in Twentynine Palms. You will typically arrive in one entrance and depart out the other. The South Entrance is in Cottonwood Springs.

The lines at the Joshua Tree Entrance can be crazy long on the weekend so I suggest using the Twentynine Palms entrance. The cost ($30 for a 7 day pass at the time of this post) is listed on the National Park website. There are also free entrance days for all the US National Parks.

  • From Los Angeles: Always depending on traffic, it’s about a 3 hour drive from Los Angeles to the Joshua Tree main entrance or another 15 minutes to the Twentynine Palms entrance.
  • From San Diego, it’s about a 3 hour drive to the Cottonwood Springs Entrance.
  • If you are flying in, the airport in Palm Springs to Joshua Tree is approximately 1 hour..

RELATED POST: How to Get a National Park Pass for Free


Best Things To Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree Arch Rock

1. Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in December is Ideal

From easy loop trails to difficult hikes with big views, there are multiple Joshua Tree hikes with your name on it. My favorite was an easy 1.3 mile loop called Barker Dam that had a little bit of everything. Another great hike with a big payoff at sunset is the one to Arch rock shown above. From the White Tank Campground, it’s 0.3 miles. You can easily climb up to check it out.

One of the best reasons to visit Joshua Tree in December is the hiking. The weather is perfect during the day with temps in the 60s and the chance of rain is slim.

Joshua Tree Winter Sunset

2. Viewing the Joshua Tree Winter Sunsets

This could honestly be a post filled with sunset view points. Keys View is probably the most popular place to catch those gorgeous hues. It feels like the sky stretches out over the entire Coachella Valley.

The parking gets crowded so get there a little early. Otherwise, you can see beautiful sunsets near Barker Dam, Arch rock and truly anywhere in the whole park.

Sunsets are beautiful all year long. The only thing nice about Joshua Tree in winter is that the sunsets happen at a natural time when you might be ready to leave the park instead of having to wait around.

Joshua Tree Weekend Skull rock

3. Joshua Tree Has Amazing Rock Climbing

No matter what your skill level, this place is great for rock climbing. You can go with full climbing gear or scramble up easier climbs by yourself. I overheard someone saying it was like a park for adults and I totally felt the same. Skull rock (above) is fun to check out. Around the park, there are areas for more serious climbers.

Joshua Tree Yucca

4. Yucca Trees (AKA Joshua Trees)

I remember seeing yucca trees on the side of the road heading to Mammoth when I was little and wondering why they were so special. But the large Joshua trees are majestic and can be upwards of 40 feet tall. The average lifespan of these tress is 150 years but can last as long as 300-500 years!

When you see how many there are in the park, you’ll definitely understand why they are protected and amazing.

Jumping Cholla Cactus

5. The Cholla Cactus Garden & Jumping Cactus

The Cholla Cactus Garden is an especially great place to see cactus and cactus flowers in Spring. Pictured above are the Teddy Bear cactus plants. They look kind of cute but the cactus needles are known for jumping right on you when you walk by so be careful not to bump into them.

Have you ever heard of a Jumping Cholla Cactus? They look like the willow tree version of a cactus and they have jumping capabilities so they can duplicate. Gotta love Mother Nature! Pets are not allowed on the Cholla Cactus trail for good reason.

Joshua Tree Star Gazing

6. Joshua Tree in December is Perfect for Star Gazing

This is the place to come to see a gorgeous star filled night sky. Since it gets dark early in December, you’ll have plenty of time for star gazing. Download the free Star Walk App and you’ll have the best time identifying constellations.

If you are an expert or novice astrophotographer, this is definitely the place to come practice your craft. As an official International Dark Sky Park, you are guaranteed an ideal environment for seeing stars.

Joshua Tree Leopard Dress

7. Photography

Joshua Tree is big draw for fashion photography so we used the chance to get a few quick Instagram photos. If you are a nature photographer, you can capture amazing shots. The color, lighting and landscape diversity make it a dreamy spot to take pics. It also makes a great backdrop for family photos.

Jopshua Tree Camping

8. Camping in Joshua Tree

There are multiple campgrounds and places to camp if you love camping. If you don’t, there are some great Airbnb properties that will make your Joshua Tree weekend that much better. I’ll be honest, I’m a glamper, not a camper but here is a list of campgrounds for those of you looking to pitch a tent.

If you are visiting Joshua Tree in December or winter, it will be really cold at night for camping.

  • Hidden Valley Campground
  • White Tank Campground
  • Belle Campground
  • Jumbo Rocks Campground
  • Ryan Campground

Where to Eat In Joshua Tree

Most of the restaurants in Joshua Tree town are really easy to find on Twentynine Palms Highway, the main road. This area is very low key with a mix of organic and fun hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Just be prepared for a wait especially if you are there during high season.

If you are just coming to Joshua Tree for the day, specifically a Saturday between 8am-1pm, you can enjoy the Farmer’s market. Make sure you stop by the Joshua Tree Coffee Company Booth and grab a bag of their delicious organic coffee.

Natural Sisters Cafe Joshua Tree

The Natural Sisters Cafe – We went here for lunch because it was the first place we saw and it was soooo delicious!! It’s a vegetarian restaurant that is wildly popular. You can count on waiting in line, which is totally worth it. Our lunch was so good, we may have to go back to Joshua Tree just to eat there again.

Crossroads Cafe – We’re not big breakfast people so we didn’t go here but it’s a popular spot. Also open for lunch and dinner too.

Pie for the People Pizza di Circo – Had delicious pizza and a packed restaurant to prove it. We got our food to go because we were too hungry to wait for a table.

La Copine – Foodies, make sure you stop at this delectable eatery in Yucca Valley. It’s recommended to make reservations ahead of time.

La Casita Nueva – Also in Yucca Vally is this delicious Mexican restaurant and you’re in Southern California so Mexican food is kind of a requirement. You can also drink a Cadillac Margarita and start singing karaoke if so inclined.


Where to Stay for your Joshua Tree Weekend Getaway

Joshua Tree has some chain hotels and lost of cool vacation rentals. You can also say in an amazing boutique hotel in Palm Springs and do a day trip to Joshua Tree.

Unfortunately, we booked at the last minute and had to stay in one of the chain hotels. The Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inn & Suites are both really decent if you end up in the same predicament.

For camping, check the National Park Website. 

All that said, with some advance planning you can stay somewhere really cool in Joshua Tree. Here are our recommendations.

Autocamp Joshua Tree

Autocamp Joshua Tree

This is the newest Autocamp location when you can stay in an Airstream trailer complete with a bedroom and amazing bathroom. Each trailer has a personal patio with a fire pit, chairs and outdoor dining. They also have a clubhouse with a bar and multiple areas to hang out. We stayed at Autocamp in Yosemite and loved it. Check rates

The Invisible House Joshua Tree Weekend Getaway

Invisible House Joshua Tree – SkyScraper with Pool

If you want a totally unique cool place to stay, this 3 bedroom, gorgeous modern villa with an indoor pool is it. Check rates and see photos of the interior.

The Habibi House Joshua Tree

The Habibi House Joshua Tree

An upscale boho vacation home with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. Check rates

Joshua Tree Green Oasis

Joshua Tree Green Oasis

Joshua Tree Green Oasis has a variety of accommodations that range from studio size to two bedrooms. Check rates

Joshua Tree Made in the Shade

Made in the Shade

Made in the Shade is a sunny 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom vacation home with a hot tub, full kitchen and comfy beds. Check rates


FAQs About Visiting Joshua Tree

How Many Days Should I Spend in Joshua Tree?

A weekend is the perfect amount of time. It will give you a chance to do all of the activities that are available.

Can you do Joshua Tree in a Day?

You can definitely do a great Joshua Tree day trip from Palm Springs or even Los Angeles but if you are planning to camp or star gaze, you definitely need 1-2 nights.

What is the best time to visit Joshua Tree?

Avoid the summer months unless you are going to see the Milky Way at night. Peak season is Spring and Fall with the best weather. Winter also has nice weather that gets chilly at night and has less people.

Which Joshua Tree entrance is best?

The North Entrance in Twentynine Palms has much shorter lines. If you are coming from the south, the Cottonwood Springs Entrance is best. Only use the main West Entrance if you are going first thing in the morning.

If you have any questions or need any further travel tips for Joshua Tree, feel free to put questions in the comments below. Our Joshua Tree weekend was the perfect amount of time to relax, unwind and feel like we had a mini vacation. If you are looking for another California weekend getaway, definitely check out Ventana Glamping in Big Sur. There’s nothing like camping in the middle of a redwood forest that is part of the gorgeous California coastline.

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58 Comments

  • Reply
    Laurel
    October 27, 2020 at 2:47 am

    Great suggestions. In December I’m going for first time. In the park are there parking lots at the trails or can you just park on side of the road?

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      October 27, 2020 at 4:42 am

      There are parking lots at the more popular places and small areas you can pull off to the side everywhere. December is such a great time to go. Bring something warm for the early morning and evening.

  • Reply
    Zorica
    January 6, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Great post.
    xx

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      January 8, 2019 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you Zorica! Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    Corina
    January 5, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    this place look so beautiful and I am thinking to add this in my traveling list. Thanks for giving so much details.
    xo Corina

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      January 5, 2019 at 9:53 pm

      I’m glad you liked it Corina! It is a terrific place to visit!

  • Reply
    Kat
    January 4, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    This is absolutely amazing 😍 Thanks so much for sharing your trip and these beautiful photos 👏🏼😘

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      January 4, 2019 at 8:23 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it Kat! Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    Ruth Josey
    January 3, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    What a wonderful place to visit! I’ve never been but definitely want to go now. And those Airbnb Airstreams…how fun! I love the photos – they’re perfectly composed and your style is fabulous! I really love the embroidered skirt and OTK boots.

    Ruth

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      January 4, 2019 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks so much Ruth!! I love those airstreams too.

  • Reply
    Tammy Caciola
    December 23, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    I haven’t been there since I was a kid! I need to go back again for sure! Loved your fun outfits!
    xx Tammy

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 26, 2018 at 8:35 pm

      Thank you! Hope you get a chance to visit again.

  • Reply
    Mariann Yip
    December 23, 2018 at 4:36 am

    These pictures look so amazing and Joshua Tree looks like a great place to travel to! Happy Holidays! 🙂

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 26, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Thank you! It’s a great weekend getaway or add on to a Palm Springs weekend!

  • Reply
    Michelle Tucker
    December 20, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    Great post! So full of great information. I love Joshua tree. We went camping there once many years ago. The night time sky there is amazing.

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 21, 2018 at 2:06 am

      Thank you! That must have been so pretty to see all the stars camping there!

  • Reply
    Yasmin
    December 19, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    This is such a great weekend getaway! I’d love to visit here.

    xx Yasmin

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 26, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      I hope you get a chance to visit. It’s really terrific!!

  • Reply
    Kelli
    December 19, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    These photos just look so magical! Your blog is such an inspiration!!!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 19, 2018 at 10:54 pm

      Thank you so much Kelli!

  • Reply
    Gemma
    December 18, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Wow what a great place! I would love to go there.

    Gemma x

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      I hope you get a chance to Gemma. There are so many great places to see in LA and the surrounding area.

  • Reply
    Radi
    December 18, 2018 at 7:47 am

    Love these beautiful shots and your leopard dress!
    Got to make the drive someday.

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Thank you Radi! I hope you get a chance to visit. You’ll love it!

  • Reply
    Vicki
    December 18, 2018 at 12:25 am

    I love Joshua Tree and heading back there hopefully in the spring!! Did you have a chance to check out Pioneer Town nearby? It’s really cute!!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      We’ll also be back in Spring and will definitely check out Pioneer Town. Thanks for the tip!

  • Reply
    Nancy
    December 17, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    WOW! These photos are stunning! I like your mix of animal print and texture.

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Thank you Nancy. The animal print and fur felt so perfect for each other.

  • Reply
    Missy May
    December 17, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Oh how I wish I lived nearer. I would love to visit this place. I love hiking and just enjoy nature. There’s not enough nature where I live. Ha!! You look stylish and wonderful in these outfits too. Great ensemble and shots. 🙂

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Thank you Missy! California has some terrific hiking that makes it a nature lover’s paradise. Glad you liked the post. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Mira Tolvanen
    December 17, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    Looks amazing! That place is so dreamy!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      Thank you. Joshua Tree is pretty dreamy 🙂

  • Reply
    Katha
    December 17, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    The pictures are wonderful and thank you for sharing your tips and experiences with us.
    Have a great day,
    Katha

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      Thank you for reading Katha! Glad you liked it.

  • Reply
    Amy Arnold
    December 17, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Amazing photos! That hotel looks so neat!

    Amy Ann

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Thank you. Airbnb has some great properties in Joshua Tree!

  • Reply
    Layla
    December 17, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Oh my Gosh! Wow! How amazing are your photos – this looks incredible and you look beautiful too!!

    Wow, all I can say is wow to the photos! 🙂

    Hope you’re well and hope you’re having a wonderful start to the week – cannot wait to see more posts from you!

    Layla x

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      That’s so sweet. Thank you for reading all hope you’re having a great week too!

  • Reply
    Lovely Amusan
    December 17, 2018 at 8:24 am

    The pictures look amazing as do you darling, and the park is spectacular!

    xoxo
    Lovely

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 2:50 pm

      Thank you! It was truly a great getaway.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    December 17, 2018 at 4:55 am

    This looks really fun! Will definitely put this to my adventure bucket list. Thanks dear!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Glad you liked it! I bet your adventure bucket list has some great places.

  • Reply
    Babita
    December 17, 2018 at 3:56 am

    O I love this! Love that embroidered skirt and jumper look you wore! This sounds you had an amazing time in Joshua Tree! I love how the rooms look so decorative and spacious!
    I have been in quick trip this month too! 🙂

    Xoxo Babita

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 2:52 pm

      Thank you! I love that skirt too. The Airbnb places have great decor. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    gabi
    December 16, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    The pictures are amazing and i love the outfits, super aesthetic darling.

    xGabi

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you Gabi!

  • Reply
    Yvonne
    December 16, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Love all your outfits and interior decor! The food looks super yummy too!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 18, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you! Love the whole Joshua Tree aesthetic and that food was so delish!

  • Reply
    Simone
    December 15, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Joshua Tree looks picture perfect! The rocks and scenery are so beautiful, I definitely need to visit once. The trailer looks so cool, I would want to stay there for the night.

    xx Simone

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 15, 2018 at 9:06 pm

      The park is truly beautiful and for people that travel from far away it can be combined with a trip to Los Angeles, Palm Springs (Coachella) and/or an overall trip to California. I love those trailers too. Thanks for reading!!

  • Reply
    Kara
    December 15, 2018 at 1:54 am

    The photos you took are beautiful! I love that leopard print dress outfit. I went to Joshua Tree national park a few years ago but I didn’t spend too much time there. This makes me want to go back and explore more!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 15, 2018 at 9:24 pm

      I love that Kara. My goal is always to share the exciting things I see/do so that other people can enjoy amazing experiences. Joshua Tree was so much cooler than I expected it to be. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Ziba Lennox
    December 14, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    Jenifer, you give me wanderlust! Thanks for taking us with you!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 15, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!!

  • Reply
    Angela
    December 14, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    Cool!! Adding this to my travel list! those pics in the desert are beyond beautiful!

    Angela

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 14, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      Thanks so much. I think you’ll love Joshua Tree!

  • Reply
    Amanda Vaughn
    December 14, 2018 at 7:10 am

    I love all the details! I am going to Palm Springs in March and now I’m thinking I should extend my trip a few days to visit Joshua Tree. This would be a perfect wrap up for my work trip!

    • Reply
      Jenifer
      December 14, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      It’s definitely worth an extra day and you can just stay in your Palm Springs hotel.

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