Five Ways To Enjoy Joshua Tree With Your Family
Joshua Tree National Park, located two hours from Los Angeles by car, is a truly unique destination. The park brings together two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, which creates alien-looking landscape like nothing you or your kids have ever seen. It's a great place to visit, especially in the spring and fall when the weather isn't too hot or too cold, and there's plenty to do with your family in the area.
Picnic at Hidden Valley
Your little ones may not be up for all the desert hikes around Joshua Tree, but Hidden Valley is a good spot for a family visit. Park, and then walk about an hour to the picnic site, where there are toilets and picnic tables available. It's a leisurely stroll rather than a strenuous hike, but you'll want to bring lots of water if it's hot outside. Snap some photos and let your kids climb on the unique-looking rock formations before lunch.
Pioneertown, CA, is an Old West town build in the early '40s as a location for filming movies and TV shows. You can still walk down its "Mane" Street, and the kids will love the mock gunfights that get reenacted once a week. There are shops, a bowling alley and some old Western scenery to explore. After checking out the town, grab lunch at Pappy & Harriet's (53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, CA), a rustic eatery with daily live music.
Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden
Another simple hike for kids in Joshua Tree is the walk to Cholla Cactus Garden (Pinto Basin Road, Joshua Tree, CA). The trail to the cactus garden, a natural concentrated growth of human-sized cacti, is short and easy. There are lots of informational signs along the way, so you and your young ones can learn about the plants as you go. Grab a family selfie before taking off. And remember: Don't touch the cacti!
Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tram
Palm Springs is a 45-minute drive from Joshua Tree, but it's worth it to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tram (1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA). It's the world’s largest rotating tram car, traveling two and a half miles along the cliffs of Chino Canyon. Your kids will love the views, especially as the tram cars slowly rotate during the ride. At the top there are two restaurants, observation decks and a natural history museum. Tickets for children ages 3 to 10 are $16.95 and for adults, $25.95. The tram is open in any weather, but visitors should be aware that it's typically 30 to 40 degrees F colder at the top than in town.
Become a Junior Ranger
Like many National Parks around the U.S., Joshua Tree National Park offers its young visitors an opportunity to become a Junior Ranger. Pick up the Junior Ranger booklet at the park entrance stations and visitor centers, and then complete a series of activities during your visit. At the end of the journey, kids can share their answers with a park ranger and receive an official Junior Ranger badge. It's intended for kids ages 5 to 13, but all ages are invited to participate.