Joshua Tree National Park 3-, 4- and 5-Day Itinerary

June 5, 2024

California features many beautiful national parks, and one of the most popular in the desert is Joshua Tree. A travel guide can take you through the park and around various locations in Joshua Tree, California. These locations are right beside each other, making it easy to cross to exciting places off your bucket list at once. The town features many shops and restaurants, while the park offers miles of sweeping land, beautiful plants and stunning rock formations.

This Joshua Tree National Park travel guide will provide a solid foundation for travelers looking to fill their days with natural wonders and fun activities.

Sunset over Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park 3-Day Itinerary

A weekend itinerary is perfect for those looking for a three-day escape. There are many activities to do inside and outside of the park, so you will need to consider your must-do items. You likely won’t get through everything in only three days, but you can make lasting memories that encourage you to come back time and time again. Try this Joshua Tree 3-day itinerary:

Day 1 — Visit Pioneertown

When you first get there, take time to get oriented with the drive and nearby attractions. Depending on the time you arrive, you may not have enough time to go on lengthy hikes or rock climbing, but that should not stop you from making the most of your day.

Visiting Pioneertown is a great activity for the first day at Joshua Tree. If you have just gotten to your destination and want to see unique sights without embarking on a hiking adventure, stopping at this site is the way to go. Pioneertown is within the Joshua Tree town and features an old movie and television set showcasing Western life. You can stroll through old town storefronts and enjoy various shows and events on the weekends. For example, you can watch a gun show as local actors revitalize historical characters in the modern era. After enjoying the Western set, you can enjoy a nice meal and a drink at one of the many restaurants.

Day 2 — Spend Time Outdoors

Your second day is the perfect time to maximize your outdoor time. Whether you want to go hiking, rock climbing or walking on one of the many natural trails, there are tons of ways to get your fill of sunshine and fresh air. A Joshua Tree National Park hiking guide might suggest popular spots like Barker Dam or Lost Horse Mine. Barker Dam is a less than 2-mile loop. The first part of this hike will have you navigating through sand, allowing you to get a great workout in while you admire the natural beauty. Lost Horse Mine is a 6.8-mile loop, perfect for spending hours in an outdoor historical site.

Rock climbers can enjoy the main climbing spot in the park — Hall of Horrors. Although the loop is short, being only 6 miles long, this popular spot draws in sightseers and bird-watchers alike. You can spot California wildflowers and a lot of other vegetation throughout your journey.

For those looking for a less intense way to spend the day, there are many walking trails that are just as breath-catching. Hidden Valley Trail is only 1 mile long and offers tons of shade from the sun. The trail begins at a break in a boulder formation, and the path will lead you through a bowl-like interior of rocks.

Even if you want to skip the workout, you can enjoy the natural beauty. A drive to Keys View allows you to see massive juniper trees and a sweeping view of the Coachella Valley. This is an amazing spot to watch the sunset, enjoy a small picnic with your group or stargaze late at night.

Day 3 — Watch the Sunrise and Go Sightseeing

Whether you are heading out early or expanding your trip to the last minute of the day, you should maximize your activities on your last day. Early starters can enjoy the beautiful sunset from a mirage of natural locations. You can also make the drive to several popular tourist spots for new glimpses of wildlife and inspiring scenery. For example, Cholla Cactus Garden is a hot spot for visitors and photographers, especially when the weather is nice.

You can also take another swing through the town to explore some more stops as you leave. Grab breakfast or brunch from multiple locations and make conversation with locals about their favorite last-minute activities. If you are spending one final night at the park, find a nice spot for stargazing as you reminisce on the amazing memories you get to take home.

Cholla Cactus Garden in the early morning light. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree 4-Day Itinerary

An extra day at Joshua Tree lets you expand on your bucket list and get even more adventurous. You can admire more hiking trails, explore various restaurants and spend more time in the town without sacrificing your favorite activities. Your Joshua Tree National Park Itinerary might include some of these activities:

Day 1 — Prepare for the Rest of Your Trip

Spending multiple days away from home means accounting for your food and necessities to avoid interrupting your trip later. Your first day is a great time to get accustomed to your surroundings, make a game plan and grab all the groceries you plan to need for the next few days. Stopping in the town of Joshua Tree allows you to grab the necessities like sunscreen, hats and water bottles while interacting with locals and discovering unique events that might be taking place.

After you gather your bearings, take a trip to Keys View for the first magnificent natural view of your trip. You can also stop for a moderate hike at Lost Horse Mine or a short stroll through Jumbo Rocks if you have the time. These locations can give you a great taste of what you are in for over the next few days. If you want to save the hiking for another day, enjoy a calm evening at Keys View, staying for an outdoor picnic and stargazing.

Day 2 — Get Moving

Days two and three are great for seeing as many sights as possible through some of the many hiking, walking and rock climbing trails. Start your day early and watch the sunrise to get the most out of your time. Pack a lunch, plenty of water and snacks to give you energy throughout the day. Choose a moderate or intense hiking trail, like Lost Palms Oasis. This trail is more than 7 miles long, and you get to explore the vast wilderness along the journey. The path is easy to follow so you can enjoy several hours of fun here. If you want to try rock climbing, Hall of Horrors is the perfect spot to scramble over boulders for a fun and intense experience.

After your hike, take a short walk to Cholla Cactus Garden. This spot is great for watching the sunset and enjoying an evening meal with your friends or family. If you did not pack food for after your hike, take a trip into town and enjoy one of the many restaurants to fill up for the night.

Day 3 — Explore New Sights

Day three is the perfect time to explore Bighorn Pass and Queen Valley roads. Following these dirt paths, you can venture deeper into the trees. If possible, start your trek near Barker Dam in the morning so you can see the rocks behind Barker Dam glow in the rising morning light. Off the two roads, you can enjoy a 2.5-mile hike on Lucky Boy Vista, a beautiful off-the-beaten-path adventure. These dirt roads are another amazing place to watch the sunset. Whether you hang around all day or venture into town for dinner and return as the night creeps in, the sight is well worth it. If you are feeling even more adventurous, stay out to stargaze for a magnificent desert view.

Day 4 — Go Beyond the Park

Your last day on the itinerary for Joshua Tree National Park offers some room for spur-of-the-moment activities. Consider a hike in the morning to get the most out of your day. For a shorter hike through vast desert fields, try Forty-nine Palms. If you visit at the right time, you can see tons of wildflowers on the hillsides, a beautiful sight to end your trip with.

Make sure you spend some time outside of the park, too. The town of Joshua Tree offers many unique events, and you can easily fill up with a bite to eat from many local restaurants. Cafes, brunch or dinner spots and grab-and-go locations offer any possibility for grub you might need. From a nice sit-down to a quick bite before you hit the road, you can get your fill and make lasting memories. Depending on the day you are leaving, you might even be able to take part in activities like a gun show at Pioneertown, where you can watch historical events unfold before your eyes.

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

5-Day Itinerary for Joshua Tree

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park for five days is the perfect opportunity to explore as many trails as possible without rushing through your activities. This excursion is enough time to spend ample hours in the town and in the park. Considering this schedule for your Joshua Tree National Park travel guide:

Day 1 — Start With the Classics

When you first arrive at Joshua Tree, it can be helpful to stop by the visitor center and get an idea of popular tourist spots and local recommendations. The visitor center will allow you to load up on water, maps and make reservations for some activities. This is a great day to enjoy natural scenery as you drive Park Boulevard into Hidden Valley. This spot is pretty popular, so taking the chance to wander the short trails at Skull Rock, Barker Dam or Cap Rock might be the best way to wrap up the day. Keep things simple by preparing for the days ahead and taking in the views near you. Enjoy an outdoor picnic, visit a local restaurant or stay up for stargazing before your adventure begins.

Day 2 — Plan a Day Around the Keys

Keys Ranch and Keys View offer so much fun that it is worth spending a day exploring them. You can make a reservation for a guided tour at Keys Ranch to explore this historic homestead. The preserved site is near Hidden Valley, and the hour-and-a-half excursion is a great way to kick things off. After you finish the tour, you’ll be in the perfect spot to start a hike at Wall Street Mill.

After spending time admiring the natural beauty and wildlife, you can ease into your afternoon or evening with a trip to Keys View. This spot is about twenty minutes from the ranch and provides a fantastic view of the Coachella Valley. You can plan a picnic at this overlook or spend a few hours with friends and family before heading into the town for a nice dinner to wrap up the night.

Day 3 — Get Intense for Epic Views

Your third day is prime time for an intense hike or rock-climbing excursion. Some of the most epic views at Joshua Tree Park are accessible from the various hiking trails around. Ryan Mountain, Lost Horse Mine and Willow Hole Trail offer scenic views and historic ventures.

For a less-frequented hike, you can venture to the High View Nature Trail. This spot will help you work up a sweat with a lot of upward movement, but the view at the top is incredible, offering a panorama that will take your breath away.

Rock climbers can try the Hall of Horrors, which is a slot canyon. Despite the ominous name, this location runs a loop nearly half a mile long, and you can scramble over the massive boulders. This adventure is thrilling, and the stunning views make reaching the top even more exciting. There are also two other rock clusters near the Hall of Horrors, so you can continue exercising your mind and body if you have yet to get your fill.

Day 4 — Rest up With Some Sightseeing

After an intense day of walking, hiking and climbing, day four is a great time to catch your breath and enjoy sights you haven’t reached yet. Start early by watching the sunset at Turtle Rock. A desert sunrise is a sight like no other, and the soft glow around the boulders and plants is a sight you cannot explain. After admiring the morning glory, you’ll be in the ideal spot to head to Hidden Valley Nature Trail for an easy 1-mile loop.

Find a scenic spot for a nice picnic and watch the sunset at Cholla Cactus Garden for an iconic view you will not want to miss. This trail is a quarter of a mile and features a walking platform so you can easily navigate the grounds. The easy walk and beautiful views make this the best way to end your night.

Day 4 — Have Fun With the Locals

This Joshua Tree National Park guide ends your trip with some local activities. From dining in local eateries to participating in fun events, there are many ways to enjoy the local culture on your last day.

Check out Pioneertown for a historic venture into the west. This location was a set for old Western films and shows, and you can still walk around and admire it today. On the weekends, you can catch some live events, and you can stop by one of two Western-themed eateries for a bite to eat.

You can also venture to other spots like the Crochet Museum or the Noah Purify Desert Art Museum as you head away from the park. Although these spots might not have been at the top of your list at the start of your trip, a five-day staycation offers excellent opportunities for seeing these unique sites and many more in the town and beyond.

Book Your National Park Stay at Kampgrounds of America

KOA can be your camping in Joshua Tree National Park guide. Whether you are a first-time camper or a seasoned traveler, KOA can be the relaxing spot that makes your trip as rewarding and fun as possible. With multiple ways to stay, including tent camping sites, comfortable cabin campingextended stay camping options and more, you can find a KOA location to make your next trip the best one yet.

KOA has nearly 500 locations across the United States and more than 25 campgrounds in California alone. If you’re looking to stay near Joshua Tree National Park, check out the Palm Springs / Joshua Tree KOA Holiday. Book your stay at KOA to discover the KOA difference.

About the Author: Kampgrounds of America

Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

Enjoy a Greater Slice of the Great Outdoors

Discover even more room to enjoy outdoor living with a KOA Patio Site®. These spacious sites offer your very own patio equipped with outdoor furniture and the perfect place for a fire. Wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee with the sunrise and spend an evening relaxing with family and friends.

Learn More