Joshua Tree National Park welcomed 2.4 million visitors in 2020, despite temporary closure orders last March, April, and May that kept many visitors at home. The Morongo Basin’s local national park was the 10th most visited national park in the United States last year. Last year was also the first time in seven years that the number of visitors did not set an attendance record. Visitation was up from 2019 during most months that the park was open. Park Superintendent David Smith said Joshua Tree National Park was a place where southern Californians could take refuge and safely recreate. “We need wild places to hike, climb, and even just to look at night skies to help keep us mentally and physically fit during tough time.”
With the on-going pandemic, many people are avoiding long-distance travel. So you’d think that the number of visitors to Joshua Tree National Park would go down. Hilary Sloane says that’s not the case…
Joshua Tree National Park’s off season is during the summer months, but last summer, visitation was up 11% from June to October, and the number of visitors was up 20% last November. A park spokeswoman implied that Californians staying closer to home during the pandemic may be why the number of visitors to Joshua Tree National Park increased last year.
March and April are traditionally the busiest times of the year at Joshua Tree National Park. Based on increased visitation last year during what was typically the slow season, the park expects even more visitors this spring.
The park did not consider data from spring or winter 2020 to exclude months when the park was closed or under a stay at home order. Americans avoiding long distant travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, may explain why the park is experiencing higher than expected visitation. Visitation data was compared to 2018.
March and April are traditionally the busiest times of the year at Joshua Tree National Park. The park expects high visitation this spring based on recent visitation trends. Visitors should anticipate limited parking, full campgrounds, and a line to get into the park. A Park spokesperson said the three best ways to prepare for a visit to Joshua Tree National Park are:
Plan mid-week trips – Joshua Tree is most popular on weekends and holidays, which can mean significant traffic congestion. To avoid crowds, consider planning a trip Monday through Thursday.
Buy a digital pass – Buy your pass ahead of time by logging onto www.recreation.gov. This pass will make entry to the park quicker and easier.
Arrive before 10 a.m. – Avoid entering the park between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and avoid exiting the park around sunset.
The family of a Walnut Creek woman who went missing last June said they were notified Thursday by the county coroner that her remains have been identified. Erika Lloyd, 37, was last heard from on Sunday, June 14, 2020. She told her family she was going to Joshua Tree National Park to “unplug.” Rangers found Lloyd’s vandalized black Honda Accord the next day at Indian Cove campground in the park and left a note on the car about the damage; when they returned later that day, the car was gone. On June 16, a CHP officer found the beat-up car on Shelton Road, east of Twentynine Palms, and had it towed. Lloyd’s family reported her missing June 17, and at that time, learned that her car had been found outside the park. On January 31, a hiker walking near Danby Road found decomposed human remains, about a mile and a half west of Shelton Road.
March and April are traditionally the busiest times of the year at Joshua Tree National Park. Based on increased visitation last year during what was typically the slow season, the park expects even more visitors this spring. Visitors to the national park this spring should expect limited parking, full campgrounds, and a line to get into the park. Managing editor Tami Roleff offers these tips about visiting Joshua Tree National Park…
When planning your trip to Joshua Tree National Park, plan a mid-week trip. The park is most popular on weekends and holidays, which can mean significant traffic congestion. To avoid crowds, consider planning a trip Monday through Thursday.
Buy a digital pass before you arrive at recreation.gov. This pass will make entry to the park quicker and easier.
Arrive at the park entrance before 10 a.m. The busiest times at the park entrance are between 10 and 2, and avoid exiting the park around sunset.
Other tips to prepare for your park visit:
Recreate responsibly no matter what time of year you visit. For the spring, remember to respect the park’s wildflowers by taking only photos. Please walk on trails and never crush vegetation to protect these blooms for years to come.
The park may become drive-through only as the parking lots reach maximum capacity during times of extreme visitation. Visitors may be turned away from popular parking areas.
Be flexible with your plans. The best hike may be the one where parking is readily available.
Visitors can park along many, but not all, roadsides. Never drive over a curb to make a new parking space.
Make a reservation at www.recreation.gov to reserve one of the 350 reservable campsites in the park. If there are no reservation sites available, there likely will not be first-come, first-served sites available when you arrive. Look to one of the private campgrounds adjacent to the park.
Many campgrounds intersect with hiking trails. Campers can hike trails that connect to their campground to avoid busy parking lots.
Find a new favorite spot to explore in the park. There is no one best campsite, trail, or sunset spot.