Joshua Tree National Park

When Is the Best Time

You can visit Joshua Tree National Park year-round. It’s always open and accessible. However, some months are less pleasant due to the temperatures, and other periods can be quite busy. We visited the park during different seasons and talked to local experts about details for each month.

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is in March, April, October, and November. These months have the most pleasant daytime temperatures and almost zero chance of rain. For fewer crowds, visit in October and November, before Thanksgiving.

If you happily visit the park with other tourists, visit in March or April when the weather is excellent and wildflowers bloom. The temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, or rock climbing in the spring and fall.

Other seasons: Even winter and summer can provide unique visiting experiences in Joshua Tree National Park. Between December and March, the nighttime temperatures are cold, but daytime temperatures are still pleasant.

And in the long summer between May and September, the daytime temperatures are dangerously sweltering, but the nighttime temperatures are worth the visit as you can sit under the stars in a t-shirt.

Tip: Scroll/swipe down for our complete season guide, where we provide you with tips for each month!

Opening Hours

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is open night and day every day of the week throughout the year, even on public holidays.

The Joshua Tree Visitor Center is open from 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM daily. Other visitor centers in the park, like Oasis or Cottonwood, open at 8:30 AM.

Tip: Stay one night and you can start early to avoid the crowds. That’s the best way to visit the park: Hotel Deals – Joshua Tree National Park | via booking.com (bookmark the link to save money!)

How Much Time Do You Need?

Most visitors will not need more than a day in Joshua Tree National Park, but for the best experience, it is better to visit for at least two days. If you want to see the night skies of this park, you should consider camping for a night in or near the park in the city of Twentynine Palms.

One Day Visitors

You need one day of driving in Joshua Tree to see most of the main attractions, which are only a few minutes away from the parking lots. Even in the hot summer months, you can take a short walk for a quick photo.

If you are visiting in the summer or only have one day to visit, start your day as early as possible, ideally before sunrise. If you arrive in the park before the visitor center opens at 8:00 a.m., bring your annual National Parks pass (you can buy your pass online a couple of weeks before your trip).

Multiple Day Visitors

For the best experience, we do recommend visiting the park for two or three days. That way, you can drive on the park’s main roads, hike a few trails, and enjoy the exceptional stargazing at night.

Stargazing at Night | Milky Way Viewing

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. Joshua Tree is one of the only three International Dark Sky Parks in California; Death Valley National Park and Anza-Borrego State Park are also worth visiting. The “Dark Sky” certification ensures that you’ll see bright stars like the Milky Way without any of the infamous light pollution of Southern California. On a clear and moonless night, you can view stars from anywhere in the park. Visit the park in September for the annual Night Sky Festival.

Stargazing in the Winter

Winter is the best time to stargaze in Joshua Tree as you will have the most viewing hours due to shorter days and longer nights. For instance, in December, it’s dark after 5:00 p.m.

Top Stargazing Sights by Season

On moonless nights year-round, you can see many remarkable sights. For instance, in the winter, you may spot Sirius and Orion. In the spring, you can see Arcturus and Leo. In the summer, look for the Milky Way or the mid-August wonder, the Perseid Meteor Shower. And in the fall, enjoy Pegasus and the Andromeda Galaxy.

When is the Best Time to Camp in Joshua Tree?

The best time to camp in Joshua Tree National Park is in September and October. During these months, the nighttime temperatures are mild to warm, and there are no strong winds. Because schools have reopened, the park also has fewer visitors, which means more campsite availability. However, the days will be hot through late September, so prepare for summer-like weather during sunlit hours.

When is the Best Season to Avoid Crowds at Joshua Tree?

The best seasons to avoid crowds in Joshua Tree National Park are the winter and summer: June, July, August, December, and January. During the summer, the temperatures are so uncomfortably hot that few people visit, though this is an excellent time to visit the park during the early morning hours. And during the winter, the temperatures are cold, so this is a fantastic time to visit during the daytime hours when the sun is still at its height.

When is the Best Time of Day to Avoid Crowds at Joshua Tree?

The best time of day to avoid crowds in Joshua Tree National Park is in the early morning (like 7:00 a.m.) before the visitor center opens at 8:00 a.m. The visiting crowds often queue at the gate for a park entrance ticket, but you can enter the park and pay when you exit. This way, you will start on trails before the crowds do. Another good time is the late afternoon when many visitors drive back to their campground or city. The hours before sunset provide excellent golden light, long shadows, and fewer crowds.

Is Joshua Tree Safe at Night?

Joshua Tree National Park is as safe as any wilderness area at night; there are always dangers such as wild animals like rattlesnakes, scorpions, and spiders. So when you’re walking at night, take a bright flashlight and watch your steps. However, most people consider the park safe, and the most considerable risk is dehydration, heat-related illnesses, and getting lost. Though you won’t suffer from the heat at night, we don’t recommend that you hike at night unless you are an expert at navigating the wilderness.

Where Can I Camp for Free in Joshua Tree?

There are no free developed campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park, but you can register and prepare for free backpacking in the backcountry. If you aren’t a backpacker, there are free wilderness campsites outside the park managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) near the park (search a map here). All free camping has space limits and typically no bathrooms.

 

 

SEASON GUIDE

Winter

Joshua Tree National Park

  • Visitation/Crowds: Moderate-High
  • Weather: Cooler but still pleasant

December, January, and February offer cold nighttime temperatures but mild and pleasant daytime temperatures. There are 250,000 to 300,000 monthly visitors to Joshua Tree National Park, double the monthly summer visitors. In comparison, the park’s busiest month is March, with 400,000 tourists.

Winter days are excellent for hiking and rock climbing, and in February, desert wildflowers begin to bloom in lower elevations of the Pinto Basin and along the park’s south boundary. Bring winter gear for the evenings, and you’ll enjoy this fantastic off-season time.

Winter visitor quote: ‘Even though it was cold when we visited the park in January, it was a sunny day, dry, and more comfortable than we thought.’

December

With an average high temperature of 62°F (16°C), December in Joshua Tree National Park has pleasant days and chilly nights. You should bring winter clothing like thick jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves for outdoor activities during the morning and at night. If you’re camping overnight, you may consider staying in a nearby hotel instead of a tent, as temperatures regularly drop to freezing at night.

During the day, you should wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt or light sweater. The strong Santa Ana winds mean that you should bring a windbreaker jacket too. Snow is rare, but get additional waterproof layers if you’re lucky to experience this extraordinary phenomenon.

January

There are few places as unique to welcome in the new year than Joshua Tree National Park.

In Joshua Tree National Park, January has an average high temperature of 64°F (17°C). As in December, wear winter layers during the morning and night. If you’re staying overnight, opt to stay at a hotel or in a recreational vehicle (RV) as a night in a tent can be uncomfortably cold.

During the day, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and perhaps even a sweater or light jacket. Though rain is rare, January is one of the wettest months of the year with 0.06 inches of rain, but bring a waterproof jacket in case of this possibility. Snow is rare but also possible.

February

February is the final month of winter, the beginning of wildflower season, and an excellent time to visit.

In Joshua Tree National Park the average high temperature in February is 67°F (19°C). While nights are still cold, the day will feel pleasant, even warm sometimes. February is the wettest month of the year, with an average of 0.13 inches of rain, so bring waterproof layers. 

During the day, you can begin to wear short-sleeved shirts if you are active. However, you’re likely to prefer wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. In the evening and early morning, wear winter layers such as puffer jackets, sweaters, gloves, scarves, and hats. You may still prefer to stay in a hotel than sleep in a tent, as nighttime temperatures are around

Spring

Joshua Tree National Park

  • Visitation/Crowds: Very high, especially in March and April
  • Weather: Pleasant with comfortable temperatures
  • Highlight: Blooming Wildflowers

March, April, and May are some of the most popular tourism times, with over 400,000 park visitors each March. As the weather warms, wildflowers bloom.

Due to the wildflowers and pleasant daytime temperatures, you may experience long lines at the park entrance. So, try to avoid weekends and visit mid-week. It’s also a good idea to arrive at or be in the park early in the morning, so book a nearby hotel or camp overnight.

Wildflowers: While the exact time varies from year to year, march and spring are the peak wildflower blooming months. Check the official NPS Wildflower Viewing site.

Spring visitor quote: ‘Our timing was perfect when we came to visit Joshua Tree National Park in early April. The weather was very nice: It was sunny but not really hot. The wildflowers near Cottonwood Canyon were stunning. Highly recommend visiting during springtime’

March

March in Joshua Tree National Park has an average high temperature of 75°F (23°C). This month days are warm and nights are comfortable, and the days are dry and calm with merely a light breeze. There is a mild chance of rain in March, though the following months are arid. This is an almost perfect month in Joshua Tree National Park.

During the day, you will want to wear short-sleeved shirts, shorts, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. At night, you may wear a light sweater and long pants. There is a notable increase in the average temperatures, approximately 30°F difference. For instance, nighttime temperatures drop to an average low of 46°F (7°C), so you’ll want winter layers such as gloves, scarves, and hats if you’re camping overnight in the park.

April

April is still excellent in the park. The middle month of spring sees temperatures continue to increase.

In Joshua Tree National Park an expected maximum for an April day is 82°F (27°C), with increasingly warm temperatures by the end of the month. The mid-April Easter weekend brings holiday crowds, but even by then, visitors may stay in the shade most of the day. Due to the day’s warmth, you should get at least four liters of water per person per day. 

Nighttime conditions are still relatively cool, with an average low of 51°F (10°C). While you’ll wear hot-weather clothing like short-sleeved shirts and sunscreen during the day, you’ll still need warm clothing and a thick sleeping bag for the early morning and late evening if you are camping overnight.

May

Despite being within the meteorological spring, May is the unofficial beginning of summer in Joshua Tree National Park, with average temperatures peaking at 91°F (32°C) during the day. However, evening temperatures are pleasant, with an average low of 60°F (15°C) during the night. Outdoor camping will be lovely.

Treat your May adventures with the seriousness that any summer day requires. Bring four liters of water per person per day, wear and reapply sunscreen, stay out of the sunshine between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and tell others where you’re going if you get lost on a trail.

May can be a deadly month for park visitors who underestimate the strength of the desert sun, so treat this time with respect. May is also an excellent month to stay in an air-conditioned hotel room during the heat of the day.

Summer

Joshua Tree National Park

  • Visitation/Crowds: Low
  • Weather: Very hot

These four months – June, July, August, and September – are the hottest and most uncomfortable months of the year to visit Joshua Tree National Park. So it is not surprising that they are the least-visited months of the year with 100,000 to 150,000 monthly visitors. For these reasons, some campgrounds are closed in the summer: NPS Joshua Tree Campgrounds

Despite the heat, you can still visit in summer and enjoy the park, particularly at night or in the early morning. You’ll have most places to yourself, but you should avoid daytime activities and stay hydrated and in the shade or air conditioning.

Summer visitor quote: ‘We visited on one of the hotter days in August. It was 100°F that day. We took plenty of water and heeded all warnings. We did a nice driving tour and avoided hiking because of the heat. It was hot, but we had a great time!’

June

A hot and dry month, June marks the start of the meteorological summer in Joshua Tree National Park. Although the average daily maximum temperature reaches 100°F (37°C), nighttime temperatures often fall to a more comfortable 68°F (20°C).

Ensure that you drink approximately four liters of water per day and more if you plan outdoor activities. Wear sunscreen, and take frequent shade breaks to cool off if you hike. Better yet, walk at dawn or after sunset, so long as you have a headlamp.

If camping, you must bring anything that can give you shade, such as a canopy tent or large beach umbrella. Ideally, you’ll want to avoid any daytime sun exposure as this can be a fatal time for unprepared visitors.

July

July is scorching, the hottest month of the year in Joshua Tree National Park. If you visit during this time, expect intense heat throughout the day with little relief, even at night. With an average daily maximum of 104°F (40°C), you must bring plenty of water and drink at least four liters of water per day per person.

You must wear sunscreen for all outdoor activities during the day and take regular shade breaks if you are hiking. If you are staying at a campsite, ensure that you bring shade-providing equipment, such as a canopy tent or a beach umbrella.

The nights in July remain warm as well, with average low temperatures of 75°F (23°C). The chance of rainfall is rare in July but can happen during the monsoon season when thunderstorm downpours occur. So be aware of flash flooding and lightning strikes.

August

August is scorching and another boiling summer month in Joshua Tree National Park. The average daily high temperature is 103°F (39°C). And evenings only drop to around 73°F (22°C). Take the same heat-related precautions as you would in June and July.

Bring water, sunscreen, and shade. Wear hot-weather clothing such as light, loose fabrics, hats, and sunglasses. Remember that August is still the monsoon season with a rare chance of torrential, thunderous downpours. You should bring light-weight waterproof clothing and prepare for flash floods and lightning strikes.

September

Despite the start of meteorological fall, the Joshua Tree summer continues into September, with daily temperatures reaching 97°F (36°C) on average. Late September will become more pleasant in temperature.

September is the turning point between summer and fall, and the evenings begin to cool with an average low temperature of 66°F (18°C). You should still wear hot-weather clothing like shorts, short-sleeved shirts, sunscreen, and hats for the daytime, but evenings will be comfortable. Celebrate the month by attending Joshua Tree’s charming Night Sky Festival (requires tickets)

Fall

Joshua Tree National Park

  • Visitation/Crowds: Moderate
  • Weather: Mostly pleasant with mild temperatures

Although fall officially starts in September, actual fall in Joshua Tree National Park happens in October and November. This season is short and sweet. With comfortable temperatures and fewer tourists, these may be the best months to visit this desert park.

Only Thanksgiving week is busy in the park, but otherwise, you’ll find it an excellent season to visit and enjoy outdoor activities. Those are two great months as temperatures start to cool off. And while there are more visitors than in the summer, the fall months are not as active as the peak spring season.

Fall visitor quote: ‘November is such a great time to visit the park because it’s cool and pleasant, with moderate crowds.’

October

October in Joshua Tree marks the transition between the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The average monthly high temperature is 85°F (29°C), with lower temperatures in late October.

While the daytime temperatures are relatively warm, it will feel distinctly cooler during the night, when the average low temperature is 55°F (12°C). Bring hot-weather clothing and plentiful water with you for the day, as well as a warm sleeping bag and layers such as a light sweater if you are camping overnight.

November

November is one of the most pleasant months in the park, with relatively comfortable temperatures. Many local Southern Californians like to camp here during Thanksgiving week in late November. There is an average high temperature of 71°F (21°C), making this an ideal month for any outdoor activity, including hiking and rock climbing.

However, although daytime temperatures are ideal, ensure that you wear a warm sweater, thick jacket, scarf, hat, and gloves for nighttime and morning activities. This can be a windy month, too, so bring a windbreaker.

 

Nearby Hotel Deals

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Two distinct deserts, the Mojave and Colorado, unite in Joshua Tree National Park. An intriguing diversity of plants and animals have their homes in this fascinating landscape.

 

Is it Worth Going to Joshua Tree?

It is absolutely worth going to Joshua Tree National Park, one of the most popular National Parks for a reason. Not only are there unique cacti, rocks, and spring wildflowers everywhere, but there are also bright, clear skies and warm, romantic desert nights. If you’ve never understood why people like the desert, visit this park, and you’ll also fall for this type of landscape.