Joshua Tree in November: yes, it does get cold in the desert
Joshua tree National Park is a magical desert oasis. A place for all kinds of people, from hippies high on mushrooms to families doing a grand tour of all the national parks of the southwest. It's no wonder I wanted to see it again after almost 14 years of absence, and it did not disappoint. While I would've rather gone in summer where the wildlife is pleanty and many plants are in bloom, I still had an amazing (if not extremely cold) adventure in the fall. Today, I'd like to give you some key points on camping and hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in November.
I knew I wanted to camp, but getting reservations at national parks is near impossible unless you know where you want to go 6 months in advance. Luckily, we (meaning my partner and dog) were able to snag one perfect weekday camping spot at Jumbo Rocks Campground. This campground was a fantastic stay, at least for someone who is used to primitive camping. They have multiple pit toilets, but no showers or potable water so please bring extra water for you and everyone in your party! You are also allowed to have dogs and campfires, so that was a nice bonus.
Also, the stars at night were absolutely incredible, with a clear view of the milky way and every constellation imaginable.
The weather during the day was freakin' perfect, a cool 65-70 degrees into the afternoon with some scattered cloud cover. Unfortunately, with the sun starting to go down at 4 o'clock in the fall, it starts to get dark and cold really quick. When I say cold, I mean like 30 degrees through the night, and for California that is cold, especially camping in a tent. While the campfire definitely helped, once it went out I was shivering out of control well into the daylight. Unfortunately, so was my dog, he was wrapped up in a blanket the entire evening well into the late morning.
With the freezing cold nights the wildlife viewing is not as spectacular as it would be in the summer, but I think it was still worth it. In the mornings you hear the songbirds begin to sing as they start to fly in to camp and the quail begin to scuttle around. Throughout the day you can see different geckos and lizards, but I didn't personally see much else.
My favorite part of the wildlife of the park is actually the plants. Excluding the pivotal Joshua Tree, the plants in this area are exactly what you would expect from this high desert ecosystem. With a multitude of cacti, desert shrubs and yucca plants, I was in plant nerd heaven! While nothing is in bloom in November, it is still a beautifully diverse area.
All together Joshua Tree National park is definitely worth the visit in November. It's especially great if you're staying in the park overnight. I do however suggest an RV or van over the tent option if you're not prepared for the cold, and also bringing tons of water and firewood. Hopefully this sounds inviting enough to come see the southwest during the less busy season of the year to see the different side of this famous national park.
Until next time,