Epic Los Angeles to Joshua Tree Road Trip Itinerary

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Going on a road trip from the bustling streets of Los Angeles to the serene landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park offers a seamless blend of urban energy, resort vibes, and the raw beauty of the desert. I found this Los Angeles to Joshua Tree road trip to give such a kaleidoscope of sceneries!

During my road trip, I loved uncovering the charm of each destination, the city lights of LA, the resort oasis of Palm Springs, and the desert retreat of Joshua Tree. I can’t wait to take you on this curated adventure that captures the essence of Southern California’s diverse landscapes!

So, fasten your seatbelts as I revisit the highlights and unveil the magic of this unique LA to Joshua Tree road trip!

Joshua Tree National Park Road Trip Itinerary

Los Angeles to Joshua Tree Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival at LAX and Drive to Palm Springs

Arrive at LAX and grab your rental car. Compare prices for your dates here! Hitting the open road from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, It’s hard not to savor the anticipation of the adventures that lay ahead! The drive, spanning approximately 110 miles and taking around 2 hours, provides a scenic transition from the urban sprawl of LA to the resort haven of Palm Springs.

In-n-Out Pit Stop

Fueling your appetite by making an essential pit stop at In-n-Out Burger—an iconic Californian experience! I am not much of a burger person, but something about theirs with the sauce just hits different.

It’s fast, it’s cheap, and it’s delicious! What’s not to love? You’ll pass a handful on your drive so you can stop earlier or later in the drive depending on your hunger level.

In-n-Out Burger pit stop during LA to Joshua Tree road trip

Palm Springs

We arrived in Palm Springs as the sun was dipping below the horizon. Depending on your arrival time, the night holds two enticing options: dive into the vibrant Palm Springs nightlife or rest up for an action-packed day ahead.

We opted for a taste of Palm Springs’ evening charm. Go on a little thrift shopping spree at Revivals and unearth unique finds to commemorate your trip. I found some really awesome men’s jackets that made my outfits for our entire trip!

For dinner, Azucar is a MUST! It proved to be an absolute culinary gem, with delicious food, amazing service, and even fabulous mocktails!

Day 2: Exploring Palm Springs

Kick off your day in Palm Springs by starting with an early morning hike. We did the Andreas Canyon Palm Springs Trail. This trail is adorned with the unique beauty of indigenous flora and promises a serene start to your day!

After your hike, treat yourself to a delicious cup of coffee at 4 Paws Coffee Co. This quaint coffee haven offers more than a caffeine fix—it has artisanal blends, great breakfast sandwiches, and a cozy atmosphere.

Wander through the heart of Palm Springs and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Downtown. The streets, lined with eclectic shops and inviting cafes, lead you to the iconic Forever Marilyn statue—an ode to Hollywood’s golden era.

For a change of perspective, set your sights on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The ascent aboard the rotating tramcar unfolds breathtaking panoramas, providing you with a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding desert landscape.

As your day is coming to an end, try your luck at one of Palm Springs’ vibrant casinos. The lively atmosphere and the allure of Lady Luck adds an exciting twist to your day, creating a memorable contrast to the serene moments in nature.

After your day filled with a blend of relaxation and excitement in Palm Springs, head back to rest up for tomorrow’s adventure!

Where to Stay in Palm Springs

In the heart of Palm Springs, the accommodation options mirror the city’s eclectic spirit. From the chic Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel to the laid-back Saguaro Hotel, each promises a unique experience. Select a haven that suits your style and budget, ensuring a comfortable night’s rest for the adventures that await in this little oasis.

The Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs
Saguaro Hotel pool

Day 3: Exploring Joshua Tree

Wake up and grab a coffee from Cartel Roasting Co. before hitting the road and heading from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree. Notice as you go from the laid-back charm of Palm Springs to the rugged allure of Joshua Tree National Park.

Before going into Joshua Tree National Park make sure you make a stop at the World Famous Crochet Museum, a quirky (and free) Joshua Tree activity that gives a look into how unique this little town is.

Fuel your Joshua Tree adventure by grabbing a sandwich from the Grab-n-Go at the Visitor Center. While there, seek advice from park rangers and consider getting an America the Beautiful Pass if you haven’t already (this pass grants free access to all national parks for a year). Once you have your essentials, including a map because cell service is limited, venture into the park.

For a single-day Joshua Tree experience, explore hikes such as Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, Skull Rock, and Arch Rock. They are all hikes that take around an hour, or even less and are considered easy. But each provides different features and views.

Consider adding the Cholla Cactus Garden either for sunset or a crisp sunrise, weather permitting. Our initial plan was sunrise, but chilly temps and high winds altered our course and we were unable to check this spot off, but it looks so beautiful!

After a fulfilling day in the park, treat yourself to authentic Thai cuisine at Royal Siam Cuisine Thai Restaurant, the perfect conclusion to your Joshua Tree day trip!

Where to Stay in Joshua Tree

From quirky retreats to cozy hideaways, there are some really unique and awesome accommodation options in Joshua Tree. The town is a haven if you’re seeking eclectic vacation rentals, each with their own character and charm.

We really loved our rental which was right in town and offered great amenities such as a cowboy pool, jacuzzi, and sauna. It was a 2-bedroom home which provided us with the nice bonus of enjoying our own space.

Not to mention the sauna was a perfect retreat after a day of hiking!

Day 4-7 Return to LA to Explore the City of Dreams

Joshua Tree Morning

Kickstart your morning with a steaming cup of excellence from Joshua Tree Coffee Co. Right next door, JT Country Kitchen should be your next stop. With its homey charm and generous portions, it’s the perfect breakfast spot before hitting the road and heading from Joshua Tree to LA.

Indulge in a breakfast burrito or eye-catching pancakes—their hearty food ensures you’re fueled up for a day of exploration.

Arriving in LA

Stepping back into the buzz of the metropolis after the serene desert interlude, LA unfolds a world of experiences just waiting for you! I personally really loved starting our trip off with the slowness and solitude of nature and then making our way back to the vibrant energy of the city.

Three days in LA merely scratches the surface of what it has to offer, but if your experience is anything like mine, it will likely leave you eager for more visits in the future!

From the sun-soaked beaches of Venice and Santa Monica to the glitz of Beverly Hills and Hollywood, each neighborhood contributes its own distinctive chapter to the LA experience.

Santa Monica Beach

LA Neighborhoods

Delving into Hollywood’s heart, the Walk of Fame, Warner Bros. Studio, and the Hollywood Sign painted a cinematic panorama. Beverly Hills, adorned with lavish mansions and Rodeo Drive’s upscale boutiques, provided a glimpse into the city’s glamorous lifestyle.

As the sun sets beyond the Hollywood Hills, a visit to Griffith Observatory will treat you to a breathtaking cityscape, concluding the day with a celestial touch. West Hollywood’s lively nightlife, featuring iconic spots like Sur and TomTom, add an extra layer of excitement.

If you want to spend a dedicated afternoon in downtown LA be sure to explore The Broad, cultural hubs like Little Tokyo and Chinatown, and the bustling Grand Central Market. The artistic charm of The Last Bookstore and the intriguing Museum of Death can add unconventional twists to your itinerary.

Exploring the iconic beaches is an absolute must during your three days in LA. We dedicated a day to the sun-kissed shores of Venice Beach and Santa Monica, conveniently located right next to each other. We were captivated by the picturesque canals, the lively atmosphere, and the stunning Santa Monica Pier at sunset.

Viewing Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel

LA Traffic and Parking

While traffic was less than ideal during certain hours of the day, it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Fortunately, parking never seemed to be an issue, which also came as a pleasant surprise.

We attempted to be strategic with our itinerary. We tried to explore each neighborhood comprehensively to minimize the need for frequent parking changes. This way, we could park in one spot, enjoy some walking exploration, and seamlessly transition to the next neighborhood.

Related read: Check out my full 3-day LA itinerary for more details on all of these neighborhoods and activities!

Where to Stay in LA

When choosing where to stay in LA, consider aligning your accommodation with the areas you plan to explore the most. During my trip, I opted for Koreatown because it was very central. It was a vibrant neighborhood with excellent food options, but I found myself wishing I had stayed closer to our main activities.

If you’re drawn to the glamorous and lively scene, West Hollywood offers iconic landmarks and a buzzing nightlife. If the beach vibes and trendy atmosphere are more your style, consider Santa Monica or Venice Beach. Each area has its own unique charm, and choosing the one that aligns with your preferences ensures a more convenient and enjoyable stay.

Venice Beach Pier in California

How far is Joshua Tree from LA?

Joshua Tree National Park is located approximately 130 miles east of Los Angeles. The drive typically takes around 2.5 hours, making it an easily accessible and very worthwhile day trip from LA! This road trip itinerary does take a detour through Palm Springs, but the itinerary can easily be adjusted to remove this stop or to add it in after a day in Joshua Tree.

Try to hit the road early to avoid the hustle of rush hour and allow yourself to take in the scenic drive back to LA.

LA to Joshua Tree Road Trip

When is the best time for a Los Angeles to Joshua Tree road trip?

Considering the best time for an LA to Joshua Tree road trip really depends on your preferences. Spring and fall offer mild temperatures, making outdoor activities pleasant. Summer, while hot, provides an opportunity to witness the desert’s intense beauty, but be prepared for scorching temperatures.

Winter offers a unique charm with cooler weather and fewer crowds, perfect for a tranquil experience. This is when we did our road trip and I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have minded if it were a little bit warmer in the evenings after the sun set, but other than that I have no complaints!

Los Angeles to Joshua Tree Road Trip Tips

  • Plan Fuel Stops: Make sure you’re conscious of fuel levels when exploring. Fill up before entering Joshua Tree National Park if need be, and fill up before entering LA where gas prices may be more expensive.
  • Sun Protection: Whether it’s winter or summer, sun protection is a must. Pack sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Water Essentials: Stay hydrated. Bring more water than you think you’ll need, especially during warmer months.
  • Entrance Fee/America the Beautiful Pass: Joshua Tree requires an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle, but you can opt for the America the Beautiful Pass, a cost-effective annual pass that provides free access to all national parks for $80.
  • Respect Nature: When hiking, stay on designated trails, follow Leave No Trace principles, and respect the delicate desert ecosystem. Avoid touching or climbing on rock formations.
  • Navigating Attractions: When visiting Palm Springs especially, we noticed some online information may not be up-to-date. During our visit, we encountered a few changes, like the absence of the Desert X art installation. Keep an open mind and be prepared for unexpected surprises or modifications to your planned itinerary.

Are you ready for your epic LA to Joshua Tree road trip?

I hope after reading this you’re ready to embark on a whimsical journey through Southern California, where each stop is like a lively chapter in my own story! From the bustling streets of LA to the tranquil beauty of Joshua Tree, this road trip captures the dynamic essence of the region.

I hope that your journey is as vibrant and diverse as the landscapes that await you! Before you go, be sure to follow me on Insta @guidedbydestiny for more travel content, and check out some of my other West Coast blog posts:

EPIC 10-Day SLC and Utah National Parks Road Trip

A Weekend in Salt Lake City

4-Day Seattle Washington Guide

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