The MOM Trotter

Joshua Tree National Park With Kids: A Family Hiking Guide

joshua tree national park with kids

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In celebration of National Get Outdoors Day on June 9th, I am excited to partner with ACE™ Brand to encourage your family to spend time together outside and create lasting memories by doing things that you all love.

Summer is here, and I’m sure you are looking forward to having some fun outdoor with your kids because we sure are. There are so many things our family loves doing outdoors, and hiking, is very high on our list.

Our goal this year was to visit more state and national parks with the kids and we decided to start with one close to home; Joshua Tree National Park.

joshua tree national park with kids

When I told the kids that we were going on a hiking trip, they were all very excited. They absolutely love hiking, and we all love hiking as a family. When I told the kids that we were going on a hiking trip, they were all very excited. When packing for our day trip to Joshua Tree National Park with kids, I made sure to pack a few ACE™ Brand Elastic Bandages in my backpack.

joshua tree national park with kids


Joshua Tree National Park Basics

  • Joshua Tree National Park is located in the Mojave Desert. It is about 140 miles East of Los Angeles, 175 miles north east of San Diego, 214 miles southwest of Las Vegas, and 222 miles west of Phoenix.
  • The park has three entrances, the West Entrance, the North Entrance and the South Entrance. We drove to Joshua Tree from Los Angeles, stopped at the visitor’s center and entered the park through the West Entrance. When we were leaving the park, we exited through the South entrance which gave us a chance to drive the entire length of the park and enjoy the scenic route.
  • When coming in from the West entrance like we did, it is best to stop at the Visitor’s Center, pay the park fee as well as get a map and Junior Ranger booklets for your kids. If your kids don’t get a chance to finish the Junior Ranger booklet, they can complete it at a later time and mail it in, and their Junior Ranger Badge will be mailed to them.
joshua tree national park with kids
  • Admission to Joshua Tree National Park is $20 per car and it is good for 7 days. If you plan to spend more than one day at the park then this is ideal as you don’t have to pay again. We only spent a day but wish we had stayed longer.
  • There is no cell service or reception once you enter Joshua Tree National Park, so expect to be disconnected from the world.
  • Joshua Tree national Park is located in the desert and because of that it can get extremely hot in the summer. Make sure you check the weather prior to your hike.
  • If you are around for sunset, the best place to watch the sun set at Joshua Tree National Park is Keys View. You can also see the whole Coachella Valley from here. It’s a view you don’t want to miss. We didn’t make it to Keys Views to see the sunset, however, we got some gorgeous views from Hidden Valley Trail.
joshua tree national park with kids

Best Joshua Tree National Park Hikes With Kids

After doing much research on family friendly Joshua Tree National Park hikes, as well as talk to the Ranger at the Visitor’s center, I was able to compile this short list below. We wanted to hike at least 2 or 3 of them but ended up only hiking one because we spent so much time. We started with the Hidden Valley Nature Trail and absolutely loved it, and so did the kids.

1. Barker Dam – 1.3 mile loop trail, and is the only places where you can find water in Joshua Tree.

2. Cholla Cactus Garden – 0.2 mile trail filled with beautiful wild flower

3. Hidden Valley– 1 mile loop trail with amazing views, also the most popular trail

Hidden Valley Trail

4. Skull Rock – 1.7 mile loop trail with several cool formations such as a skull.

5. Wall Street Mill – 3 mile trail with must see rock formations, and old mine, plenty of Joshua Trees and an abandoned building.

10 Tips For Hiking With Kids

With four kids aged 5, 5, 4 and 3, we had to make sure to do our research prior to heading to Joshua Tree National Park. I am excited to share these 10 tips for hiking with kids, as well as how we applied all these tips to our Joshua Tree National Park hike with kids.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Get the kids involved

Plan the hike together with your kids. Let them come up with suggestions on where to go and what to do. By having them involved, you will be building the excitement and enthusiasm in them and this will lead a generally great experience for everyone.

After we talked to the kids about Joshua Tree National Park they had lots of questions to ask about what they were going to do and what they were going to see on the hiking trail.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Stop by the visitor’s center

Each national park has a visitor’s center to help guide visitors who visit the park, so it is important to stop by the visitor’s center to receive the latest updates or ask any questions you may. Kids will receive an activity book which they will need to complete in order to receive a junior ranger badge.

During our hike at Joshua Tree national park with kids, they were so focused on completing their activity books. After meeting with a ranger at the visitor’s center, they were determined to get a junior ranger badge so this was great motivation for them.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Choose the right hiking trail

You need to choose an environment that will be challenging enough but not too tough on your kids. For instance, you can decide to take a hike in the neighborhood park with your toddler or climb a small hill if your kid is up to it.

After speaking to a ranger at the Joshua Tree National Park visitor’s center, and looking at the different trails on the map, we chose to start our hike at Hidden Valley Loop trail because it was only a mile long and we knew the kids would be able to handle the walk. They did handle the walk so well, and we were so proud of them.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Make sure to pack of water, snacks and food

It is important to keep yourself and the kids hydrated at all times. When we went to Joshua Tree National Park with kids, the weather forecast said it would be sweltering 96 degrees hot and it sure was. I packed a few bottles of water as well as two insulated water bottles with ice to ensure that we had cold water the entire hike. It is very east to get dehydrated, so make sure you have enough water for everyone.

Don’t forget snacks and food. After our hike, the kids were starving like they hadn’t eaten in years, thankfully I had rice, bread, fruit and cookies for them to eat. We had a picnic on the picnic table at we all shared a meal and discussed what we had seen.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Let the kids create their own fun along the way

Be open to the kind of fun the kids want. Let them jump over boulders, carry big rocks, kick stones and chase after lizards if that is what they want. Do not limit them whatsoever!

The key here is to let them explore and learn and soak in as much as they can. We let the kids do whatever they wanted on our hike at Joshua Tree National Park, as long as they were making safe choices.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Give each kid a specific role

Subdivide different roles to the kids and hold them accountable. For instance, you can have one kid spot different types of birds while the other kids spot different types of animals. Another kid can keep track of time and keep informing you of the progress you make. Giving each kid a specific role made them feel in charge and also gave them some sense of responsibility as well as awareness of their environment.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Keep track of the time

Do not venture too much into the woods or the mountain and lose track of the time. This is especially important when hiking with kids because you don’t them want them to get too tired. If they do, you may end up having to carry them back and that may ruin the fun experience.

So, make sure to keep time and keep pace. This is why it is very important to do your research and pick the right hiking trail so that kids don’t feel overwhelmed.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Take as much rest as the kids need

The whole purpose of the hike is to have some fun, it is not meant to be a rigorous workout. The kids will be tired at some point and you need to give them space and time to recover their strengths. Take as much time and stops as they need, drink water, breathe and then continue the hike. Just keep in mind that a 20-minute hike can turn out to be a one hour with kids.

Our goal was to hike a few trails when we got to Joshua Tree National Park, but we spent almost 3 hours on one trail only. When you are hiking with four kids, you are guarantee to make several stops along to way.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Act as their tour guide

Let the kids ask you questions about what they see on the way and about general things in their environment. Be the knowledgeable tour guide and answer their questions well.

This will keep them entertained. My husband was the designated tour guide and so lead the way while the kids walked behind him. He made sure to help the kids climb up tricky areas and be as safe as possible. He also made sure to answer all the questions that the kids had for him.

joshua tree national park with kids
  1. Document the hike

Take a camera along and document the hike. Such memories will be priceless in future. Being the one behind the camera, this is my favorite part. I loved taking photos of the kids exploring and doing different things. Some photos I asked them to look at the camera, and some I snapped without them knowing and was able to get great shots of them. Documenting our hike with photos and videos was great because it helped the kids finish their junior ranger book. They were able to look back at the photos and remember things they saw and experienced on the hike.

joshua tree national park with kids

Overall, we had an amazing time on this hike. I hope that we can keep up with our plan to hike more with the kids because this is truly something the kids enjoy doing. Next time we also plan to incorporate camping and spend a night or two. I also hope that this guide to Joshua Tree National Park with kids was helpful.

Do you go on hikes with your kids? Please share your favorite National Park so that we can put it on our list as well.

joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
joshua tree national park with kids
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  1. rani
    June 14, 2019 / 7:55 am

    Hi Karen. Thanks for this nice post, great photos. My husband is visiting the US for the first time and really wants to visit Joshua Tree National Park. We are coming in mid July and have a 2 year old – I’m wondering if it will be too hot for my little one or will we be ok as long as we keep hydrated and avoid noon – 2pm in the park? Thanks in advance for your input!

  2. bridget
    December 17, 2019 / 4:43 pm

    This is a great post! It has great information, thanks for all your insight! My family and I are headed to Palm Springs for Christmas and am looking forward to our day trip to Joshua Tree.

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