As we began our ten week camping trip, we were excited to explore the top national parks such as: Zion, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon. Our driving route took us through some other lesser known national parks but we did not expect them to be memorable. Exploring Joshua Tree with kids was not only exciting, but it was an unexpected highlight of our trip.
Life on the road has quickly taught us to pivot and slow down when unexpected obstacles come. Leaving the midwest in early April brought many unpredictable weather days. The winds in Kansas made for long driving days and restless sleep. We decided to shorten our time in Kansas and find warm, calm weather. This gave us few extra days to work with in southern California.
Joshua Tree is where we decided to stop for four nights to relax, recharge, and reset. Exploring Joshua Tree with kids taught us a few lessons that we needed to fully enjoy camping life.
Feed Your Kids’ Curiosity
Our youngest daughter, Elyse, is into cacti right now. She was so excited as we were driving through New Mexico and Arizona to see cacti on the side of the road. Elyse’s interest helped us to look at Joshua Tree through her eyes and notice all the different types of cacti, We stopped at the visitor’s center where each type of cacti was labeled. Elyse took many photos of cacti and was able to distinguish between each type on our hikes.
Our first walk was at sunset through the Cholla Cactus Garden. It was absolutely picturesque as the cholla cactus were in bloom. Elyse was in her element and lead the way from one cactus to the next. Her interest pulled us all in and helped us appreciate this nature trail and the beauty of the cholla cactus.
Do the Unexpected
We are a family that typically winds down after dinner so we can be up early the next day. One evening after dinner, I packed some snacks and we headed back into Joshua Tree after dark. The girls were excited as this was different from our normal routine.
It was a clear night so we were hoping to enjoy stargazing in a national park. It was an adventure to find the perfect spot without any other visitors, wait for our eyes to adjust, and look at the beautiful night sky. We had a night sky map with us which helped us pick out the different constellations.
Just changing up the flow of our day helped boost our sense of adventure and breathe new life into our day.
Do Hard Things
Most of the hiking trails in Joshua Tree aren’t very challenging. Mike and I decided that hiking 3 miles and over 1,000 ft elevation gain up Ryan Mountain would offer great views and would be worth the effort. We knew that the girls would be hesitant as they were still sore after hiking the South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon just a few days before.
We woke up bright and early, packed our hiking bags, and arrived at the trailhead before 8 am. As we were making our way up the trail, a ranger warned us about rattlesnakes that were spotted on the trail. The hike was colder than we expected and as we gained elevation we were pulling on more layers. The wind was fierce on the summit so we did not stay long.
On our way down Ryan Mountain we all agreed that this was our favorite hike at Joshua Tree. The views of the mountains all the way to Mexico were stunning, the cacti were in bloom, and the morning was just what we needed to recharge.
Let Your Kids Lead
On our final day in Joshua Tree, we had a rough idea of what areas we wanted to explore. One stop was at an overlook, The Hall of Horrors. The girls did not want to get out at this stop because the name seemed spooky to them.
We decided that we would just take a look around and watch some rock climbers in the area. As we were getting away from the road, more interesting rock formations caught Elyse’s attention. She is the first to want to start bouldering and climbing higher. Mike happily followed her lead while the other girls and I decided to meet them on the other side.
As Elyse was climbing, she came upon the actual Hall of Horrors which was a narrow passageway through the rocks. The girls and I were called back and had to see what the excitement was all about. This discovery made this stop a highlight. We would have missed this experience if we did not let Elyse lead the way.
Exploring Joshua Tree with Kids
Joshua Tree was just what we needed after fighting less than ideal weather on our travel days from the midwest. This stop helped us to go with the flow and appreciate each moment. Life on the road teaches each of us different lessons if we are willing to slow down.