A trip to Joshua Tree National Park will surely be a delight for anyone who loves unique landscapes and desert vibes. If you’ve planned your trip and have your itinerary set for Joshua Tree, the next step is to make sure you’re prepared with all the right gear for your Joshua Tree packing list. Don’t be like us and realize that maaaaybe we should have brought a sweater when it started snowing!
Before you hit the dusty trails of Joshua Tree, let’s dive into what to pack for Joshua Tree for all the changing seasons. This is our experience-based guide on the best Joshua Tree essentials. The list has twenty items that will include the best gear, what to wear, and items you might not have thought to bring (hint-tweezers!) but are essentials in a packing list for Joshua Tree National Park.
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WEATHER IN JOSHUA TREE
Before jumping headfirst into what to pack for Joshua Tree, let’s talk about visiting the park in the different seasons. We have been to the park several times, and still, we were surprised by the light snowfall in March because we had only ever visited in the summer months.
Spring and fall are the most comfortable months, with the average high being 85 degrees and the low being 50 degrees. In the summer, daytime temperatures sit at 100 degrees, with nighttime falling to 75 degrees. In winter, the average temperature is around 60 degrees, with nighttime temperatures below freezing. It does snow in the higher elevations of the park, but rarely more than a few inches.
Those are averages, and the park could be different the day you visit! It’s important to remember that the park covers an elevation ranging from 536 feet to 5,814 feet atop Quail Mountain, so your weather app might not be accurate for different sections of the park.
Rain is scarce; the park averages 4.4 inches of rain a year,, with the most rainfall happening in December and January.
Here’s an overview of the average monthly temperature in Joshua Tree National Park.
READ NEXT: Traveling to Joshua Tree with children? Check out our complete guide to visiting Joshua Tree National Park With Kids.
What To Pack For Joshua Tree
We’ll start with what to wear to Joshua Tree and continue with safety gear, practical things, and useful items that will help you enjoy your time there. This packing list for Joshua Tree is most suitable for front country exploration of the park.
America The Beautiful Pass
If you are doing any other travel to America’s national parks within 365 days, you might be better off with an America The Beautiful Pass rather than paying a standalone fee. With California having some of the best national parks in the west, why wouldn’t you see more? The pass grants you access to more than 2000 federal recreation sites and is a no-brainer if you visit nearby parks on a road trip, like Death Valley National Park or Sequoia National Park.
Lightweight Walking Shoes
What kind of shoes do I need for Joshua Tree? Believe it or not, this is the most common question when someone is trying to figure out what to pack for Joshua Tree. Hiking boots or sneakers? Because the main activity in Joshua Tree is walking around, you’ll want lightweight shoes with excellent traction. The reason why is that many of the trails require scrambling or even hopping from rock to rock. You’ll want to feel confident that your shoes aren’t going to slip. I think hiking shoes are too hot and heavy for the desert climate and the best shoes for Joshua tree are something akin to a trail running shoe.
While it’s tempting to wear ankle socks, we suggest socks that at least go up to your calves to protect you from potential cactus barbs. Socks made of merino wool are ideal for hot weather conditions, so your feet can stay dry (moisture and sweat will cost blisters), and are stink-proof. Darn Tough is the king of hiking socks, and you’ll be hard-pressed to return to cheap socks once you try them. The light hiker available in mens and womens is best for hot weather conditions.
Sun Protective Top
Even if you’re traveling to Joshua Tree in spring and fall, the sun will still be beaming down, and with very little shade in the park, you’ll need clothing that offers breathability and sun protection. If you’re visiting in the summer, we recommend a quick dry long sleeve sun shirt with a hood. Wearing long sleeves might seem uncomfortable, but these shirts are built to be breathable and odor-proof. You’ll be more uncomfortable with the 90-degree temps on your bare skin! My redheaded husband swears by them, and it’s his go-to travel shirt whenever we’re spending a day with total sun exposure.
For women, same idea, a quick dry UPF 50 shirt that’s lightweight and breathable. I like this Quick Dry Safari shirt because it offers nice colors, doesn’t wrinkle, and is available in sizes small to 3X.
If you are traveling to Joshua Tree in the winter, you’ll want to add a fleece sweater or jacket to your Joshua Tree packing list. When we visited in the winter, I was grossly unprepared while my husband was cozy in his fleece. A high-quality fleece like REI’s Co-op Trailsmith Fleece Jacket should do the trick, but you’ll have to do your weather research before leaving. If it’s a colder than average year (like when we went!!), you’ll want to add a packable puffer jacket like the REI 650 Down Jacket.
No matter the season, you need to bring a sunhat. Whether you use a baseball cap, visor, or a bucket hat; bring a hat with full coverage of your face. I prefer a hat that can be easily crushed down, like the Emma Hat from Sunday Afternoon, because I can throw it in my backpack and not worry about ruining the hat.
Bring your favorite sunglasses to protect your eyes from the desert glare. While buying cheap sunglasses can be fun, make sure your pair offers proper UV protection.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack sunblock in your quest to evade an uncomfortable burn. We love the mineral sunblock from Blue Lizard. It goes on white but blends in after a few good rubs.
Bring a lip balm with SPF for when you’re at the park. I like Salt and Stone since it’s a mineral sunblock (rare in lip balms!) and goes on smooth. I also LOVE Evan Healy Whipped Shea Butter for when I don’t need SPF on my lips.
The desert is dry and windy, so if you have sensitive skin, your mouth and skin will start to feel dry. You’ll want to add a moisturizer like La Roche-Posay Triple Repair Moisturizer to your Joshua Tree packing list. Your skin will be happy you did!
A daypack to throw all your Joshua Tree essentials in is a must-do. When we’re going light and only need to carry a few items, we use the REI Flash 18 Pack. We love that it’s lightweight, that it can be crushed down for easy packing, and that it’s breathable. When we will be carrying more gear and need extra room, we use the Borealis Backpack from North Face. I love the fun colors and that it comes with all the pockets.
I will say, hiking with a backpack in Joshua Tree can get sweaty fast. Backpack sweat is awful, so you may want a spacer from VentaPak that attaches to your bag to allow airflow. It’s a game changer, and once you use it, you’ll wonder why every backpack doesn’t have this already built into it.
Top on the list of what to pack for Joshua Tree is water. Lots of it. In fact, bring more water than you think you should. You’ll need to bring an already filled water bottle to the park and extra water that can stay in your car. There are water refill stations in the park, but I prefer not to rely on those (droughts and water supply are always an issue in the desert) and to have our own water from the beginning. We love Hydro Flask and have been loyal to its brand for years. You can price compare on REI, Hydro Flask, and Amazon.
If you’re visiting Joshua Tree when it’s hot, throw some salty snacks into your day pack to help replenish the electrolytes you lose while sweating. Since Joshua Tree is a dry heat, you might not notice until you’re sluggish, foggy, and irritable that you might need some nourishment from the loss of salt, potassium, and magnesium. Pretzels, chips, salted nuts, granola bars, and beef jerky are all great options.
There is no food available in the park, so it’s best to pack a cooler and have lunch and drinks with you when you visit the park. The Arctic Zone Titan Cooler is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a day-use soft cooler that’s easy to transport and affordable.
Yes, you need tweezers on your what to pack for Joshua Tree list. Why? The cacti.
If you think they won’t get you, think again! Especially if you’re visiting Joshua Tree with kids. When we visited the popular attraction, the Cholla Cactus Garden Trail, my husband managed to get barbed by them, twice! Both were on his ankles, where he was luckily wearing socks. It still punctured to his skin, so we had to use our hands to pull them out. I’ve since learned that you should never use your hands to pull out a barb, and this is why you need to have tweezers with you.
First Aid Kit
While packing your tweezers, throw in a first aid kit that includes band-aids, antibacterial ointment, gauze pads, instant cold packs, aspirin, and Tylenol. You can build your own or buy a pre-made kit like this.
Since most national parks try to have as little footprint as possible on the land, there are no light sources at night. If you’ll be staying for sunset or star gazing (both highly recommended), bring a flashlight or headlamp to keep you safe. Make sure the batteries are working, and pack some extras, just in case.
Since Joshua Tree is a stellar place for stargazing, you might enjoy bringing a travel telescope to do some astral photography or to geek out on the wonders of the solar system. There are a wide variety of travel telescopes that range in pricing. The Gskyer Telescope is an excellent choice if traveling with kids since it’s user-friendly and can be hooked up to a smartphone so you can take pictures and view the night sky through the bigger screen. The Celestron is another lightweight travel telescope that is excellent for beginners. Straightforward and easy to use.
A power bank to charge your phone is always a wise choice when visiting Joshua Tree. Because there is little to no cell service in the park, your phone might drain its battery faster looking for a connection. The power bank we use can charge an iPhone two times on one battery. We also have a power bank that uses solar energy to charge. A solar charger can be an excellent additional choice if you are camping or backpacking through the park. We like this solar charger for its durable and waterproof shell built for travel.
While smartphone cameras are getting more impressive, they still can’t beat a DSLR camera for their detail and color rendering. The camera we use is overkill for the everyday traveler, but if you’re looking for a great starter camera, we suggest looking at the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. We also brought our Go Pro Hero 11, fun to use when jumping on the giant boulders.
Happy a fantastic Joshua Tree Trip! I hope our list of what to pack for Joshua Tree National park helps you travel smoothly and worry-free. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
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