Desert National Parks

National Parks in the Desert

California Desert National Parks include Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Manzanar National Historic Site. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses Grant signed into existence the world's first national park. Since then, hundreds more have been established. These parks are awe inspiring natural wonders and offer endless activities. California has several of these National Parks and Monuments. Walk on a dry lake bed at the lowest point in North America in Death Valley. Climb boulders in a picturesque, ancient landscape at Joshua Tree. Visit the site of a former WWII Japanese internment camp at Manzanar National Historic Site.

TIP: The National Park Service offers FEE FREE DAYS to some parks on select weekends through the Summer. Use this link to view available dates.

National Parks in the Desert

Stovepipe Wells Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park is located east of Lone Pine via Highway 190 and north of Baker via Highway 127. Death Valley is the hottest, driest and lowest point in the North America. Death Valley weather is extreme with temperatures over 120 degrees in the summer and below freezing in the winter. Sightseeing, road & mountain biking, off-roading, hiking, horseback riding and Death Valley camping are the main activities at Death Valley. Spring is the best season to see this park for its 'desert in bloom'. At the heart of Death Valley is Furnace Creek where a museum, Visitor Center, Death Valley lodging, groceries, restaurants, golf course, fuel and much more can be found. The Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch is one of the few places for accommodations within the park. In northern Death Valley is Scotty's Castle that was built in the 1920's by Walter Scott. It is an architectural masterpiece and an oasis in an unforgiving region. Many believed the castle was funded by Scotty's secret goldmine. Plan a visit to Death Valley to make your own determination.

NOTE: Please refer to our TIPS page for Desert safety precautions.

Blog Check our Death Valley blog for more details.
Flickr photo album See our Death Valley photo album on Flickr.

Death Valley National Park
Highway 190
Death Valley, California 92328
(760) 786-3200

Map  |   pdf Park Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is located off Highway 62 just north of Palm Springs. Sightseeing, road & mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding and camping are the major activities. Joshua Tree is a high desert and can be a little cooler than Death Valley in the summer months. Joshua Tree has picturesque rock formations that offer rock climbing for all skill levels and forests of Joshua Trees. Most of the beauty and activities are in the northwest section of the park, but the southern portion has cactus gardens and a palm oasis that shouldn't be missed. A half-day trip from Palm Springs can be easily accomplished since a drive through Joshua Tree takes approximately 2-hours including stops at popular sites. You'll be very tempted to rock climb, so be sure to wear hiking boots, a hat and carry plenty of water. Joshua Tree hikes head to interesting locations like abandoned mines & ranches, a historic dam & lake, petroglyphs, picturesque boulder formations and more.

NOTE: There is no running water, general store or accommodations in Joshua Tree. Please refer to our TIPS page for Desert safety precautions.

Blog Check our Joshua Tree blog for more details.
Flickr photo album See our Joshua Tree photo album on Flickr.

Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
(760) 367-5500

Map  |   pdf Park Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas

Manzanar Internment Camp

Manzanar National Historic Site is located just outside the town of Independence off Highway 395. Manzanar Internment Camp is the site of a World War II relocation camp for citizens of Japanese descent. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the American government grew suspicious of Japanese-Americans and decided to place them in camps where their activities could be monitored. Little remains of the original Manzanar Internment Camp. A museum contains artifacts left behind, historical facts and documents about the camp.

NOTE: Farewell to Manzanar is a memoir of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston who was a prisoner of Manzanar Internment Camp.

Manzanar National Historic Site
5001 Highway 395
Independence, California 93526
(760) 878-2932

Map  |   Hotel  |   Website  |   Other Ideas

National Parks by Region

California by Region

San Francisco Los Angeles Orange County San Diego Inland Empire Desert Central Coast Sierra Nevada North Coast Shasta Cascade Gold Country Central Valley