Southern California residents looking for a quick one-day - or weekend - getaway this winter should consider taking a trip out to this desert gem.
BEAUTIFUL, QUIET SOLITUDE: This nearly 800,000 acre park, just a couple hours from San Diego and Los Angeles, near Big Bear and Palm Springs, has some of the most serene and peaceful scenery to offer its visitors - especially in the winter, when it's quieter. If its your first time in the park, come in from the West Entrance Station and follow Park Boulevard down to Hidden Valley, a popular bouldering spot for climbers. Continue east on the road toward Jumbo Rocks and down Pinto Basin Road for a stop at Cholla Cactus Garden. Don't be afraid to stop at the frequent viewpoints along the road and take in some of the beautiful, quiet solitude of the park and it's iconic trees.
HIDDEN TREASURES: One of the park's gems is a hike out to Lost Horse Mine, one of the best-preserved gold mines in the park. From the trail head, you can hike a full 6.7 mile loop or a four mile round trip loop - each with its own set of stunning views of Pleasant Valley during the moderate hike up into the mountains. Be warned: there is limited parking near the start of the trek to the trail head, so you'll likely have to park in one of the select pull-out lots down the road and walk for half a mile or so.
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PIE FOR THE PEOPLE: When it comes time to stop for a bite, you won't find anything inside the park. But don't fret, it's a quick drive back to Joshua Tree, the small town outside of the park's north entrance off Highway 62. Treat yourself to a hot slice from this local not-so-hidden gem, Pie for the People: hand-tossed pizzas baked in a real stone-deck gas fired pizza oven. It's right on your way in- or out. If you've packed a lunch, Joshua Tree National Park offers a map with picnic locations, each one with an undoubtably beautiful view of the Joshua Trees.