National park tips: This desert is getting a lot of love

Bouldering opportunities abound along the Barker Dam Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

It’ll take a little doing to find your way to solitude in Joshua Tree National Park these days.

Park attendance hit 2 million for the first time in 2015, a nearly 500,000 increase from the year before. And the first nine months of 2016 were another 21% ahead of 2015.

Whether you have it to yourself or not, Hidden Valley is a haven worth seeking out. It has tent-camping, hiking, climbing and scrambling.


Take a walk on 1.1-mile looping Barker Dam Nature Trail, whose stacked boulders and still water make it great for photography. And boulderers love the neighboring Gunsmoke area.

The busiest months last year were March, April and February.

Discover our desert national parks and rediscover yourself. You can start with Joshua Tree »

In honor of this year’s National Park Service centennial, the Travel section is posting 100 park travel ideas and tips based on trips staff travel writer Christopher Reynolds has taken, along with photo-op advice from Times photographer Mark Boster. We’ll post one per day through Dec. 31.

Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

See travel videos by Reynolds from around the world.