National park tips: Where the song of Gram Parsons is still sung

Cyclist rolls along Park Boulevard, the main artery of Joshua Tree National Park. At the corner of Park and Keys View road stands Cap Rock.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

If you revere the music of singer-songwriter Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers, you’ll need to pay respects at Joshua Tree National Park’s Cap Rock.

It’s near the junction of Park Boulevard and Keys View Road.

And its Parsons connection dates to 1973, when, a few days after Parsons died of an overdose at age 26 in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn, a friend stole the body and brought it to Cap Rock. Why?

For a DIY cremation.

It didn’t go well.

Now rangers struggle to clear the flowers, bottles, guitar picks and other items that people leave at the rock. Sometimes there’s a fine line between homage and littering.

You, of course, will leave only footprints. But if you want to sleep in Room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn, it’s still in business, looking considerably spiffier that it did in 1973. Most nights that room runs $124 per night.


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.