With plenty of hiking, unique rock formations and stunning views, Joshua Tree National Park is an outdoor adventurer's dream come true. Going on this once-in-a-lifetime trip from Las Vegas, you will have the chance to explore historic sites, scenic roads, and nature at its finest.
This 790-mile road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park, California takes 14 hours to cover driving through Hoover Dam, Kingman, Peach Springs, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Slide Rock State Park, Sedona, Village of Oak Creek, and Phoenix.
Whether you go east or west from Las Vegas, you will run into stunning landscapes in both directions. Read on to discover the best routes to take, ideal places to stay overnight, hotels to stay in, things to see and the best times to go on this journey.
How far is Joshua Tree National Park from Las Vegas, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Direct Route ||190 miles||3 hours|
|The Death Valley Route||600 miles||11 hours|
|The Grand Canyon Route||790 miles||14 hours 20 minutes|
If you are tight on time and want to reach Joshua Tree National Park from Las Vegas as soon as possible, take the direct route from The Mojave Desert which covers 190 miles in just 3 hours without any stops.
But if you want the complete experience of this road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park, choose one of the two longer routes that allow you to explore various sites including national parks and scenic landscapes.
The Grand Canyon Route is 790 miles long and takes you 14 hours and 20 minutes to cover. This route gives you a fusion of breathtaking natural wonders and historic cities.
If you want to reach Joshua Tree National Park quickly while exploring alpine forests and deserts along the way, take the Death Valley Route which covers 600 miles in almost 11 hours.
The Mojave Desert Route won't ask for more than a day but if you choose to cover this road trip from the Grand Canyon Route or the Death Valley Route, we recommend taking up to 5 days and letting the nature engulf you.
Best road trip route from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park
Regardless of the route you take, you will find yourself immersed in the beauty of nature making exquisite memories that will stay in your heart and mind for a lifetime.
The Grand Canyon Route is longer and takes you east from Las Vegas. After travelling along a stretch of the historic Route 66, you will find yourself in one of the seven wonders of the world, The Grand Canyon. Hike through the iconic red rock landscapes and get a taste of history in Flagstaff and Phoenix.
Even though you will be in desert landscapes, the high altitude of Flagstaff can be chilly with a chance of snow. Goodyear and Tonopah often throw traffic so if you want to avoid these situations, take the Death Valley Route.
This route is shorter and takes you west into California. You'll experience different Californian landscapes from alpine forests to the barren deserts. Discovering nature along the way, you can climb SoCal mountains. The drive on this route is somewhat dangerous with switchbacks and slippery roads.
The Grand Canyon Route
Head east from Las Vegas and get on I-512 and follow Hoover Dam Access Rd to your destination in Hoover Dam. Take the State Rte 66 E and head into the beautiful Peach Springs. Enjoy the hot springs here and take a tour into the largest dry caverns in the USA.
Then get on I-40 E in Yavapai County to reach Tusayan and explore its rich history that dates back to the beginning of the Grand Canyon. Take the AZ-64 N to reach the beautiful wonder of the Grand Canyon.
Next, take N 89 S and you will reach the city of Flagstaff. This is the perfect time for you to stop and catch your breath after having taken in the breathtaking scenes of the Grand Canyon. Resume your journey the next day and continue on the Historic Route 66 which will take you to Sedona.
Follow AZ-179 S to Village Oak Creek and get on I-17 S to Washington St in Phoenix. Head west from Phoenix and turn right onto Cottonwood Springs Road to reach your destination of Joshua Tree National Park.
The Death Valley Route
For this route, head west from Las Vegas and get on I-515 N and continue on NV-374 S to Rhyolite. Explore the quirky open air museum before heading northwest and continuing on Beatty Rd which will take you to the namesake of this route, the Death Valley National Park.
Before heading toward Panamint Valley, enjoy the various outdoorsy activities that this national park has to offer. Get on the Shop St to reach the city of Olancha with its alpine landscapes.
Then take the left toward US-395 S and continue on the Abott Dr to reach Red Rock Canyon State Park. Follow Neuralia Rd and California City Blvd to get to Big Bear Lake. Explore the beauty that this lake has to offer and then head south on Pine Knot Ave.
The highway in Running Springs will take you to San Bernardino. From there, you will have to get I-215 S to reach Palm Springs. Stop here overnight and answer the call of nature. Resume your journey to Indio from Jackson St and take the Cottonwood Springs Road to reach Joshua Tree National Park.
Best places to stop between Las Vegas and Joshua Tree National Park
This road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park is filled with remarkable places around every corner. To help you make the best decision about where to stay, we have curated a list of the best places on this trip.
Read on to discover those as well as our recommendations for hotels to stay overnight.
Admire the starry skies in Flagstaff
Halfway across the road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park, the city of Flagstaff, Arizona provides the most ideal location for a break from the drive. Lined with historical landmarks, Flagstaff is known as a gateway to the Grand Canyon. It gives a small-town vibe and has an exciting nightlife.
Head to the iconic Monte Vista Hotel in the historic district of Flagstaff to absorb the laid-back mountain culture. You can also visit downtown Flagstaff which is bustling with spirited bars and nightlife. Advanced telescopes at Lowell Observatory give you a chance to stargaze at dusk.
It is famous for being the spot where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930. Flagstaff also offers you a chance to visit the Riordan Mansion State Park which is a forty-room timber mansion. Take guided tours and enjoy the grounds in this quintessential alpine building built in 1904.
Before leaving for the road again, don't forget to explore the history by cruising along Route 66, dancing the night away at the Museum Club or going on a Haunted History Tour of the city, once part of the Wild West.
We recommend staying at the 4-star High Country Motor Lodge which is a boutique hotel with fresh industrial décor, trendy rooms and a stylish bar with evening entertainment. Enjoy a pleasant stay with free parking, fitness rooms, outdoor pool with sun loungers, hot tub, sauna and steam room.
The on-site restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ideally located on Route 66, this hotel provides you with easy access to the Lowell Observatory, The Museum Club Venue, Riordan Masion State Historic Park, and Hotel Monte Vista. AZ-89A is just 1.5 miles away to continue the journey to Sedona.
Take a relaxing dip in Palm Springs
Covering the road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park from the Death Valley Route, you will encounter Palm Springs, 50 miles from your destination. This place offers you a good last stop before a morning trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
This place gives you the chance to relax in nice resorts after the drive. Famous for its beautiful hot springs, Palm Springs is also a getaway for Hollywood celebrities. Who knows? Maybe you'll spot your favorite star! During your stay, jump aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
The rotating tram cars will deliver you panorama views as you climb the San Jacinto Peak. Next, visit Oswit Canyon, a hidden gem for a quiet walk. With both, easy and strenuous hikes, it is the perfect place to see the flora and fauna. Palm Springs Museums are something you wouldn't want to miss.
The Art Museum has around 3000 sculptures, paintings and prints. Then there is the Air Museum with a selection of aircrafts used in World War II and the Vietnam War. Lastly, visit the Moorten Botanical Garden to examine all kinds of desert cacti and grab a true desert souvenir from the nursery.
We recommend staying at Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel. Unlike many nearby hotels, this one doesn't ask for a resort fee even though it has two outdoor pools, one for adults and one for kids, open year-round with sun loungers! It also offers public parking at a cost of $35 per day.
With a fitness center and wellness facilities that gives massages and beauty services, you are in for a truly relaxing stay. It has an on-site bar serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a bar serving cocktail hour. This is a boutique hotel with clean, contemporary rooms and balcony patios.
It also boasts a stellar location by being in close proximity with major attractions like Jackie Lee Houston Plaza, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Oswit Canyon, Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs Air Museum, and Moorten Botanical Garden.
Where to stay when you reach Joshua Tree National Park
Before heading to Joshua Tree National Park, we would suggest stopping in La Quinta, California and catching your breath in the Homewood Suites by Hilton La Quinta.
This hotel has an outdoor pool with sun loungers, contrasting with the experience of the park. Break a sweat in the fitness center and then relax in the hot tub. The availability of buffet breakfast means that you can start your morning early. This hotel also offers free parking.
La Quinta is one of the closest major cities to the South entrance of Joshua Tree National Park and there are no hotels inside the park other than camping. The park is in close proximity to this hotel, and it takes around 38 minutes of driving to reach.
Things to see on a road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park
On this road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park, you will pass stunning landscapes, historic towns, exciting trails and mighty canyons. Read on for our curated list of places you simply cannot miss.
On The Grand Canyon Route
- Hoover Dam – Stare in awe at the manmade engineering miracle that stands 700-feet tall, where you can walk over the dam to understand the vastness.
- Kingman – Visit the Route 66 Museum, the Kingman Railroad Museum, or just hike on the plentiful trails on this note-worthy stop.
- Peach Springs, Arizona – Take a guided tour into the largest dry caverns in the USA and discover the Grand Canyon Caverns.
- Grand Canyon – Observe the mile deep canyon up close and let the scenes take your breath away in the Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world.
- Slide Rock State Park – Take a dip in the natural swimming pools to cool off then slide down the natural waterslide. Or vice versa!
- Sedona, Arizona – Packed with famed hiking opportunities, Sedona gives you a chance to admire the Cathedral Rock, a sandstone butte and iconic Wild West landmark.
- Village of Oak Creek – Hike the Bell Rock Trailhead or if you're short on time, use the Yavapai Vista Point to take in the views.
- Red Rock Scenic Byway – Drop into the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center for information before driving on this scenic road that takes you through red rock formations.
- Montezuma Castle National Monument – Check out the apartments carved into the limestone cliff which was the work of the Sinagua, a Native American tribe.
- Phoenix – Take the help of an experienced guide if you need and hike the stunning Camelback Mountain.
On The Death Valley Route
- Rhyolite – Explore this ghost town which was once a booming mining town and visit Goldwell Open Air Museum across the road with mysterious sculptures.
- Death Valley National Park – Driving on Highway 190, you will encounter this park. Stop at Father Crowley Overlook for desert valley views before leaving.
- Olancha – Set aside a few days to take the challenging route to Olancha through alpine landscapes, streams, and forests. But if that isn't for you, you can take a quirky stop at the Olancha Sculpture Garden.
- Red Rock Canyon State Park – Camp amid the rocks and plant ridden landscapes after hiking on trails that reveal scenic desert cliff edges.
- Barstow – Check out the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western America Railroad Museum to learn about the history of the world's most famous road.
- Mojave National Preserve – If you're short on time, take a detour to Mojave Desert which cuts your trip short and takes you directly to Joshua Tree National Park.
- Big Bear Lake – Hire a cabin and take to the slopes to ski and snowboard in winter or spend your time on the lake and rent a kayak or canoe in summer.
- City Creek Road – Meandering through the San Bernardino mountains, you'll want to stop and enjoy the views on this scenic road.
- San Bernardino – Head to the world's first ever McDonalds for a quirky landmark or escape into the San Bernardino mountains.
- Indio – Explore “The City of Festivals” which has become a hotspot for music fans and food lovers but if it isn't festival season, head to the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino for fun and games.
Best time to go on a road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park attracts visitors 365 days a year and is considered a year-round destination. That being said, spring and fall are the best times for this road trip from Las Vegas to Joshua Tree National Park because in summer, the temperatures are simply too hot to be walking in the desert.
In summer, you will face the risk of dehydration and sun stroke as the average temperatures are from 81 degrees Fahrenheit to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though it is open year-round, make sure to explore at nightfall if you visit in the summertime as it can be dangerous in the daytime.
Despite being a desert the temperatures drop in winter, averaging between 46 degrees Fahrenheit and 54 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, it ca drop below freezing, so consider this if you are planning to camp in winter. The high desert area can even experience a covering of snow.
April and May are the best times to visit Joshua Tree National Park as the temperature average between 63 degrees Fahrenheit and 71 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather is less extreme and May in particular, is a dry month. This time means less visitors and a chance of watching the fauna flourish.
Although there are no festivals held within the park, the following festivals take place nearby. Coachella is held in April and is a world-famous annual music and arts festival. You can also attend Stagecoach, an outdoor country music festival which also takes place in April.