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Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both?
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Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both? on 05/04/2009 19:10:29 MDT Print View

I’m going to be in California for the first time in June.

While there, I’ll have essentially 2.5 days to fit in some sights and my intent is to choose a limited tour of Joshua Tree NP, Yosemite NP, or both. I’ll be starting in LA when my flight lands on a Saturday morning and moving on from there merely to return back on Monday afternoon 2.5 days later.

My question is, would you try to do one NP over the other or both?

Also, what can I do about places to stay? It seems back country permits are gone, camping permits are gone, local campgrounds are gone, realistically priced hotels are gone….and I’d really rather not stay in my rental vehicle or pay several hundred dollars for a hotel I really don't need.


Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Yosemite or Joshua Tree on 05/04/2009 19:54:13 MDT Print View

Hi James -

Having spent ludicrous amounts of time in both Joshua Tree and Yosemite, I'll comment. I lived in Joshua Tree, just outside the NP boundary, for many years.

Joshua Tree will be hot in June, but uncrowded. You will easily find a campsite in the park. But expect very hot days, and coolish nights. If you don't mind the desert heat and sun, it would be a great visit - uncrowded, pristine and truly a magical place. Also much closer to LA than Yosemite.

Don't try to go to both in one weekend. You'll spend too much time driving.
Yosemite will be beautiful, but crowded. If you get outside Yosemite Valley, it won't be so crowded, and it will be cooler. If you get creative, you can find a place to stay, or get a permit and sleep on the trail somewhere. Yosemite is amazing.

You can't lose with either decision - but I'd really say pick one, not both.


Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
I see some free dates in Yosemite on 05/05/2009 10:42:23 MDT Print View


Yosemite is a pretty far drive from LA. But which weekends in June are you going to be here? Just looking at the Trailhead availability page, current as of 5/1, (so these days could be gone today) I see a bunch of trailhead with availability in June. Glacier Point to Ililouete has no full dates at all yet. Glen Aulin is a popular one in Toulumne Meadows, and it has Saturday starting dates free. Lyell Canyon is a really pretty hike up there as well, that appears to be available in June.

Edited by jrmacd on 05/05/2009 10:43:12 MDT.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 05/05/2009 20:29:13 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 05/17/2015 21:38:41 MDT.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
yosemite versus joshua tree on 05/06/2009 16:39:09 MDT Print View

I remember when we all stopped trying to visit Yosemite in the summer [the valley can be pretty hot in June also]with the people impact but if this is a one shot deal I would still lean towards the valley as much as I like J-Tree.
Yosemite has diversity and beats Joshua Tree in size therefore in places to lose people. I will admit if your willing to just walk away from the campgrounds in J-Tree you'll leave 95% of humanity behind.
The desert is always a fine line between getting there when the wind has stopped and the heat has begun, thugh some of my fondest memories would include sitting in a shady nook on a hot day nursing a grain beverage after a morning of chewing my hands up on the quartz monzonite
If you are inclined to climb you'll nick more off at Joshua Tree and if you do go there shoot for Hidden Valley and the short side trip to Barker Dam.
If you don't think you'll be back in awhile go to Yosemite, just an opinion.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Something else on 05/06/2009 18:25:39 MDT Print View

I just returned from hiking from Idyllwild to Pines-to-Palms highway on the PCT. The trail was a lot like the southern Sierra and amazingly beautiful. The San Jacinto mountains are very high and it would be nice in June once you get up there. It doesn't have the cachet of Yosemite, but it would be a decent alternative with a lot less travel time.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: yosemite versus joshua tree on 05/07/2009 19:03:07 MDT Print View

Larry makes some good points. I live within an hour of the north and south entrances to JT, which was by design.

I hate Yosemite, because of the people and vendors. Best thing for Yosemite would be to block off/blow up the entrances and make people walk in. We also need to stop clearing the rockslides off the roads too. :)

But, if you have never been there, and if you might not get a chance in the near future, I would go to Yosemite. You are going to burn a day of travel each way from LA, so I would fly up north if you can get a cheap flight.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
re: J-Tree or Yosemite on 05/08/2009 08:14:31 MDT Print View

I think either one isn't a very good option for you.

I've been to J-Tree several times but always in mid-April. Even then the temps can reach into the high eighties/low nineties. I imagine June can become scorching hot.

The problem for Yosemite is you're going to spend the majority of your 2.5 days traveling. Unless you never plan to get there eventually save it for another trip imo.

If I was you I would take a look into the area around Idyllwild. I've not done any hiking there but a little climbing on Taquitz/Suicide rocks. It's very nice terrain around there and I'm sure the temps will be more forgiving than J-Tree in June.

Maybe one of the Cali folks can tell you if there are good hiking options around Idyllwild.

PS - If you do go to J-Tree I recommend Ryan Campground over Hidden Valley for peace and quite. Although in June maybe both campgrounds are pretty vacant.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Yosemite on 05/08/2009 10:25:24 MDT Print View

Yosemite is a long ways from LA. However, if I were to do it I would leave LA and enter on the south end of the park in order to go through the tunnels and get that view of the valley. That sight still stuns me. If you would like to spend some time in the valley you could check out the many falls, etc. but it is REALLY crowded.

I would then head up to the upper valley near Tuolomne, etc. You could find a lot of nice trailheads to hike in for a night or two. Lots of options there. Just make sure you get permits and have a canister.

Then you could exit Tioga pass and head home on the eastern side of the Sierra and get a long distance view of Mt. Whitney.

It is a long drive but a lot to see along the way.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
re: J-Tree or Yosemite on 05/08/2009 11:28:25 MDT Print View

I agree with John somewhat. In June I would and head up to the San Jacintos or San Bernadinos.

But I think the OP was most interested in hitting either due their unique and famous features... sort of a once in a while opportunity.

If you are not used to desert climates, then JT may not be for you in June. Plus water is scarce or non-existent in 99% of the park. That being said, everyone should see Yosemite at least once in their lifetime. It is that unique. As far as deserts, there are many destinations are intriguing and interesting as JT.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both? on 05/08/2009 12:34:40 MDT Print View

Yosemite is a LONG way away for a 2.5 day weekend. You will have time to drive through the park, but you will miss so much! That said, it is still worth it, if for no other reason than to entice you to make a longer trip of it next time, and you will have all of Sunday in the park. My brother once left LA in the morning, hiked half dome that day with a friend, and late that night drove up to Washington to get to a wedding! So yes, it can be done, but prepare to be exhausted; You will be able to drive during the day (leaving the park very early Monday) so you will be much safer on Hwy 395 during the day, and the first part of it really is spectacular scenery. I say go for it, just plan on pushing yourself hard and relying on your adrenaline.

One option for Joshua Tree is to begin a hike before dawn. If the moon is out, you won't need a flashlight. Walking through Joshua trees under a full moon is up there with some of my most surreal things I've done, and is a truly unique experience. Ascending granite boulders at sunrise will be a beautiful experience. You could get in a pretty good hike before it gets too hot, and then head back to town in the afternoon heat. Better yet, head to the Desert Hot Springs to stay cool.

Thomas Trebisky

Locale: Southern Arizona
Tough choices, neither ideal on 05/08/2009 13:36:42 MDT Print View

Nick thinks the right way, stop clearing rockslides and disable the roads. Right on!

Yosemite is magic, no question about it. The valley is so special that I can pretty much ignore the zoo/carnival atmosphere (pretty much) - but my advice would be to take a quick look and then head up to Tuolumne and pick a trail or wander up on one of the domes (avoiding killing yourself of course). A heck of a long drive for just a weekend.

I live in Tucson, so I could contemplate JT in June, but I doubt that most people would enjoy the hot daytime temps. There would certainly be lovely evenings. You could get up before dawn and do short dayhikes (take lots of water). You very well might not like the heat though.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both? on 05/08/2009 13:50:20 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm convinced that I can't go wrong with either if I can handle the heat. I think I might try Yosemite over the weekend and merely an evening over at Joshua Tree later in the week since it will be relatively close (60 miles) to where I'll be staying.

One thing I think I might be underestimating is how long it would take me to get from LA to Yosemite. Googlemaps says it is 315 miles and roughly 5 hours. That doesn't seem terribly long to me, but am I underestimating traffic, mountains, etc.?


John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
RE:"Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both?" on 05/08/2009 14:03:53 MDT Print View

I only drove out of LA once and that was to J-Tree. It seemed like the suburbs went on for about 150 miles...! Last couple of times we drove over from Vegas.

Several times I flew into San Fran and drove to Toloumne Meadows and that took over 5 hours each time.

My guess is plan on 8 hours from LA but its a wild guess... Better to get the scoop from a local.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both? on 05/08/2009 15:09:54 MDT Print View

The estimated time is probably pretty accurate, but I would guess 6 hour rather than 5. I suppose traffic depends most on where in LA you are starting from. Once you get out of the city, the traffic isn't bad. Even the mountain roads are pretty smooth and easy to travel.

Barbara Karagosian
(Barbara) - M

Locale: So Cal
drive time to Yosemite on 05/08/2009 16:34:39 MDT Print View

Two ways to go - from LA up the 405 to the 5 then 99 to wards Fresno, then 41 to the south entrance - that will take 5.5 hours. From the south entrance it's another 45 minutes or so to the Valley. Or you could go up the eastern side, via the 14 to the 395 (or is it 385?), via Lone Pine, Independence, Bishop, and turn left at Lee Vining and go in the Tioga Pass entrance and you'll be at Tuolumne Meadows very soon after that. That's a quicker drive - total 5.5 hours or so the whole thing, much nicer drive. If you're camping, there are walk in sites up there. And it's an hour drive to the valley from there, if you want to check it out while you're up there.

Joshua Tree will be scorching. It's about 3 hours or more from LA, traffic can be brutal on the 10. Best campsite BY FAR is White Tank.

Good luck 0 Barbara

Edited by Barbara on 05/08/2009 16:36:04 MDT.

Ian White
(DeuceRegular) - F

Locale: Southern Jefferson
Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both? on 05/09/2009 00:08:41 MDT Print View

Yosemite is amazing. If you have never seen it before you can't go wrong. However, if it is some Sierra magic that you want you can beat the crowds and get into the high country by going to Mineral King outside of Visalia or drive up hwy 395 and jump into the sierra from either Lone Pine or Bishop.

I don't have that much to elaborate upon about JT. Spent my desert time in Anza Borrego. Less people! but less joshua tree.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Limited Time...Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Both? on 05/09/2009 07:26:56 MDT Print View

If it were my first time I would make a loop, going up the 5 and down the 395. The lower valley is worth seeing, even if only to drive through. And the descent from Tuolumne Meadows to Mono Lake is quite spectacular.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: 395 and Tioga Pass on 05/11/2009 01:13:15 MDT Print View

It is not uncommon for Tioga Pass to become unpassable due to rock slides, and sometimes the road can be closed for a few days.

For this trip, I would go via Fresno. But as a resident, I always take 395 to the Sierras.

Jarod Fleming
(flemdawg1) - F

Locale: SE US
Alternative NP on 05/11/2009 09:23:54 MDT Print View

Have you considered going to Channel Islands NP instead? Went there for a day last July. Fairly close to LA. Take a ferry to Santa Cruz, set up camp at the Scorpion Beach CG and Dayhike around. Or go straight to DelNorte backcountry site. And catch the ferry back the next day.

As far as places to stay, when we went to CINP, we camped at McGrath State Beach for 2 nights. Decent bird watching area, but the beach has lots of trash from the Santa Clara River.

Edited by flemdawg1 on 05/11/2009 10:54:12 MDT.