While in California, Joshua Tree National Park was offering free admission for everyone on Veteran’s Day. We were already planning on hiking here, so saving $20 on the admission fee was an added bonus!
The park is huge and beautiful, and since we had never been there, we took some advice from No Back Home and decided to hike the Barker Dam trail. If you plan on visiting Joshua Tree, you should check out his blog. It was extremely helpful for us when planning our trip.
Before starting out on our hike, we stopped by the ranger station to pick up Junior Ranger booklets for the kids. The Junior Ranger program was something else we learned about from No Back Home. Jenna absolutely loved her book and was so excited to find the different plants and animals to check off of her list. As a homeschooling mom, I loved that my kids were learning while having fun on vacation.
At the very end of the day when they had completed the age appropriate challenges, we took their books to the ranger station and they were awarded little park ranger pins and a storybook called A Tree Named Lilly. Now I really wish we had more national parks nearby!
The Barker Dam hike was fairly easy. We hiked 1.63 miles total and it took us an hour and fifty minutes to complete. Our actual moving time was only an hour, but there were so many fun rock formations to climb and explore, we took a lot of detours during the hike.
The kids had so much fun bouldering at the beginning of the hike. The rocks are easy to climb as they have a very grippy surface so your feet can almost stick to them while climbing.
We had to stop for a lunch break along the way too. Hopefully our kids end up having a lot of fond memories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since that’s what they always eat on hikes!
We weren’t sure if there would actually be any water in the dam when we reached it because of the drought, but we were in luck! You could tell the water level was much lower than it usually is, but it was better than finding a dried out desert.
The trail is a loop, so you get to see new sights on the hike back. The petroglyphs on the rocks were really interesting to look at and and try to decipher their meanings. Jenna was also studying Native Americans in school, so this was a perfect hands-on lesson!
Give this kid a stick, and he’ll be happy forever. Tell him he can’t take his stick home because we’re in a national park and it will make him cry.
After we finished our hike at Barker Dam, we drove over to Hidden Valley to climb the rocks and explore the ‘caves’ and tunnels. It was a little bit chilly from the wind, but I’m glad we came in November when the temperatures are more comfortable!
The rock formations were beautiful and so much fun to climb around on. You can see how tiny Cory, Connor, and Jenna are in the rock arch!
As we were leaving Joshua Tree, we drove through the Cholla Cactus garden and it was amazing. So completely different than anything we have at home!
We could have easily spent several days exploring Joshua Tree National Park. It’s such a great place to visit!