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Our Backyard: Joshua Tree National Park, California

Climb, hike, and camp in Joshua Tree National Park.

5. Top Seaside View
At mile 3.3 on the 3.7-mile Lost Palms Oasis Trail, follow a short spur right to an overlook. Look south: You’ll see the landlocked Salton Sea glittering 70 miles away.

6. Favorite Campground
White Tank (15 sites) has all of the beauty and none of the crowds of Jumbo Rocks (124 sites). Bonus: Scramble up 12-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide Arch Rock.

7. Coolest Cactus
Wander the quarter-mile Cholla Cactus Loop to get a close gander at this dense forest of fuzzy oddities. But keep your distance: It’s also known as the “jumping cholla” because needles detach so easily they seem to launch from plant to skin before you can even touch it.

8. Best Beginner Crags
With easy bouldering and routes starting at 5.1, the Quail Springs picnic area is an ideal playground  for fledgling climbers. Easy access to cliff tops makes for great top-roping. Joshua Tree Climbing School owner Mark Bowling recommends Sail Away (5.7+).

9.  Secret Hideout
“Carey’s Castle,” a prospector’s home built straight into boulders and abandoned in the 1940s, still stands. Get there: On I-10, exit Hayfield, turn left after 1.1 miles, and follow a dirt road for 1.7 miles before turning left into a parking area. Bushwhack through brush and boulders on a “secret” nine-miler in the park’s remote southwest section, says Hal Summers (below). 

10. Spookiest Formation
Skull Rock, reachable by a 1.5-mile, one-way ramble just off Jumbo Rocks campground, serves as a creepy photo subject—and a terrifying reminder of what hikers who forget water look like (local tip: 100 oz. per person per day).

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