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Our Backyard: Joshua Tree National Park, California

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

With Joshua Tree’s south entrance a mere 74 miles away, University of California-Riverside biology professor Greg Russell, 31, goes from campus to cactus in less than two hours. Once there, he moonlights as a pro photographer, using his day-job skills to locate elusive wildlife—like kangaroo rats, desert bighorns, and poorwills—at dusk near water-rich areas like Barker Dam.

In 2009 Hal Summers, 50, made a resolution to hike every day for a year. He succeeded, trekking “well over 100 miles” through Joshua Tree, located less than an hour away from his home in Indian Wells, California. He loves J-Tree’s bushwhacking: “It’s possible to hike cross-country in the desert very easily—just pick a ridge or canyon and go.” (See Summers’ complete hiking diary at

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