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Dog-Friendly Joshua Tree: A Complete Guide + A Great One Day Park Itinerary

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Joshua Tree is an incredible one-of-a-kind national park. But because it is a desert, it is a rather extreme place. You may be thinking, should I really take my dog to Joshua Tree? Is Joshua Tree dog friendly?

I’ll be frank, Joshua Tree was not the most dog-friendly place I’ve ever been. However, that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on experiencing Joshua Tree. There are still a lot of incredible things you can do and see with your pup in tow. You just need to be prepared, which is what this guide is all about.

If you would like to visit a more dog-friendly part of California, nearby Palm Springs, San Diego, and the Central Coast are all fantastic options. Here’s a list of dog-friendly getaways in Southern California. If you decide to visit Joshua Tree without your dog, consider what options you have for what to do with your dog when you travel.

I’ll go through what areas of the park are accessible, I’ll provide you with some tips to keep your dog safe and I’ll suggest a one-day itinerary for dog friendly Joshua Tree, so you to see the best of what the park offers.

We talked to the park ranger to get the best advice possible. Then we visited these places ourselves, so we can provide an insider look at how to have the best time with your dog at Joshua Tree.

It is because of people sharing their stories and opinions that we are able to make this site. If you have traveled with your dog in the United States or other countries, share your experience!

Can you take your dog to Joshua Tree National Park?

Leashed pets are welcome within 100 feet of roads, picnic areas, and campgrounds. Just be sure to consult the park map to find the perfect spot for your dog-friendly adventure.

We know how much you cherish your four-legged companions and the happiness they bring to your life. We hope this guide helps you with your trip into the fascinating desert. You can navigate Joshua Tree National Park while ensuring the safety and well-being of all visitors, including our precious wildlife.

Although park regulations restrict pets from hiking trails, backcountry areas, and park buildings, there are still great ways to enjoy the park with your constant companion!

The way we experienced Joshua Tree National Park with our dogs

It was a series of great scenic drives through the park punctuated by a few stops to get out and take in the views. These are typically short walks around the site since you can’t go on the trails. There are opportunities to spend more time on foot if you want to hike along the unpaved roads.

We cover some of the best sights and recommendations that you can easily get to in one day in Joshua Tree. It is all organized into a great one-day itinerary later on in this post.

How do I get to Joshua Tree?

The closest airport is in Palm Springs which is about 45 minutes away. Both LAX in LA and SAN in San Diego are great alternatives if you want to explore the larger Southern California region.

If you are flying in with a small dog, this guide will help get your dog to Palm Springs in the cabin.

There are no good ways to visit Joshua Tree with a dog and without a car, so if you are flying in, you will want to get a car rental

There is no park shuttle, and the park is very spread out. Plus, the dog-friendly itinerary requires a significant amount of driving. A car will be essential for a dog-friendly trip to Joshua Tree.

Where can I take my dog in Joshua Tree National Park?

Two terriers standing on a bolder in the dog friendly areas of Joshua Tree

To make sure everyone has a pleasant experience, adhere to the park’s pet regulations. Pets are prohibited from hiking trails, backcountry areas, and park buildings. Leashes must not exceed 6 feet in length, and pet owners are responsible for promptly picking up and disposing of pet waste in designated trash receptacles. Failure to comply with these rules may result in fines.

We recommend exploring picnic areas, campgrounds, and paved Oasis of Mara and Keys View trails.

Per the park’s guidelines, your leashed dog is welcome to join you wherever you can drive your vehicle. Here’s a list of roads you can explore with your canine companion in the car. Many of these roads feature pullouts or parking areas, making them excellent starting points for your adventures.

Accessible To All Vehicles (One-Way Distances)

  • Queen Valley Road – 2.9 miles with one-way traffic
  • Stirrup Tank Road – 1.5 miles
  • Odell Road – 1.5 miles
  • Geology Tour Road – 5.4 miles
  • Desert Queen Mine Road – 1.2 miles
  • Bighorn Pass Road – 3.2 miles (5.1 km)

Service Animals at Joshua Tree National Park

If you have a service animal, please note that they are subject to the same regulations as pets unless they have been individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability.

Off-roading with my pet

You’ll be pleased to know that if you’re driving through the park, you can bring your furry friend along as long as they’re on a leash. Just keep in mind that some roads may be more challenging than others, Some roads may require 4-wheel drive, so choose a route that suits you and your pup’s abilities. While these roads aren’t heavily trafficked, it’s still important to be vigilant and stay out of the way of any vehicles you may encounter.

Accessible To 4-Wheel Drive Vehicles (One-Way Distances)

  • Covington-area Roads – 9.9 miles
  • Pinkham Canyon Road – 19.2 miles
  • Old Dale Road – 12.6 miles
  • Geology Tour Road past Mile 5.4 – 18 miles
  • Black Eagle Mine Road – 9.6 miles
  • Berdoo Canyon Road – 11.5 miles

Bark Ranger Program

Facebook group US Bark Rangers of the United States National Parks dedicated to helping people visit national parks responsibly with their pets. This program has been suspended at Joshua Tree NP. Rangers do not want to encourage people to bring their dogs because the extreme climate can be a significant risk.

Dog-friendly Joshua Tree: One Day Itinerary

If you want to go to Joshua tree and you have to have your dog with you then you want to treat it more like a driving tour with a few walking pit-stops with your dog. 

The park itself is amazing to drive through, and there are so many incredible rock formations to see that don’t require extensive hikes.

Since dogs are not allowed on the trails, the famous trails of Joshua Tree National Park are not the best place for your dog to really get their energy out and go on a long arduous hike with their adventurous backpacker pawrents. Even so, there are some great dog friendly things to do in Joshua Tree. This one day itinerary is a great guide for you and your pup.

1. Get some coffee or breakfast in the town of Joshua Tree

Standing in line at Joshua Tree Coffee Company where they have a dog-friendly patio
The Country Kitchen in Joshua Tree has a dog-friendly patio

Fuel up at Joshua Tree Coffee Company or for a full breakfast go to Country Kitchen. Both have dog-friendly patios. Be careful though, on weekends the Country Kitchen has live music during brunch. It’s so much fun, you may never get to the park at that rate. Both are very popular and have long lines, so be prepared for a wait.

Pack a picnic lunch to take with you because there are NO food services in the park, and it’s a long way to get back to town just to eat something. Also, there are beautiful picnic spots to take advantage of. More suggestions on that later.

2. Pick up some souvenirs and capture your Instagram moment

Rustic set in the parking lot of the Joshua Tree National Park Gift Shop

Go to the Joshua Tree National Park Gift Shop downtown and take a family photo in front of the old-timey set in the parking lot.

The gift shop only allows service animals, so you might be able to go inside if you take turns.

Use our caption generator to help you come up with ideas to post on your social media

3. Get your park pass and all the info you need

The visitor center for Joshua Tree National Park

Cross the street to find the Joshua Tree National Park Information Center.

While you are there, pick up a map because there is no cell reception in the park and you don’t want to get lost. The map will also be essential to find some of the dirt roads your dog is allowed to walk on, so don’t skip this step.

At the interpretive center, feel free to talk to the rangers and get any more ideas and inspiration for where to take your dog. I did this step for you, so all my recommendations are based on my conversation with the ranger at Joshua Tree National Park.

The interpretive center is also helpful in terms of the displays that explain the geology and natural habitat.

This is also where you were supposed to be able to get your bark ranger tag, but they didn’t have any when we were there.

4. Enter the park and make a pit-stop

Leave the town of Joshua Tree and head towards the west entrance station.

This is where the ranger booth is to pay and the last flushing bathroom before you enter the park. The lines can be long here, so you don’t want to hold people up by trying to talk to the person in the booth. Go to the interpretive center in town to get all your information (step 3) rather than trying to get info here.

5. Take in the scenery

Joshua Tree doesn’t make you wait to get to some amazing landscapes. The initial part of the park passes through an incredible valley filled with joshua trees.

Your dog may not appreciate it, but you certainly will.

6. Cap Rock

Cap Rock at Joshua Tree National Park with a smooth flat trail and bathrooms

After you leave the valley of Joshua trees, you will start getting into all of the incredible rock formations that scatter the park. Park. Drive slowly and appreciate each one.

Make your way to Cap Rock. There are some great family-friendly walking trails and picnic areas there. Dogs are not allowed on the trail, but they can go to the picnic areas and anywhere within 100 ft of the road or parking lot.

That gives you a good opportunity to walk around. The jutting formation of caprock is right there next to the parking lot (not sure that’s where I’d pick to be during an earthquake). You get an amazing view straight from the parking lot.

It is a gravity-defining wonder and it will give your dog a little chance to stretch their legs.

7. Keys View in Joshua Tree for an epic vista

Keys View at Joshua Tree National Park has a dog-friendly trail

Your next stop should be Keys View. You’ll head up and elevation to above 5000 ft. The park service has put in a nice wheelchair-accessible trail as well as concrete walkways with railings. So everyone including our furry friends can get to the tip top where the best views are located.

This is the best place to come to watch the sunset, so you might want to come here later in the day. However, the views of the valley floor and the mountain ranges across the way are stunning no matter what time of day you decide to visit.

The sunset views can be crowded so you will probably get a better chance to see the view if you do come not during peak times. We saw the most dogs here of anywhere in the park. The walkway was narrow, so you know you will be passing by and interacting with other dogs along the way.

8. Hidden Valley Picnic Area

Picnic table by the rock formations at Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree National Park

You might be starting to get hungry now, so head back down to the lower elevations of Hidden Valley. It is another incredible series of rock formations. The picnic area and campgrounds here are areas where You can walk around with your dog.

This place must be special since it’s where a jewelry company decided to photograph their next advertisement while we were eating our lunch.

The rock formations are right next to the parking lot, so there’s a lot for you and your pup to see without having to go in too far.

You do want to be careful to keep the hundred-foot rule because a park ranger who was monitoring the photo shoot told us we had gone too far with our dogs. Even though we were still in the picnic area, we had passed the 100-foot mark. I thought the rules were a little too legalistic considering the setting, but I’m not going to argue with the ranger.

There’s still tons to explore here, and you could easily spend 30-60 minutes walking around before or after lunch.

We would recommend picnic tables and campsites in the shelter of the rocks because it is a little bit windy here.

9. Take a walk with your dog on the dirt roads

Norwich terrier going on a walk on the dirt road in a dog-friendly area of Joshua Tree National Park

After everyone’s full, it’s a good time to walk it off.

Dogs are allowed on the roads, but the main paved roads would be way too busy to walk along with your dog. However, there are two main dirt tracks that have some vehicle traffic but not very much. You can drive out a little way to find a little area to pull off and park.

The dirt roads go on for more than 5 miles, so if you have a dog who really needs to get in their exercise, this is your chance. This might not be as scenic as the hiking trails, but it is a nice opportunity for you and your dog to go on a bonding walk together.

Be very careful of cactus thorns on the ground. Both our terriers, Sam and Denver walked on a cactus during our trip. Neither thought it was a fun experience that your dog should try. Don’t worry, they’re both fine now. No lasting injuries.

These are wide-open dirt tracks with no shade, so make sure you have plenty of water and you are keeping the weather in mind.

10. Skull Rock

A norwich terrier standing in front of Skull Rock at Joshua Tree National Park

Skull rock is one of the most popular destinations in Joshua Tree. It is also right off the road meaning you and your dog can see the best view without having to get up close into the rock formations. However, the space available for dogs to go is fairly limited.

The jumbo rocks campground is right next door. It doesn’t have one unique rock formation that is a must-see but it is incredibly beautiful, and since it’s a campground your dogs can walk around there as well. I liked it in particular because I felt like I was being cocooned by boulders.

11. Cholla Cactus Garden (not dog-friendly, but worth the drive and a quick visit)

Cholla Cactus Garden

This next stop is not really dog friendly. In fact, it’s probably the least dog-friendly place in the park.

However, it is so unique and fascinating that if you’re only here for one day and you don’t have a chance to visit anything without your dog, it still might be worth viewing just from the parking lot. Cholla cactus garden is an otherworldly botanical sight. 

We were there in spring and also were able to see patches of wildflowers on the drive over.

12. The Oasis of Mara

Palm trees in an oasis

From here you will head out of the park towards 29 Palms for your final stop inside Joshua Tree National Park unless you want to come back for evening activities. 

The Oasis of Mara is dog friendly and you can walk the 0.06 mi loop on a paved trail with your dogs on a leash. 

13. Return to Joshua Tree for dinner

Border terrier on the dog-friendly patio at Joshua Tree Saloon

Leave Joshua Tree National Park through the 29 Palms entrance/exit. Drive back on highway 62 to Joshua Tree.

There are a variety of options for patio dining, but Joshua Tree Saloon is a pretty fun one. They have a large dog-friendly patio that also happens to be great for children. They focus on American-style hamburgers, BBQ, and tacos. This place may not be the best choice if you’re on a diet, but they sure are delicious.

14. Chill or back for more?

The starry sky at Joshua Tree National Park

It’s been a long day, so you and your dog may be completely wiped out and want to return to wherever you’re staying.

However, if you still have a little more energy, you could return to Keys View to watch the sunset. Sunset. There are a number of parking areas designated for stargazing without any light pollution. Since the viewing areas are in the parking lot, your dog is allowed to join you.  

You see some fantastic stars straight from your accommodation in Joshua Tree, but if you want the best views away from all the other lights, you’ll have to head back into the park.

Pack your blankets, it gets chilly at night in the desert.

15. Go to sleep at dog-friendly accommodation

You’ll be exhausted!

Hot Tub Boulders Art-Infused Adobe

Casa La Stella is a beautiful traditional adobe-style house with a Mexican artistic influence. Surrounded by boulders and desert flora, it’s perfect for larger groups while still being close to town, hiking, or shows at Pappy & Harriets.

2 pets are allowed with a pet fee. No size limits. Since this is a large property, this is a chance to take your pup on a desert walk they can’t do in the national park.

Glamping at The Castle House Estate

Choose from a medieval castle tiny home or glamping. This resort was featured on HGTV for its unique experience.

Dogs are allowed with a fee. They need to be crated if left unattended and kept on a leash outside at night

Tips for a better experience with your dog in Joshua Tree

When to visit Joshua Tree

This is a desert. It gets extremely hot in the summer. It is regularly over 100 degrees F. There is very little shade in the park, so this is NOT a place to bring your dog from June-September. You’ll have to check the shoulder season on a year-by-year basis.

The best time to visit is during the late fall, winter, and spring. If you do go during the warmer months, keep your trips to early in the morning or in the cooler parts of the evening.

Remember to be cautious of hot surfaces that could harm your pet’s paws and try to walk during cooler parts of the day to avoid overheating.

Unless you and your dog are experienced desert hikers, it just isn’t safe to visit in the summer. Pick somewhere else more appropriate to go. The California Coastline has much more dog-friendly summer climates.

This will help take care of your dog’s basic needs

How to keep your dog safe at Joshua Tree

Visit during the cooler months

Pet Trackers won’t really do much

We strongly advise against relying on pet trackers as they have proven to be unreliable in the park, leading to lost pets. Always keep your pet on a leash, even if perfectly behaved, to ensure their safety and to preserve and respect the park.

There is very little cell service within the park, so the technology required for the trackers to function will be severely limited.


When visiting national parks, wildlife sightings are often a highlight for many visitors. This is one of the reasons why dogs are required to stay on leash and only on the roads. The mere presence of pets in the park can alter the natural behavior of the park’s wildlife. Additionally, pet odors can disrupt important habitats, such as fan palm oases. Sensitive archaeological sites may be disturbed by curious four-legged visitors.

It is a harsh environment in Joshua Tree. It’s also important to keep your pet safe from cactus spines, rattlesnakes, sharp rocks, and potential predators, like coyotes and mountain lions.

A border terrier with a cholla cactus stuck in his paw
Sam got a Cholla cactus stuck in his paw

Pro Tip from dog owners who live in the desert:

I got stuck by a jumping cholla right thru my jeans. They are brutal and sneaky. My friend got one in the palm & heel of his hand. The pain is terrible.

Those of us who often hike around the little b*stards carry a cheap small comb, you know the kind your grandfather used, it is the perfect tool to get between the sticker and the fur and gives you the leverage to pull it out cleanly without getting stuck yourself.

By now, I’m sure you can appreciate why Joshua Tree is not the most dog-friendly place and why you might still want to go there with your dog.

Here are some tips that might help you to have a more dog-friendly experience

Rent an electric vehicle (dog mode!) or RV if possible 

Tesla parked in the desert

Electric vehicles such as Teslas have a feature called “dog mode”. If you turn that on, the AC will stay running in the car keeping your dog safe and comfortable. While Tesla has great reliability, it still doesn’t seem very smart to use “dog mode” when it is the height of summer. However, it can be a great feature for fall, winter, and spring to give you a chance to do things like a quick walk around the Cholla Cactus Garden.

Many RVs have equipment that keeps the cabin at a pleasant temperature. People who travel with dogs and own RVs often carry a temperature sensor with them to get notifications if it is getting too warm.

Bring a friend so you can take turns

While it is always more fun to stay together in a group, there are times when it helps to have a buddy. I’m thinking bathroom breaks might be a top one on my list.

It would also be convenient so one person could run into the gift store or the interpretive center. Overall, it helps to have someone take turns caring for the dogs and doing what needs to be done.

Visit without your dog

Joshua Tree Pet Resort sign advertising day care and providing their phone number 760) 219-09801

Consider boarding your dog in Joshua Tree for the second day, or get a vacation rental where dogs are allowed to stay unattended. If you can stay more days, you can do ½ day trips to the park so your dog isn’t left alone too long, but you still get to go on some amazing trails

Dog-friendly things to do near Joshua Tree – take advantage of some of fun things outside the park

There are a lot of fun things to do in the general area. Palm Springs is incredibly dog friendly and it is only about 45 minutes away. You could easily stay there and do my suggested itinerary for a 1-day trip in the park.

There are also lots of other fun and unexpected things to do in the area. For example, if you like art (or even if you don’t) there are some really quirky outdoor art galleries in the area. The Glass Outhouse Art Gallery and Noah Purifoy’s exhibits offer some really fun immersive experiences that you won’t get anywhere else. Since they are outdoors, you can bring your pup with you.

Dog friendly hikes near Joshua Tree

Nearby dog-friendly trails outside the national park. Some options include:

1. Black Rock Canyon Trail

Located near Yucca Valley, this 6-mile loop trail offers a moderate hike with beautiful views of the surrounding desert landscape. (Conflicting information about dog-friendliness but the majority say it is)

3. Long Canyon Trail

Situated near Desert Hot Springs, this 3.8-mile out-and-back trail offers a scenic and relatively easy hike through desert landscapes.

Joshua Tree Packing List for Dogs

Keep your dog cool and hydrated

Other helpful items

Hair Combs Set to get out the cactus

RUFFWEAR hiking harness

Epi-Pet K-9 Care Sunscreen can help for ears and light-skinned pets

Wellness CORE treats to get your dog to pose in front of the stunning scenery

Must-Do Activities Near Joshua Tree That Are Worth leaving Fido behind

Joshua Tree National Park trails

Barker trail at Joshua Tree National Park is not dog-friendly

Since you can’t go on any of the trails without your dog, you’ll have to leave them at home.

We walked on some family-friendly trails such as Barker Dam and Discovery Trail. Both of them were absolutely incredible, and I’m glad that we did not miss them.

We did not go rock climbing, but that is one of the most popular reasons that people come to Joshua Tree. That would be another reason to head back to the park for a second day without your pup in tow. 

California Through My Lens has a Youtube Video on 15 Places to Explore in Joshua Tree National Park. These suggestions are not dog-friendly, but they are great places to visit.

FAQ: Dog-friendly Joshua Tree

Where is Joshua Tree located?

Joshua Tree National Park is situated in Southern California, approximately 130 miles east of Los Angeles. The park encompasses parts of both the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, offering visitors unique and diverse landscapes to explore.

How far is Joshua Tree from San Diego?

Joshua Tree National Park is about 160 miles northeast of San Diego, which is approximately a 2.5 to 3-hour drive, depending on traffic. It is the closest National Park to San Diego.

Are dogs allowed in Joshua tree National Park?

Dogs are allowed in Joshua Tree National Park but with some restrictions. They are permitted within 100 feet of roads, picnic areas, and campgrounds but must be leashed at all times. Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails, in the backcountry, or in park buildings.

Is it safe for dogs in Joshua Tree?

Joshua Tree is a desert and a pretty harsh environment. You can travel there with your dog, but you will need to take precautions and be prepared for the elements. It is extremely hot (over 100 degrees) between June and September. There are cacti, thorny plants as well as wild animals such as coyotes.

Where is the best sunset at Joshua Tree National Park

One of the best spots to catch a stunning sunset in Joshua Tree is at Keys View. This popular lookout point offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and the surrounding mountains, making it an ideal location to watch the sun go down.

What are some easy Joshua Tree hikes?

Bajada Nature Trail (0.3-mile loop)
Cap Rock Nature Trail (0.4-mile loop)
Cholla Cactus Garden (0.25-mile loop)
Cottonwood Spring Nature Trail (1-mile loop)
Remember that dogs are not permitted on these trails in accordance with park rules.

What are the best Joshua Tree Trails?

Some of the best trails in Joshua Tree include:
Hidden Valley Nature Trail (1-mile loop)
Barker Dam Nature Trail (1.3-mile loop)
Ryan Mountain Trail (3 miles out and back)
Lost Horse Mine Trail (4 miles out and back)
Boy Scout Trail (16 miles point-to-point)
Please note that dogs are not allowed on these trails, as per park regulations.

Where can I hike with my dog at Joshua Tree?

Dogs are not allowed on most of the trails at Joshua Tree NP. However, there are a few walks they can go on including Keys View and Oasis of Mara as well as the dirt roads.

Final Thoughts: Dog-Friendly Joshua Tree

As you can see, a dog-friendly adventure in Joshua Tree and its surrounding areas while not easy is definitely possible and promises a day full of unforgettable memories.

With our one-day itinerary as your guide, you and your furry companion can enjoy the stunning desert landscapes, connect with nature, and make the most of your visit to this unique destination.

Remember to always respect park rules, keep an eye on your beloved pet, and stay prepared for any surprises the desert may have in store.

So pack your bags, grab your pup’s leash, and embark on a one-of-a-kind Joshua Tree experience that you and your four-legged friend will treasure for years to come.

Resource Guide for Travel with a Dog

🧳 What’s the best carrier for my dog when traveling?

You need different carriers for different types of travel

This is my favorite carrier for a small dog – Sleepypod Air

This is my favorite car harness for medium-large dogs – Sleepypod Clickit

This is the best for a large dog on a plane – Skymate Kennel

This is my favorite backpack for a small-medium sized dog – Mr. Penuts Tahoe

You can read more about my review of types of dog carriers for travel here.

🏨 What’s the best site to find cheap pet-friendly hotels?

To find cheap hotels, I recommend Expedia

Vacation Rentals are often the best option for people with pets VRBO

Stay for free or have someone watch your pet with Trusted Housesitters!

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