As the winter holidays approach, officials at Joshua Tree National Park are asking the community to take steps to prepare for crowds during this traditionally busy season.
Park Superintendent David Smith says public interest in the park has gone way up in the past four years. Like national parks across America, they too have seen a pandemic trend of more local visitors looking for safe outdoor activities.
“But during the holiday period, like Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s, there is just this intense rush of people looking for a place to recreate," said Smith. "It makes for a tough time for visitors to find parking and it also impacts the park a lot by having so many people in the park at the same time.”
He said just this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, they saw over 30,000 park visitors a day. Those kinds of numbers can make it hard for the park to fill its mandate of preserving the land so that people can enjoy it for generations to come.
So, to avoid the crush, visit on a weekday, and to help shorten entry lines, buy a digital pass online. Also, avoid entering the park between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and exiting at sunset. Before making plans for a holiday visit, Smith said people should take note.
“They could be sitting in a line for one to two hours to get inside the park and when they get in the park, they may not be able to find any parking at any of the popular trail heads," said Smith. "So, we really encourage folks to re-think their holiday travel to a national park like Joshua Tree.”
Smith said the park is currently fully open, but given the governor’s new safer-at-home orders, they are prepared to make the necessary closures to keep the public safe as required by the county health department and state.