Top Ten Winter Outdoor Family Getaways

Desert Delights: Joshua Tree National Park, California
  |  Gorp.com
Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree's namesake

How about a winter retreat that offers something besides skiing or surfing?

Take your family to Joshua Tree National Park, where you can bask in the sun while exploring some amazing desert scenery. Here two deserts at different altitudes meet—the high Mojave and the low Colorado—resulting in nearly 800,000 acres of spectacular sights.

The park gets its name from the spiky, crooked, and very dramatic "praying plant"—one of the most spectacular plants found in southwestern deserts. The tree can grow as high as 40 feet tall.

The park offers many short nature walks perfect for families. In addition to the abundant natural highlights, man has left his mark too. For instance, check out the Indian rock paintings along the 1.1-mile Barker Dam Trail.

Don't miss the Desert Queen Ranch, built in the early 1900s, that has been restored. The grounds include the house, a small school, a store, workshop and replanted orchard. The 90-minute, ranger-led walking tour covers about a mile of territory. Kids will be fascinated by this peek at bygone days.

Teach your kids the meaning of the word "oasis" with a visit to one of Joshua Tree's five lush spots. Families with a bit of energy will love the 3.7-mile trek to the largest, the Lost Palms Oasis, a perfect picnic destination.

Resources

Joshua Tree National Park, California

GORP's JTNP Homepage

All the information you need, from how to get there to what to do. Includes information on hiking, camping, horseback riding, rock climbing, nature trails and mountain biking, as well as contacts and lodging information.

Be sure to check out nearby San Bernadino National Forest and Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, two of many great southern California desert destinations.

Still haven't gotten enough desert? Learn more at Palm Spring's Desert Museum (www.psmuseum.org), which features exhibitions, tours, programs, and sponsored hikes—rated from easy to strenuous—twice weekly.

Plan your whole trip by seeing Joshua Tree in relation to its neighboring points of interest.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Golden State. Enjoy your trip!


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