Joshua Tree Rocks!

Need to get away? Is it Spring or Fall? Is it the weekend of Coachella? If you answered Yes, Yes, No, then consider a daytrip to Joshua Tree National Monument. Known for its namesake trees and mounds of boulders, this park boasts a landscape unlike anywhere else in the world. And, it’s so vast, you won’t encounter any crowds.

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Under a bright blue sky, the visuals are stunning. In the spring, desert bloom can be found everywhere, sprouting from the Joshua Trees themselves or popping up from cracks. Rocks upon rocks upon rocks will incite questions from kids – how did these get here? So be prepared with an answer.

Well-maintained trails that start from the parking lots are flat and require little to no rock climbing. The popular Barker Dam trail is short and leads you to a picturesque water source (if it rained during the winter). But there’s no doubt you’ll be tempted to go off the path for some bouldering that ranges from beginner level to advanced.

With so many low boulder formations to climb on, this is a natural playground for ages 5 and older. Easy climbs will teach them a different kind of problem solving. When hiking with children, it’s best to stay close to the parking are and have them wear a bike or skate helmet for safety.

The environment can be harsh – extreme cold, extreme heat, prickly cactuses. Check the weather before you go and be prepared with layers of clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. Dress in jeans, a long-sleeved light shirt, a hat, hiking shoes or shoes with a good tread, a bandana to keep the sun off of their necks.

Eat before or after your day at the park at Crossroads Cafe, a local fave with an extensive menu.

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The details:

Best time to go: Spring or Fall

Good for: Kids 5+

Watch out for: Cactus spines, agave spikes, rattlesnakes, coyotes

Get there: Interstate 10 to Highway 62

Wear: hiking boots, sunscreen, hat, jeans

Bring: lots of water, snacks, first aid kit

Nearby eats: Crossroads Cafe

74485 National Park Drive 

Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

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Pioneertown

Just down the road from Joshua Tree, in Yucca Valley, there’s a peculiar attraction known as Pioneertown. Is this a historic Old West town? Well, not exactly. But by Hollywood standards it’s the real deal – it was built in the 1940s to be an Old West movie set. Nonetheless, kids will love that you can go inside the stores and even pretend to be in jail; sit on a wagon, or simply run around and kick up some dust. It’s usually not crowded, perhaps because anyone visiting Pioneertown is at Pappy + Harriet’s, a popular restaurant and live music venue featuring all-ages shows. You MUST make a reservation well in advance to get into this restaurant on weekends and holidays because it seems everyone wants to eat here, both locals and tourists. Could have something to do with there’s not much around these parts in the way of food. If you don’t have a reservation and can’t survive a 3-hour wait, an excellent alternative is Crossroads, located near the Joshua Tree park entrance.

Pioneertown is located at 5040 Curtis Road, Pioneertown, CA, 92268

http://www.pappyandharriets.com

 

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Paradise Falls @ Wildwood Park

Yes, that’s water. Real water. And not just water, but a waterFALL?!  Add this: it’s not far from Los Angeles. One of a handful of waterfall hikes in Los Angeles, Paradise Falls hike in Wildwood Park is an easy-to-moderate 20-minute hike suitable for kids. Some adventurous parents of young kids might even be able to do the hike with strollers, but there are some fairly steep sets of steps.  In all, there are 14 hiking trails in Wildwood Park.

An easy flowing stream tumbles gently over boulder after boulder before it reaches a picturesque 40-foot drop known as Paradise Falls.  The falls can be reached from several directions, but for little legs the Teepee Trail might be the easiest and quickest. if you’ve got time, there are plenty of areas to explore in Wildwood Park, including a natural cave called Indian Cave.  The scenery is spectacular with mountains rising up on all sides, and the trails are lined with native coastal live oaks and the scent of 3 types of sage.

Wildwood Park is about 30 miles from Los Angles off the 101 Freeway in the city of Thousand Oaks. There are several picnic tables along the trails and water fountains. And another perk, there’s a great playground only minutes away from the park. Because nature is awesome, but to kids there’s nothing better than a playground.

The details:

Best time to go: Fall, Spring, Winter

Hours: 7am – sunset

Good for: Kids 4+

Watch out for: wildlife; mountain bikers.

Get there: 101 Freeway from central LA or the Valley; CA 23 from Santa Clarita and Simi Valley

Wear: hiking boots, sunscreen, hat

Bring: water, picnic, snacks, hiking stick, sling or carrier for younger children, first aid kit

928 W. Avenida de los Arboles
Thousand Oaks, CA  91360