Joshua Tree National Park: Cholla Cactus Garden

Joshua Tree National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering unique landscapes that feel straight out of a science fiction movie. Among its many attractions, the Cholla Cactus Garden stands out as a surreal destination that's a must-visit for anyone exploring the park.
Photo credit: Steven Buena

Photo Credit: Steven Buena

The Cholla Cactus Garden is a vast expanse of cholla cacti, primarily the teddy-bear cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). These cacti are unique due to their distinctive appearance, which earned them the nickname "teddy-bear" because of the fuzzy, golden spines covering their branches. When the sun sets over the garden, the spines glisten and give the entire landscape an otherworldly, ethereal glow. It's no wonder that many visitors describe the Cholla Cactus Garden as a photographer's dream.

To experience this natural wonder, follow a short, easy loop trail that's about a quarter-mile long. The well-maintained path winds through the cacti, allowing you to get up close and personal with these intriguing desert plants. Be sure to watch your step, as the cholla cacti are known for their "jumping" spines that can attach themselves to anything that brushes against them.

The best time to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden is during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset. The soft, warm light creates a magical ambiance, enhancing the already captivating beauty of the cacti. Photographers and nature enthusiasts alike flock to this spot to capture the remarkable play of shadows and light.

While admiring the Cholla Cactus Garden, take a moment to appreciate the resilience and adaptability of these cacti, which thrive in the harsh desert environment. It's a reminder of the tenacity of life in even the most challenging conditions.

As with any visit to Joshua Tree National Park, remember to be respectful of the delicate desert ecosystem. Stay on designated paths to avoid damaging the cacti, and refrain from touching or attempting to remove cactus spines. Also, be cautious of wildlife, as you might spot desert animals seeking shelter or sustenance among the cacti.

The Cholla Cactus Garden at Joshua Tree National Park is a unique and captivating destination that showcases the beauty and wonder of the desert. If you're looking to immerse yourself in a surreal and stunning natural landscape, add this enchanting garden to your list of must-see spots in the park.

Know Before You Go:

There’s no cell reception in certain parts of the park so make sure to download a map of the area ahead of time. I used the app called National Parks Pocket Maps, but there are others you can leverage. You can download maps ahead of time on Google Maps or Apple Maps.

Make sure your car is filled with gas as the last thing you want is to run out of gas in the desert.  

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