Stargazing#2 in Best Things To Do in Joshua Tree National Park
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With some of the darkest nights in Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park offers visitors the chance to see the stars, planets, meteors and even the Milky Way without much in the way of light pollution. On clear nights, you should have no problem viewing the stars from anywhere in the park. That said, surrounding communities do impact Joshua Tree's night skies, so the farther you are from them, the better you'll be able to see.
Visitors can park at any of the roadside pullouts and set up chairs to stargaze. The Pinto Basin Road between the Cholla Cactus Garden and Cottonwood has the least traffic and darkest skies, according to the National Park Service. Rangers regularly offer programs about the night sky. Check online or at any visitor center for details.
To be comfortable watching the stars, bring a chair, blanket and plenty of water. While any time of the year is good for stargazing, winter experiences the longest nights, giving visitors more time to enjoy the night sky. That said, events like the Perseid Meteor Shower, which usually occurs in mid-August, provide some of the most memorable and reliable extravaganzas of the year. In the fall, the park hosts a Night Sky Festival, where rangers set up telescopes, offer tours, lectures, music and more.
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#1 Rock Climbing
Climbers flock to Joshua Tree from around the world to tackle the literally thousands of routes open to them. There are challenges for all ability levels, with more than 8,000 climbing routes, 2,000 boulder problems and hundreds of natural gaps to choose from. Because Joshua Tree has its own particular set of safety issues, from high temperatures to remote climbing spots, it pays to do your homework first. If you're unfamiliar with the park, you'll want to purchase a climbing guide and hiking map, which are available at park visitor centers and online.
Certified guides can also lead you on climbs and provide a great way to explore in safety. If you do hire a climbing guide, make sure that they are permitted to work in Joshua Tree National Park. Each guide is required to have rock guiding certifications through the Professional Climbing Guides Institute, the American Mountain Guides Association or similar organizations. They are also required to be certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR and must carry insurance.
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