Joshua Tree National Park is 1 of 8 national parks in California and is the 53rd established (1994) making it one of the newer (Yellowstone #1 in 1872) national parks. The park is in the mid-range for size (790,636 acres) and visitors (2,942,382 (2018).
Cycling is welcome in the park and there are actually 3 camp sites designated exclusively for cyclists (Joshua Tree NP Cycling page).
Summaries by PJAMM friend and contributor Bruce Hamilton, La Quinta, CA, USA.
CYCLING PINTO BASIN ROAD SOUTH
This climb starts at the low point in the center of the park – you’ll know you’re there when you see the sign and cross the Fried Liver Wash. This ride is best approached from the south entrance to the park and we often ride it from just outside the park. It is hot in summer months and starting early is highly recommended. I’ve done it several times starting before sunrise under a full moon and then continuing as the sky turns orange through the dawn and the sun rises.
This is a fantastic time to ride this course – I have done it where I did not see a single car for four hours. The pavement is good and the traffic light and this is not a difficult climb – averaging about 4% over the 10 miles until you get to the crest.
CYCLING PINTO BASIN ROAD NORTH
There are three entrances to Joshua Tree National Park and this climb begins at the northeast entrance, just at the edge of the town of 29 Palms (home of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center; population ~26,000 2018). The climb is not difficult but there is no warmup as you are immediately going uphill as you enter the park.
The first five miles or so is pretty steady and the second half of this climb has some softer grades. Don’t forget to bring your park pass (or $15.00 for cyclists as of 2019) – the fee station is just a few miles from town and it’s a long downhill and re-climb to go back and get it. This ride can be done as an out and back or it can be part of a ride all the way through the park. The climb is almost finished when you come to the junction that will take you either further south through the park or to the town of Joshua Tree. To finish the climb, turn left at the junction and continue to the top of the crest. This can easily be combined with Pinto Basin South by going over the crest and continuing down for about 11 miles to the Fried Liver Wash. Turn around there to begin the Pinto Basin South climb back to the crest.
There is no water along this route and it can be hot and desolate. It is spectacular, however, and highly recommended.
Getting around in Joshua Tree National Park (other than by bike and car): Free shuttle service for the northern section as of 2019 under an experimental plan that allows free access to the park for shuttle riders.
No water along these routes so take care if it’s warm.