The Cholla Cactus Garden Trail is one of the best easy hikes in Joshua Tree. Well, it’s less of a hike and more of a casual stroll through a scenic cluster of teddybear cholla cacti. Nonetheless, you absolutely cannot miss this incredible section of the park on your visit to Joshua Tree National Park.
Wandering through the Cholla Cactus Garden is one of the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s one of those unique experiences that you just can’t do anywhere else.
In this guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about the Cholla Cactus Garden. You’ll learn what this enchanting location is, where to find it, the danger of the teddybear cholla, when to go, tips for your visit, and more!
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK AT A GLANCE
Before diving in, here are a few highlights for planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
- Getting There: The closest major airport to Joshua Tree is Los Angeles International. Book your flights here.
- Entrance Fee: $30/vehicle or FREE with an America the Beautiful Pass
- Where to Stay: Camp in the park or stay right outside the park in the town of Joshua Tree or Twentynine Palms.
- How to Get Around: You’ll need to rent a personal vehicle to get around Joshua Tree.
- Best Time to Visit: October – May
- How Long to Visit: 3-5 days
Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree: Ultimate Guide
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What is the Cholla Cactus Garden?
The Joshua Tree Cholla Cactus Garden is a 10-acre swath of desert dominated by clusters of chocolate and golden teddybear cholla. Teddybear cholla is an attractive species of cactus that thrives in southwest America and northwestern Mexico.
I say attractive because these spiky balls are definitely “Instagram-worthy.” 😉
Backdropped by jagged mountains, a short, accessible hiking trail meanders through the densely-populated garden of prickly teddybear cholla.
Where is the Cholla Cactus Garden Trail?
The Cholla Cactus Garden Trail is located off Pinto Basin Road in the center of Joshua Tree National Park. The garden and trail are so close to the street that you’ll be able to spy the sea of fuzzy yellow arms from the road.
The trailhead parking lot holds roughly 20 vehicles.
Mileage From the South (Cottonwood) Entrance: 26
Mileage From the North (Twentynine Palms) Entrance: 15
Mileage From the West (Joshua Tree) Entrance: 31
Are Cholla Cacti Dangerous?
Yes, they can be. Teddybear cholla are also known as “jumping cholla” because they can easily stick to passersby’s skin or clothes. And their spiky spines are incredibly difficult and painful to remove.
Don’t let their cutesy name fool you. These teddy bears are not the kind that likes to be hugged. Keep your distance from them.
But there’s good news: cholla cacti don’t contain any poison.
If a spine embeds into your skin, get a pair of tweezers – these are great to keep in your hiker first aid kit! Grab and pull the spikes out of your skin. Health officials also recommend that you put something like Elmer’s glue on the area and let it dry. That way, once it dries, you can pull it off, and hopefully, it’ll remove any excess barbs in your skin. If the area remains irritated for more than a few days, seek medical attention.
How Long is the Cholla Cactus Garden Trail?
The Cholla Cactus Garden Trail is only 0.2 miles. The loop is easy and accessible. It starts just steps from the parking lot and stems into a loop. You can travel the loop in either direction; there’s no bad way to go!
It takes the average person around 5 minutes to hike the loop, but I’d encourage you to take your time wandering amongst the cholla.
We spent over an hour there strolling through the garden, watching the sunrise, snapping photos, and sipping on mugs of coffee and hot tea.
→ READ NEXT: How to Make Coffee on the Trail ☕️
When to Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden
The best time of year to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden – and Joshua Tree National Park, in general – is October through May.
The best time of day to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden is sunrise and sunset. The lighting during these two times of day is superb, and visiting at these times would mean avoiding the harsh mid-day light that can wash out some of the amazing colors.
The Cholla Cactus Garden is one of the best sunrise spots in Joshua Tree.
→ READ NEXT: 5 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree 🥾
Cholla Cactus Garden Sunrise Tips
- Arrive at least thirty minutes (or more) before sunrise. The parking lot fills up quickly!
- Bring your breakfast and hot drinks to the trail/parking lot.
- Don’t forget your headlamp! The trail and parking area will be dark before the sun fills the garden.
- Pack/wear layers. It’ll likely be chilly before the sun rises. As the sun fills the area, the temperature will rise.
Cholla Cactus Garden Sunset Tips
- Arrive at least thirty minutes (or more) before sunset. The parking lot fills up quickly!
- Bring a snack to enjoy on the trail or in the parking lot.
- Don’t forget your headlamp! The trail and parking area will get dark after the sun sets.
- Pack layers. After the sun goes down, the temperature can drop rapidly.
PRO TIP: If you visit from March through June, you’ll get to witness the cholla flowering! Their flowers can be pink, yellow, green, and red.
Tips For Your Visit to the Cholla Cactus Garden
- Don’t touch the cholla cacti, and keep your distance from them. They have sharp spines and can easily attach to your clothing and pierce your skin.
- Watch your step. Teddybear cholla often lose their stems, and the dangerous balls are commonly found littering the trail.
- Beware of bees. We didn’t have any issues with them, but they’re known to swarm around the cholla.
- Wear sun protection. Sunscreen and sun hoodies are crucial to wear in Joshua Tree. When that sun is out, it’s ruthless. You’re in the desert, after all!
- Bring the 10 Essentials. Even though this is a very short walk, you’ll likely spend a lot of time exploring this area. Even if you don’t spend tons of time here, you still should keep the 10 essentials with you at all times – either in your backpack or close by in your vehicle.
- Don’t wear sandals. Closed-toed shoes are necessary so that your feet are protected from the barbs.
→ READ NEXT: Night Hiking Tips 🔦
Other Things to Do in Joshua Tree
- Attempt the Chasm of Doom. This was one of my favorite things that we did in Joshua Tree. I wrote a blog post all about how to find this secret rock scramble.
- Go rock climbing. We climbed with Mojave Guides; they’re great with beginners. But they work with all skill levels – from first-timers to seasoned climbers. Read my blog post all about rock climbing in Joshua Tree.
- Hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. This is one of the best easy hiking trails in Joshua Tree. Incredibly scenic! Here are the best hikes in Joshua Tree.
Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
Stay in Joshua Tree, California (West Entrance)
- High Desert Motel – Budget
- AutoCamp Joshua Tree – Luxury. Unique glamping experience in an airstream.
Stay in Twentynine Palms, California (North Entrance)
- Motel 6 Twentynine Palms – Budget
- Surestay Plus by Best Western – Mid-range
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriot – Luxury
Stay in Joshua Tree National Park
- Jumbo Rocks Campground – reservations required
- Ryan Campground – reservations required
- Indian Cove Campground – reservations required
- Cottonwood Campground – reservations required
- Black Rock Campground – reservations required
- White Tank Campground – first-come, first-served
- Belle Campground – first-come, first-served
- Hidden Valley Campground – first-come, first-served
Discover Your Next Adventure
Where to next? I’ve got some suggestions!
- Saguaro National Park
- Petrified Forest National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Page, Arizona
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