Activities change week by week and may be limited in summer, when fewer visitors arrive because of the heat. Check at visitor centers for a current schedule. Some recent examples:
Keys Ranch tour, near Hidden Valley campground. Cost is $5 per person for those 12 and older, $2.50 for children 6-11. Scheduled tours are suspended until about Labor Day; reservations may be needed when they resume.
Joshua Tree National Park video tour, Oasis Visitor Center.
Evening campground programs: "Keys to the Past" and "Trees in Trouble," Jumbo Rocks campground.
Star Party: Astronomy program, Hidden Valley.
Birding hikes: From Oasis of Mara, Barker Dam and Black Rock campground.
Rock of Ages: Exploration of rock formations and how they were formed, from Arch Rock trailhead near White Tank campground.
Clever Desert Plants: Exploration of desert palm oasis, at Cottonwood Spring.
In addition to Keys Ranch:
Oasis of Mara: Half-mile loop trail is a good introduction to the park on the site of what was once an Indian village. The Chemehuevis arrived in the late 1860s. Mara means "little water and much grass," according to park signs. Behind visitor center near Twentynine Palms.
Skull Rock: Granite formation that, thanks to erosion, looks a lot like, hmm, a human skull. A 1.5-mile nature trail leaves from nearby Jumbo Rocks campground on main east-west park road.
Chollo Cactus Garden: The nickname for this spiny creature is the "teddy bear" cholla, but you don’t want to cuddle. Self-guided 1/4 -mile nature trail details other plants and animals of the region. On Pinto Basin Road on the way to Cottonwood Spring.
Barker Dam: A small lake remains at Barker Dam, but there is plenty of evidence that it should be a lot bigger than it was this spring. A 1.3-mile loop trail leads to petroglyphs left by American Indians. Near Keys Ranch.
Ryan Ranch: For 40 years the Ryan family mined gold and raised cattle here. Look for remains of three-room pinkish adobe structure and smaller outbuilding. Explore from Ryan campground.
Keys View: Overlook offers views of Coachella Valley, Salton Sea, San Andreas Fault and, on a clear day, Signal Mountain, 95 miles away in Mexico. Pollution may obstruct views. At end of Keys View Road.
5 great hikes
These hikes are suggested by the park service:
49 Palms Oasis: 3 miles, from parking area at Canyon Road west of Twentynine Palms. Leads to one of the park’s five fan-palm oases. Rated moderately strenuous.
Lost Horse Mine: 4 miles from parking area east of Keys View Road. Leads to site of mill. Moderately strenuous.
Lost Palms Oasis: 7.2 miles, from Cottonwood Spring or Cottonwood campground. Leads to canyon with palm stands. Moderate, then strenuous.
Mastodon Peak: 3 miles, from Cottonwood Spring or Cottonwood campground. Leads to views of Eagle Mountains and Salton Sea. Moderate.
Ryan Mountain: 3 miles from Ryan Mountain parking lot or Sheep Pass Campground. Leads to views of Lost Horse, Queen and Pleasant valleys. Moderately strenuous.