I’ve been wanting to visit Joshua Tree National Park for some time now and an opportunity came when we found a really good deal on a direct flight to Palm Springs. We went at the end of March 2019, right when the desert flowers are at peak bloom and the weather isn’t excruciatingly hot. We filled up our backpacks with all our food and gear and explored this beautiful park car free!
Believe it or not, you can do Joshua Tree National Park without a car! Saewan and I decided to see the park without renting a car and saved so much money. Although people were shocked that we didn’t take a car into the park, we got around the park perfectly fine! We looked into renting a car prior to the trip and the cheapest option was $400 USD for 5 days. We decided against renting a car when we found out the park offers a free shuttle bus service. When we first arrived at the Palm Springs Airport, we noticed insanely long lines for the car rental services. I’m glad we weren’t renting a car!
We took a 50 minute $62 USD Uber from Palm Springs Airport to the town of Joshua Tree. A well marked designated rideshare spot just outside of the airport, made finding our Uber driver easy. Our friendly Uber driver allowed us to make a quick pit stop at a camping store in the town of Joshua Tree called Nomad Ventures to purchase MSR ISOPRO camping fuel (8oz 220g ) for $5 USD. Nomad ventures was right beside the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Centre. We then caught the Line 1 MBTA bus from the intersection of Hwy 62 and Park Blvd. going eastbound and got off at Indian Cove Road just north of the park boundary. From there, we walked 1 mile to the park to Indian Cove Ranger Station.
As of Spring 2019, the entrance fee to the park is waived if you take the Roadrunner Shuttle Bus. The shuttle bus helped us get to all the main attractions in the park, trailheads and in and out of the park to fill up on water. Keep in mind there is only water at Black Rock and Cottonwood campgrounds. There is also water at the Indian Cove ranger station, Twentynine Palms Visitor Center and the entrance station south of the town of Joshua Tree, but they are at the perimeter of the park. The lack of water was something we were conscious about. We were always aware of the bus schedule and timed our water refills accordingly. The Roadrunner was run really well. It always came on time and the bus drivers were very friendly and helpful.
What to Know about the Roadrunner Bus Shuttle:
- Read the bus schedule carefully to know when the last bus stops at each stop and exits the park
- The bus goes to and from 29 Palms Transit Center which is good to know if you are taking the MBTA bus to and from Palm Springs Airport
- Understand if the Roadrunner bus is going eastbound or westbound and confirm your route with the bus driver
- The Roadrunner bus will operate daily in March, Fridays-Tuesdays in April and weekends in May (including Memorial Day Monday)
- There is no bus service at Intersection Rock going eastbound and no bus service at Ryan Campground going westbound.
- Buses will only drop-off and pick-up at designated stops
- All buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts
- Pets in crates are allowed on shuttle buses if they fit on the rider’s lap. They are not permitted on the floor in the aisle
- Each bus can carry two bicycles on the rack on the front of the bus
- The Roadrunner service was a trial service for 2018/2019. An assessment will be made to help decide if the service will return for 2019/2020. We really liked this service and hope it will come back for the next season.
Helpful Bus Schedules from Palm Springs Airport to Joshua Tree National Park and Surrounding Area:
Palm Springs to Yucca Valley MBTA bus route 12 & 15 schedule: https://mbtabus.com/routes/yucca_valley_-_palm_springs/
Yucca Valley to 29 Palms MBTA bus route 1 schedule:
Roadrunner Bus Shuttle schedule: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/shuttle-buses.htm
Are you thinking about going to Joshua Tree National Park without a car? Comment below!