The Park set new records this year in visitation during the Thanksgiving season. All 540 campsites were full and the west entrance experienced mile long backups getting into the park. In all, the park hosted over 22,000 visitors from Thursday to Sunday over the holiday week.
While capacity issues and the park’s popularity continue to be a challenge, the park is taking proactive measures to deal with the increasing numbers of visitors. A new trail has been opened from Echo T to Barker Dam to allow hikers additional parking as well as a new trail from Twin Tanks to Arch Rock. The park shuttle service operated at capacity during the four day period and significantly relieved pressure on traffic and parking.
Currently, plans have been approved to move the entrance station at west entrance further into the park in order to curb traffic build up for residents along Quail Springs Road. The park is also building a new entrance station at Cottonwood near the southern boundary of the park.
Park Superintendent David Smith said, “This jump in visitation is unprecedented but I feel strongly that our staff and community are adapting to serve the visitor and protect the resource. With the new visitor center in Cottonwood and the expanded entrance stations in Joshua Tree, we believe we will be able to provide more education to more people while processing them in and out of the park with greater speed.”
Smith also acknowledged, “I know that the traffic and congestion have greatly affected our neighbors and local partners. We hear what you’re saying and are doing everything in our power – with new staff on the ground, the shuttle bus and new trail heads – to help expand capacity and still protect one of the most magical places on the planet.”