Joshua Tree Half Marathon
Joshua Tree Half Marathon
November 4, 2023 | Joshua Tree, CA
| Joshua Tree, CA
This has quickly become a favorite of thousands to cap off their racing season.
The Joshua Tree Half Marathon is a one-of-a-kind NIGHT RACE that takes you through the desert and under the stars with colorful lights leading you to the finish!
Expo & Bib Pickup
Travel to Joshua Tree, CA
PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT » Palm Springs International (PSP) is the closest airport to the race location. It's only an hour away from Joshua Tree and most airlines fly here!
ONTARIO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT » A little further out is Ontario International Airport (ONT). It's about a 1 hour and 45 minutes away, but has most airlines available. This is a smaller airport and tickets can get expensive, so book early!
LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT » It will be easy to find a flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from most places, however it will be at least a 2 hour and 45 minute drive. If you get caught in LA traffic, the drive could be closer to 5 hours. Plan accordingly!
Plug in the following parking & shuttle location to meet us for race morning:
2601 Sunfair Rd
Joshua Tree, CA
29 PALMS (recommended!)
Choose from the area’s largest and most diverse collection of lodging options, featuring national brand hotels, historic inns and motels, an RV park, and a vibrant collection of vacation rentals – all located just minutes from Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters and Oasis of Mara Visitor Center, 49 Palms Oasis, Indian Cove, and the park’s quickest entrance gate on Utah Trail!
JOSHUA TREE LAKE RV & CAMPGROUND
The race expo, start line, and finish line will all be at Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground in Joshua Tree, CA. This campground will also be the most convenient place to stay during your weekend!
Campground reservations are 100% managed by Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground.
MORE PLACES TO STAY
If camping doesn't float your boat, there are lots of hotel options nearby in Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree, and Yucca Valley.
If those places are booked up, you can find even more options in Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs, but expect at least an hour drive to the race!
Restaurants & Activities
Yucca Valley is the economic heart of the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities, and our friends at the Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce have rounded up some of the best hotels, restaurants and shops providing special promotions for the Joshua Tree Half Marathon! Be sure to stop by their website and check out all of the businesses excited to welcome us to town!
Joshua Tree National Park
We realize that the races in this series are out of the way for most runners, and it may be the only time that you visit these breathtaking areas. One of our biggest desires is that you walk away from this event having fully experienced what the region has to offer.
While in the area we encourage you to continue the adventure and spend time in the parks!
Our team's curated scavenger hunt!
If you've run any of our National Park half marathons before, you may be familiar with our "club hikes" and "trifecta" programs. The "Explorer Club" series is our new iteration of this idea! We want you to have as broad or as deep of an experience of our National Parks and their surrounding areas as possible. We have created a scavenger hunt made up of all kinds of adventures and experiences you can have here at Joshua tree National Park.
The challenge consists of activities that fit into 6 categories: History, Hiking, Explore, Food/Dining, Education, and Stewardship.
Each activity is worth points towards a Joshua Tree Explorer badge! They are worth a different number of points based on difficulty and you can choose which to tackle based on your interests. Whether you have an afternoon or a week at the park, you should be able to plan an amazing itinerary with these suggestions!
Start Exploring With The Neocaching App
1. Get Started
Download the app and join the correct Explorer Club for your park.
2. Choose Your Own Adventure
Use our curated list of local hikes and activities to create an unforgettable weekend. Then - get out there and explore!
3. Log Your Activities
Log enough activities to earn 1500pts within 7 days of your VR to become an official Explorer Club member (and receive a special badge!)
Note: You are responsible for your safety if you attempt to participate in any of these activities. Always check the weather before starting a hike, and speak with a park or forest ranger for updated information regarding trail conditions, closures, and permits.
Listed as a National Historic Site, Keys Ranch is located in a remote, rocky canyon in the park. To preserve its historic character, admission to the ranch is restricted to guided walking tours.
Buy tickets at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms starting at 8:30 am. Keys Ranch tours cost $10 per person aged 12 and over and $5 for children 6 to 11. Children under six are admitted free. Senior and Access Pass holders pay $5.
Boy Scout Trail
The Boy Scout Trail is a mostly flat trail along the edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. This is a very popular trail in the park because there are diverse things to see. The geological formations all around take your breath away. Travel through Joshua tree forests, boulder landscape, and sandy washes. After being on Boy Scout Trail for 1.25 miles there is a well marked sign verging off to the right for Willow Hole. Depending on what time of day to hike, many enjoy the sunset on their way back to the trailhead.
Lost Palms Oasis
The trailhead is located at Cottonwood Spring. After the palms at the springs, the trail climbs toward the southeast through scrub desert. The boulder piles and rocky gullies become more common as the trail continues toward Lost Palms Oasis. At 3.3 miles, there is a spur trail that leads to the right to an overlook with birds-eye views of the green palms. Climbing back out the canyon is strenuous. Plan on 5-6 hours to complete this hike.
Always check the forecast before heading out on a hike. Changing weather can pass through the desert quickly. Don’t get caught unprepared for the elements.
This trail is about a 1 mile loop located in the heart of the park. Hidden Valley is a place that was rumored to have been used by 19th century cattle rustlers. Surrounded by gorgeous rock formations with plenty of boulders to scale, as well as guide markers along the trail to identify plants and wildlife. This is an easy walk with a packed sand trail, and is family-friendly with rocks to scramble on, and even some shelter. There's no wrong way to explore Hidden Valley.
Barker Dam was constructed in 1900 for cattle and mining purposes. Today, it holds rainwater and runoff for the local wild animals and if you’re lucky you might get to see wildlife such as birds, rabbits, squirrels, or even bighorn sheep or a rattlesnake (always keep your distance around wildlife).
Water may or may not be present. The trail is an easy hike, though closed toed shoes are recommended due to cactus. From the parking lot, follow the rope fencing to get to the trailhead.
Keys View is a lookout point located a couple of thousand feet above Joshua Tree National Park that provides an incredible vantage point. This is a short, paved loop path that offers breathtaking views of the San Andreas Fault, Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea.
On a clear day, the prominence of the mountains from this point is stunning as you can see Palm Springs(~500 ft above sea level), and Mt. San Jacinto (10,834 ft above sea level).
Registration opens February 10, 2023 @ 8am M.T.
Want to Get Involved?
Sign up for a volunteer shift to support runners and earn a $50/$100 race credit!
We'll reach out to you before the race to choose your specific shift.
Still Have Questions?
Read through some of the common questions about what to expect at Vacation Races events.
Make It a Charity Bib!
Charity bib athletes fundraise for local charity partners - or a charity of your choice!
Once you hit the fundraising goal your event registration fee is waived.
Get Updates In Your Inbox
Never miss a price jump or race announcement again!
Get a feel for the terrain and landscape that await you out on the course!
Get to Know Your Half Marathon Course
Maps & Elevation
Nighttime, rolling course with loose sand and rocks
We recommend training on soft earth trails with downhill portions and uneven ground. Check out our FREE training PDF for the Joshua Tree Half from Active at Altitude.
Aid Stations (Bring your own cup!)
All aid stations are cup-free so remember to bring your own hydration solution or request a FREE Nathan reusable cup when you register.
Expect about 6 aid stations on the course near mile 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 12 (Exact locations vary). A medic will be stationed typically at the aid station at or near mile 9. Aid stations include toilets, water, Gnarly Hydrate, Honey Stinger gels, basic first aid supplies, and sometimes more.
If you’ve run with us before, you know that the scenery is extremely important to us when we choose our courses. We’ve tried something different with our Joshua Tree Half Marathon course. While the course itself isn’t necessarily scenic, the stars, night sky, joshua trees, and open desert will make the race a beautiful one! This course is on dirt roads, which depending on weather and how traveled they are before the race can greatly change the terrain. This is a very challenging course and is not always easy to run or get footing. There will be plenty of sand, so be prepared for loose sand and even significant portions with soft and deep sand. Combining this terrain with the fact that the race will be a nighttime event, we are asking each runner to bring a headlamp or some sort of light to illuminate the ground in front of you, as well as wear reflective gear/clothing.
The course will be well-marked, but it is your responsibility to know the course and pay attention to markings as well as stay to the left when running with traffic and be courteous and mindful of cars and other runners. DO NOT step off the course into traffic; you will be disqualified. We want you to stay safe.
This course is a challenging run through the Mojave Desert in Joshua Tree, CA near Copper Mountain. With the exception of a quarter mile at the start and a one mile section in the middle, this course is entirely on dirt roads and trails. The dirt roads will have sand on them with varying degrees of deepness adding to the challenge of this course. It is completely runnable, but runners should understand these conditions are difficult and not stroller friendly. That is the price we pay to run under the stars through the desert!
All runners will have 4 hours to finish the race. That is an 18 minute mile - plenty of time for walkers! If at anytime we deem it unsafe and need to pull a runner off the course we would hope for understanding and immediate cooperation. Failure to comply will result in being banned from future events.
Required gear: Headlamps or flashlights
Recommended gear: Trail shoes; trail gaiters; scarf/bandana/buff (runners will be fine without these items, but if you have them and prefer running with them this is a good course to use them on- the gaiters will keep sand and rocks out of your shoes and the scarf can keep you from inhaling dust. Dust is not a major problem on course, but with this many people running on these sandy roads it tends to kick up a fair amount so that is something to plan for if it is something you're sensitive to).
To be clear, this race doesn't take place inside the National Park. It's difficult to get permission to conduct private business activities on national land (and rightly so.) Having said that, this is about as close to the park as it gets.
This is a trail run with loose rocks and uneven terrain. Runners should wear trail shoes and train on trails to prepare for their half marathon. When in doubt - walk it out!
We will have a variety of course markings for this event. They include pink reflective ribbons and additional signage to keep you on track. (click the image to expand)
This is a nighttime race with rough terrain. All participants must wear a headlamp on course to prevent injuries
Start: Runners will start at the Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground. They will head south down Sunfair Rd (paved road) for about .25 mile. There they will turn off the road onto a dirt road and head west.
Mile 1-2: The dirt road runners turn onto is a little more narrow than the paved Sunfair Rd. We will choke the start line by waves to thin things out a bit, but runners should remember running etiquette (namely, stay to the right and when passing call out “on your left”). There is about a 200 foot climb from mile 1 to just past mile 2. This is probably one of the sandier spots.
Mile 2-3: Once you get past the little climb after mile 2 then you continue running on dirt roads through a semi residential area until you turn onto Center Ave at mile 3. Our first aid station will be in this section.
Mile 3-5: Runners will turn and head north on Center Ave (unmarked road) and continue running on dirt roads until the reach Winters Rd. Our second aid station will be near mile 5.
Mile 5-9: Runners will turn and head east on Winters Rd and enjoy a brief break from the dirt road as they run on pavement until just past mile 6. From there, the road turns back into dirt and there is a short 100 foot climb from mile 6.5 to mile 7. Runners will then continue on the dirt road until the turn south onto Mt Shasta Ave. There will be an aid station near mile 7 and mile 9. By now the sun will have fully set, stars will be out in force, and you will be high up away from any cars and lights. Truly out in the desert.
Mile 9-11: Runners continue on Mt Shasta Ave until they turn west onto Sonora Rd. We will have an aid station near mile 11. This section is all dirt.
Mile 11-Finish: At about mile 11.5 runners will turn off Sonora Rd. onto Coyote Valley Rd (which turns into Sunfair Rd). From here to the finish is a nice little downhill stretch all on dirt roads bringing you back into the campground for your finish.
*This is a difficult course with plenty of sand. Runners should prepare accordingly. We believe the challenge and the night sky make it worth it.
This race will be at NIGHT. Running through the desert outside Joshua Tree under the stars and the moon with the quiet of the night, the deep canyons in the distance, silhouetted buttes, and the twinkling desert all around will be an unforgettable experience. Explore Joshua Tree by day – run it at night.
Fundraise for your chosen race and your registration fee could be waived. All funds go to Wander Project to support efforts in and around the communities that host our events.
Volunteer with Us!
Our amazing volunteers help runners at the race expo, finish line, merch tent, and beyond! Join us for a 3-4hr shift and earn a $50 or $100 credit towards a future race.
Pro-tip: Volunteer at the expo and run the next day OR ask a friend to volunteer and "gift" you the credit (or use it themselves!)
HOW TO PREPARE
Joshua Tree Half Logistics
Come here to prepare for your race!
You have a couple of options for picking up your bib and race packet including at the race expo or or we can mail it to you. When you register, we ask you to indicate when you plan to pick up your bib. If your plans change, don’t worry about it. We only ask to help us plan in terms of numbers.
Option #1: Race Expo
We’ll have our race expo the during the day of the race. Expos typically last from 5-7 hours, giving you plenty of time to check in to your race.
Option #2: Race Morning (not recommended)
We will have limited race morning packet pickup. We do not recommend waiting until the morning, but if it cannot be avoided - we understand.
Race morning bib pickup will start at 4:30 and is located at the shuttle loading site.
Option #3: Shipped Before the Race
There is a cost of $30 if you want to have your bib and shirt mailed to you. We do this as a convenience for runners not wanting to drive to the area early. You can add a shipped bib to your registration until one month before the race by logging into RunSignup, clicking Manage Registration, and Add Ons.
Refunds: Once your package is shipped, you are officially checked in to the race and no longer qualify for our refund, deferment, or transfer options.
Bib Pickup/Race Expo
Date: November 4, 2023
Location: Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground
Hours: TBD morning 'til afternoon
This is a great opportunity to pick up your bib, check out the area, and meet fellow runners. We’ll have our merchandise table set up, so be sure to stop by and say hi! We'll have a variety of swag from shirts and tanks to our favorite Hydro Flasks and everything in-between.
Bring Your Own Bag
In our ongoing effort to eliminate waste during our races, our expos are bagless events. We encourage you to BYOB (bring your own bag) to hold your bib, race shirt, and any goodies you pick up from the race expo!
The race starts at 6:00 pm (EST) sharp! Please plan to arrive by 4:30 pm.
Due to the timeline of the day, if you arrive at the expo after 3:30pm - please plan to stay until your start time. We'll have hot chocolate and coffee to keep you going!
This is a tentative schedule based on our 2022 event. Please check back before your race for a final schedule.
Saturday, Nov. 4th, 2023
10:00 AM - Race expo & bib pickup open
4:30 PM - All cars should be parked for 6pm start time & start line prize raffle begins!
5:00 PM - Race expo closes & last call for bib pickup!
5:30 PM - Pacers line up
5:45 PM - Runners line up & gear check last call
5:55 PM - National anthem
6:00 PM - RACE STARTS!
Waves will start every few minutes
8:45 PM - Awards ceremony
Due to the nature of this course, a headlight is required for all runners! We will have some for sale at the expo, but you should plan ahead and bring your own.
Parking & Runner Drop-off
Location: Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground (2601 Sunfair Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252)
We will have plenty of parking to accommodate all of our runners. All cars should be parked no later than 4:30 pm.
Runners will park in the designated parking areas. Please get there early to avoid any rush and to give yourself time to get ready for the race. If you have a reserved RV spot or are camping with Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground, please park your vehicle in your camping area and walk down to the race.
If you are dropping a runner off, please follow the drop-off signs. You will turn right off Sunfair Rd. onto La Brisa Dr. (north side of the property) and turn right to enter the property from the north gate. Unload your runner(s), then quickly exit the property back onto Sunfair Rd.
Please drop your runner off no later than 4:30pm. If you intend to stay and wait for your runner, you should park with the rest of event traffic.
Spectators and runners are welcome around the finish line to cheer on runners. They can park in the same parking lot and walk to the finish area.
Please DO NOT drive to other areas of the race course to watch runners. This will add an unnecessary danger especially being a nighttime race. For spectators who are staying in the campground or RV camping, please walk down to the finish line.
We recommend downloading the RaceJoy app to track your runner's progress and send them cheers along the way! Once your runner has crossed the finish line, please exit the runner recovery area to avoid crowding. The beverages, supplies, and medical tent at the finish line are for runner use only - thank you!
As nature lovers, we are committed to keeping our events sustainable and managing negative impacts on the environment. Our goal is to send less than one bag of actual “trash” to the landfill after each event. We have managed to meet this goal at events with over 3,000 participants!
Here's how you can help us:
Single-use plastic is a huge source of waste at any public event. We have reduced that impact by making our events "cup-free".
What does that mean for you?
Coolers of Water and Gnarly Hydrate (electrolyte drink) are available at all aid stations, but cups will not be provided on course or at the finish line. In order to stay hydrated, we ask you to bring one of the following:
1. Reusable water bottle
2. Nathan reusable cup - These light-weight cups fold into a pocket or waistband. Request one when you sign up to run!
3. Hydration pack - These are refillable backpacks meant for running that allow you to access fluid via a built-in straw.
ZERO WASTE CONTAINERS
You can help us reduce trash by sorting disposable items into the appropriate container.
You’ll notice three containers at our events:
Please avoid putting organic waste and compostable items in the wrong bin. It gets gross to sort through.
Visit RunSignup for current and past race results.
Runner times are available ~20 minutes after you finish the race. Keep in mind, the results are not official until all runners have crossed the finish line, and have been reviewed by the event director. Because our age group winners are based on chip time, it is possible to cross the finish line before someone else in your age group while still finishing with a slower time than them.
Race photos are typically available for FREE via RunSignup the Friday following the week of the race. We will send out an email when they're posted to the album.
Award Ceremony Photos (legacy)
View past awards ceremony photos below:
Share your experiences with us!
Be sure to use #JTHalf in any photos you post from the race or your adventures exploring the park so we can share in the fun with you!
Exclusive Joshua Tree Marathon merchandise will be available both at the race expo and near the finish line! When possible, we'll have race merch for sale in our online store after the race is over. Please allow time for us to add items online.
Still need to train? Join the email list.
We'll send you updates about registration opening, price jumps, and more to keep you on track!