Joshua Tree Half Marathon Details
Joshua Tree, CA | Nov. 6, 2021 | 6:00 pm
Start: 6:00 pm in Joshua Tree, CA
End: 10:00 pm (Runners have a 4 hour chip time to complete this race)
This event will be a sunset and evening run, under a sea of stars. Our course will start and end in Joshua Tree, CA at Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground, just 20 min from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.
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!
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).
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.
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.
Our course record holders receive a FREE RACE ENTRY every year that their time remains the course record! The current course record holders are:
Male Overall: Kenneth Crane 1:25:11 (2019)
Female Overall: Natasha Gunaratne 1:34:36 (2019)
Male Masters: Tim Brett 1:37:17 (2019)
Female Masters: Sherri Ellerby 1:49:35 (2019)
Bib & Packet Pickup
When you register, we’ll ask you to indicate when you plan to pick up your bib.
Your choices to pick up your packet are:
Option #1: Bib pickup at the race (recommended)
Because official bib pickup and the race take place on the same day, we encourage you to arrive early to pick up your bib. Though it's a little too early in the calendar to determine, we'll most likely have a drive-thru bib pickup where you will get your bib, race shirt, and hydrapouch...without getting out of your car. Bib pickup will be from 10:00am - 5:00pm (tentative). The first waves of the race will start at 6:00pm sharp!
Note: if you are a resident of Southern California and plan to drive to the event, the day-of, we HIGHLY recommend you have your bib shipped to you. That way you won't feel as rushed to travel, pick up your bib, get parked, and get ready for the race all in a matter of hours.
Option #2: Shipped To You (US residents only)
There is a cost of $20 if you want to have your bib and shirt mailed to you. We do this as a convenience for runners not wanting to drive out to Joshua Tree early. This option is only available before the final price jump!
Note: Once your package is shipped, you are officially checked into the race and no longer qualify for a refund, deferment, or transfer options.
Bring Your Own Bag
In our ongoing effort to eliminate waste during our races, our expos are bagless events. We encourage you to #BYOBag to hold your bib, race shirt, and any goodies you pick up from the race expo!
If you're unhappy with the fit of your race shirt, or were unable to order the size you wanted, we will have a shirt exchange available at the finish line on race day. Please note that sizes and quantity will be limited.
We want to help you make the most out of your vacation. Below we will post links to some of our sponsors as well as general information.
Where to Fly
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!
Where to Stay
Book your lodging in 29 Palms today!
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! You can make RV reservations here, however tent spaces are all first-come, first-serve. There should be plenty of room for our runners.
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!
Parking & Schedule
We will have plenty of parking to accommodate all of our runners. The parking lot opens at 10:00 am on Saturday, November 6th for bib pickup and will remain open through the race. All cars should be parked no later than 5:00 pm. Runners will park in the designated parking areas of Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground (2601 Sunfair Rd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252). 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.
We will not be offering any shuttles from the surrounding towns, so please plan accordingly!
If you are dropping a runner off, please follow the drop-off signs. You will turn off Sunfair Rd onto Sunny Sands, then right on Eyebob Rd, and then right on Las Brisas Dr. Drop-off will be on the corner of Las Brisas Dr and Sunfair Rd. You will then exit on Sunfair Rd. Please be aware and cautious of foot traffic. If you are dropping off only you will need to take this route to avoid the traffic and congestion of event parking. This is only if you plan to drop-off and leave. 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.
STROLLERS, WHEELCHAIRS, AND HEADLAMPS » The course is on hard, packed dirt roads, however there are sections just technical enough to cause problems if you're pushing a stroller or wheelchair. Because of this, combined with the fact that the race will be a nighttime event, we encourage you not to push strollers or wheelchairs as you run. Additionally, we require everyone to bring a headlamp to run with.
Race Day Schedule
10:00 AM » Bib pickup begins!
4:30 PM » All cars should be parked
5:00 PM » Bib pickup ends
5:45 PM » Runners line up
5:50 PM » National anthem
6:00 PM » Race starts!
9:00 PM » Awards ceremony
Hikes & Activities
We have phased out our Club and Trifecta hikes in 2021! You can find many of the same hikes included as part of the Joshua Tree Explorer Club activities list in the Spark Challenges app. They become available the week before your race.
You can still snap a photo and share it with us on social by using #JoshuaTreeHalf. We love to see our runners out in the wild!
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 oissible. We have created a scavenger hunt made up of all kinds of adventures and experiences you can have here.
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!
Here's how to become an Explorer:
- Install the free Spark Challenges app
- Sign-up using the same email address you used to register for the race
- Join the Explorer Club challenge for your park and start completing activities
- Earn at least 1,500 points within 7-days of the race and you’ll earn a special in-app achievement with a coupon code to claim your free Explorer badge
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. The tours are a half-mile in length and last 90 minutes. Group size is limited to 25 people. Tickets are required and must be purchased in person on the day of the tour. 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). This area causes one to wonder how people managed to exist in this barren environment until some sort of water capture was made. 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).
Past Race Results & Photos
If you see that you placed, but didn't stick around for the awards ceremony, no worries! You can request to have your place medal shipped to you!
If you have questions about your placement or results, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Race photos are available the Friday following the week of the race. We will send out an email when they're posted to the album as well as place the link below. This year we are offering race photos FREE to all our runners!
Award Ceremony Photos
Award ceremony photos are posted within a week of the race. You can find a link to the award 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 Half Marathon merchandise is available in our online store.