Scenic Roads: Joshua Trees Parkway in Arizona

In the 1980s, Joshua Trees became immortalized after the release of the U2 album by the same name. The image of the band in the California desert with a lone Joshua Tree in the background made the yucca specious illustrious with fans, many of whom roamed the California countryside in search of the exact spot in which the famous photo was taken. [Apparently the Joshua Tree shown on the U2 album died in 2000 and a plaque now commemorates its place in history.]

Joshua Trees by Mike Shubic of MikesRoadTrip.com

While California has the greatest concentration of Joshua Trees, and a dedicated National Park, Arizona has a scenic parkway dedicated to the unusually distinct shrub. Along U.S. 93 between Wickenburg, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada there is a small, but concentrated stretch of Joshua Trees that is worth a stop. The sighting of Joshua Trees begins near the small town of Wikieup, a small dot on the map known for nothing more than Luchia’s pie. Heading south on U.S. 93, around milepost 127, you’ll come to the Big Sandy River, which is likely more sand than river unless it’s been raining. Striated canyon walls straddle the highway while saguaro cacti, ocotillo, scrub and distant mountains paint the landscape.

At Milepost 147, you’ll start seeing giant boulders piled on top of each other. The hoodoo-looking formations are a fascinating sight in an otherwise flat to hilly landscape.

U.S. 93 Arizona Joshua Tree Parkway

Joshua Trees become the focal point of this drive around milepost 162. By milepost 169, the forest of Joshua Trees is brimming and you’ll see a sign that says, “Joshua Trees Parkway.” It’s a label that formalizes the obvious. The route continues on to the West’s Most Western Town of Wickenburg, a classic Old West town where cowboys roam and artists reign. Most Vegas-bound travelers speed down this road with jackpots in their minds-eye and don’t notice the beauty and historic charm of this scenic Arizona road.

Joshua Trees Parkway in Arizona - Photo by Mike Shubic of MikesRoadTrip.com

If you’ve ever driven down this stretch of U.S. 93 and stopped to check out the Joshua Trees, please leave a comment below and share your experience.

Joshua Tree Parkway an Arizona roadside attraction - Photo by MikesRoadTrip.com

Mike Shubic

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Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.

13 Comments

  1. I just got back from a quick weekend trip to Las Vegas. We rented a car for the day to check out the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk was cool!), and I was so surprised and delighted to stumble across this forest! We stopped where there is a hiking path, but it was unfortunately closed. It was so cool, and added to an otherwise already great day!

  2. My absolute favorite drive! Joshua trees are my favorite desert plants. Each time I’m in Arizona I put a drive up through and past Wickenburg on the itinerary. Routing out a way to get from Phoenix to Parker via 93 when we return in March 😉😊

  3. It was 1993 when I first traveled this road on my way from Cave Creek, AZ to Vegas. It was mostly a two lane road back then but the pace was very quick because everyone was in a hurry to get to Vegas. It was my first exposure to this amazing tree and I was so impressed that I planted one in my yard in Cave Creek when I got home. A lot of things have changed since then but that stretch of road is still pretty much the same and as beautiful and exciting as ever. And that old Joshua tree in Cave Creek is still there, nestled amongst some fruit trees and a good size Saguaro I planted about the same time.

  4. I was on a tour bus en route to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, from Las Vegas several years ago. I believe we took the route 93, though I cannot remember for sure. I do remember passing the Joshua trees and wishing that we could stop and walk among them, but the stop was not on our itinerary. It was amazing to see such a vista of these beautiful (to me!) trees. I saw pictures of them but never saw them in their natural setting until traveling West. I am from Pennsylvania. I hope to return to that part of the country again to see the Joshua trees and get closer to them to learn more about them.

    1. Very cool. Thanks for sharing your experience. I did a road trip across PA a few years back along scenic route 6…would love to do that again one day. Thanks for stopping by.

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