A visit to Joshua Tree National Park isn’t complete without a stop at the highest point you can reach by car. Keys View is located on the west side of the park, south of the park’s main road. From the top, you’ll enjoy a great view in every direction – and you should be able to see Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, if the sky is clear.
Keys View is located at the end of a side road, 5.5 miles south of Park Boulevard. From the town of Joshua Tree, take the road into the park, headed southbound for about 15 miles, then turn onto Keys View Road for the final 5.5 miles to the viewpoint.
The drive up to Keys View wasn’t my favorite part of the park. Maybe it was because I was exhausted from my hike up Ryan Mountain, or maybe it was because it was getting cold and very windy – especially at the park’s higher elevations.
Keys View is just that – a nice viewpoint. Drive up to it, make the very short hike up to the viewpoint, and look around. That’s about it. And if the wind is howling, you won’t want to stay much longer.
The view to the west should provide you a nice view of Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, and the mountains beyond it. The only problem is, the area is plagued by haze – so much so, that the park has put up an interpretive sign explaining what you can’t see, and why. During my visit, I could make out an outline of the mountains, and a glimmer of light reflecting off buildings in Palm Springs, but that was about it. Also worth noting: the San Andreas Fault is down there.
The view back towards the south and east is somewhat clearer, at least in the late afternoon. You might be able to spot the Salton Sea. Signal Mountain can also be seen at times – it’s 95 miles away, near the US-Mexican border.
Looking north, you’ll see the curvy road that brought you here.
And that’s about all there is to see and do at Keys View: look around, then decide what do do next.
My decision was a tough one: hit the road now for L.A. and get to my hotel a little after sunset, or find a good spot and enjoy the sunset in the park, then make the perilous drive into, and across, Los Angeles after dark. As I mentioned, I was exhausted from a long day, and I could have very easily chosen to get to my bed sooner rather than later. Fortunately, I stuck around for the sunset, which was spectacular. I’ll show it to you on the next page.
The Bottom Line
Keys View is an essential part of your visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and the view is nice. But, it will most likely be plagued with haze and smog, and will be somewhat underwhelming. Even so, you should take the time to drive up and check it out.
Here’s a look at the time-lapse video of the drive up to Keys View, and back down to Cap Rock: