A Travel Price Comparison for California Joshua Tree National Park vs. South Lake Tahoe for Hiking, Families, Couples, and Backpackers

Should you visit Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Joshua Tree National Park and South Lake Tahoe can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a adventurous, unique, and fascinating national park. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. And you can't forget about the hiking.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a idyllic, scenic, and breathtaking town. It's considered by many to be an absolutely beautiful destination, too. It's also popular because of the skiing, nightlife, and food.

Joshua Tree National Park and South Lake Tahoe: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Very walkable
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less popular with backpackers


Is there more to do in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

Tourists will generally find more to do in South Lake Tahoe. Although Joshua Tree National Park and South Lake Tahoe are both popular with visitors, South Lake Tahoe has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Joshua Tree National Park is popular for its unique vegetation and large boulders. South Lake Tahoe is popular for its casino resorts, ski resorts, and beautiful setting. It is also home to the Heavenly Gondola.

How is Joshua Tree National Park different from South Lake Tahoe?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between South Lake Tahoe and Joshua Tree National Park. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Skiing?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a very popular place for skiing and snowboarding. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not a skiing destination.

South Lake Tahoe draws a large crowd in the winter for its impressive snow skiing opportunities. There are three ski resorts in the area. Heavenly Mountain Resort is the largest, but if you're looking for something smaller, head to Kirkwood, which is tucked away and less well known. There's also Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, which is popular with groups and families because it caters to a range of skill levels.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

You'll find a number of decent museums and attractions in both South Lake Tahoe and Joshua Tree National Park.

While most people don't head to Joshua Tree National Park specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. There are a couple of museums in the area that display local art or cultural and historical items.

South Lake Tahoe offers a handful of options for museums and historical sights. Most people spend their time exploring the area's nature, but you can also stop by Tallac Historic Site or the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum.

Is the Food Better in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a town with good options for its restaurants. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its restaurant scene.

South Lake Tahoe is becoming an appealing option for foodies. While most resorts have their own restaurants, there are a number of options around town that specialize in "alpine comfort cuisine", which is worth sampling. You'll also find plenty of cafes that serve up a hearty breakfast - the perfect way to start an active day.

While Joshua Tree National Park is not famous for its food, you'll find what you need there. There aren't any restaurants inside the park, so you'll want to pack your own food and eat at one of the picnic areas.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Nightlife?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is renowned for its evening party scene. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for nightlife.

South Lake Tahoe is a destination that you simply have to visit at least once for nightlife. The resort town has plenty of nightclubs, bars, and music venues. There are outdoor options when the weather is warm as well as indoor settings for cooler weather. You'll also find casinos and live shows.

Things get quiet in the evenings in Joshua Tree National Park. Stargazing and gathering around campfires are the most popular activities during the evening.


Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Resorts?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a very popular place for its luxury resorts. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not a resort destination.

In South Lake Tahoe, you'll find some of the region's top resorts. It's a resort town, so there are plenty of options to choose from, many with pools, spas, or casinos.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a resort destination.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Hiking?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

Both Joshua Tree National Park and South Lake Tahoe are destinations which offer first-rate hiking.

Around Joshua Tree National Park visitors will find world-class hiking trails. There are a wide range of hikes that include easy, moderate, and strenuous options. Some of the best hikes include Discovery Trail, Boy Scout Trail, and Black Rock Canyon Panorama Loop.

South Lake Tahoe is well-known for its hiking and trekking. There are miles of beautiful hikes in the area that follow the lake's shore or explore the diverse terrain. Skyline Trail Hike is a favorite. It is accessible by lift and offers spectacular views. For a relaxing stroll check out Fallen Leaf Lake Hike.

Is the Shopping Better in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a town with good options for its shopping areas. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for shopping.

South Lake Tahoe has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. Most of the shopping involves retailers selling ski gear or outdoor equipment. There are also clothing shops, gift stores, and some art galleries.

Joshua Tree National Park has some shopping areas for those that seek them out. There is a park store where you can pick up gifts or other items.


Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Families?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is renowned for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Joshua Tree National Park is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

South Lake Tahoe is an extremely popular town to visit for families. Kids will love the outdoor adventures that the area is filled with. There are gondolas, lakefront beaches, adventure parks, and tubing. There are also miles of hiking trails and a beautiful setting that even the young ones will appreciate.

Joshua Tree National Park is a very family-friendly place to visit. With its giant boulders that kids can scramble on and its Dr. Seuss-like Joshua Trees, this really is nature's best playground. There are also kid-friendly hikes and Junior Ranger Programs that will both educate and entertain the kids.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Couples?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is renowned for couples. Also, Joshua Tree National Park is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for romance.

South Lake Tahoe is a great town for couples, as it has plenty to offer. It's beautiful setting and wide variety of adventurous activities make this the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. The lake has hidden coves and nearby hiking trails. There are also hot springs, gondolas, and carriage rides. You can go hiking when the weather is warm or skiing when the weather is cold.

Couples visit Joshua Tree National Park frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. Couples who enjoy the outdoors, adventure sports like rock climbing, and hiking through spectacular landscapes will find this to be the ultimate romantic destination.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing national park to visit for backpackers. Also, South Lake Tahoe is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.

Backpackers and budget travelers come from all over the world to visit Joshua Tree National Park. There are campgrounds and hiking trails that are popular with backpackers and nature enthusiasts.

South Lake Tahoe is a good national park to visit for backpackers. There are a couple of hostels in the area and the skiing and hiking attracts the backpacker crowd.


Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a decent place to visit for times when you don't have a car. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its public transit.

Public transit is mostly limited in South Lake Tahoe. While there are some shuttles and buses, if you really want to explore the area, you'll need your own car.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Joshua Tree National Park. There's no reliable public transportation in the park.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe a more walkable city?

Joshua Tree National Park
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a very popular place for its ease of walking around. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its walkability.

South Lake Tahoe is a very walkable destination. Once you get to town, the area is very walkable.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a walkable national park. You need a car to truly explore the park.

For even more information, also check out Is Joshua Tree National Park Worth Visiting? and Is South Lake Tahoe Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in South Lake Tahoe or Joshua Tree National Park?

How long in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

In either Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Joshua Tree National Park because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Joshua Tree National Park, and 3-5 days is enough time in South Lake Tahoe.

Families should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Joshua Tree National Park. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in South Lake Tahoe, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Joshua Tree National Park. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in South Lake Tahoe that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Joshua Tree National Park if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in South Lake Tahoe.


  • How many days in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe? Ideal Length of Stay
    Joshua Tree National Park 2-4 
    South Lake Tahoe 3-5

One day in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find around the unique destination of Joshua Tree National Park. Hikers are also drawn to this area. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. This national park offers a variety of activities to choose from.

Visitors enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the scenic town of South Lake Tahoe. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.


A weekend in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find around the adventurous national park of Joshua Tree National Park. If you have a weekend, this national park makes for a great vacation. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. Most people head to the area for the hiking. This would be the perfect place to spend a weekend, as it has just the right amount of activities.

Visitors enjoy the shopping and skiing when visiting the destination of South Lake Tahoe. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Anyone can find something fun to do here. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

Five days in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

Joshua Tree National Park is a popular choice for travelers. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

South Lake Tahoe is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have five days, this town makes for a great vacation. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. Because of this, five days is usually enough time for a trip here. It offers something for everyone.

A week in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

Joshua Tree National Park is a great place to explore. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Most people head to the area for the hiking. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

South Lake Tahoe is a popular choice for travelers. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. Your budget might influence how long you stay.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Anchorage, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Los Angeles, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from New York City, and The Best 2-Week Tours from New York City.


Which place is cheaper, South Lake Tahoe or Joshua Tree National Park?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Joshua Tree National Park is $152, while the average daily cost in South Lake Tahoe is $118. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Joshua Tree National Park and South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Joshua Tree National Park $87
    South Lake Tahoe $54
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Joshua Tree National Park $174
    South Lake Tahoe $108
Compare Hotels in Joshua Tree National Park and South Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel in Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Joshua Tree National Park


Hotels in South Lake Tahoe


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: South Lake Tahoe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Joshua Tree National Park $47
    South Lake Tahoe $24

Is it cheaper to fly into Joshua Tree National Park or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe and Joshua Tree National Park change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Joshua Tree National Park $35
    South Lake Tahoe $38

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in South Lake Tahoe

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in South Lake Tahoe.

  • Lake Tahoe Sunset Dinner Cruise: $140

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Joshua Tree National Park $27
    South Lake Tahoe $56

Tours and Activities in South Lake Tahoe

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for South Lake Tahoe are as follows:

  • 2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe: $140
  • Clear Kayak Paddle Tour at Sand Harbor: $150
  • Clear Kayak Tour of Lake Tahoe: $165
  • Electric Dirtbike Adventure in Lake Tahoe: $200
  • Emerald Bay Boat Tours - Private Boat and Captain: $695
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $110
  • Evening LED Glow Clear Kayak Tour in Lake Tahoe: $153
  • Full Day Self-Guided Bike Tour of Lake Tahoe: $69
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $80
  • Guided Scenic Bike Experience above Lake Tahoe's East Shore: $205
  • Guided Tour of Historic Virginia City and Carson City from South Lake Tahoe: $70
  • Kayak Tour of Historic Lake Tahoe West Shore: $80

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Joshua Tree National Park $4.93
    South Lake Tahoe $34

Sample the Local Flavors in South Lake Tahoe

Also in South Lake Tahoe, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Lake Tahoe: Emerald Bay Sunset Wine Tasting Yacht Cruise: $150


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Joshua Tree National Park and South Lake Tahoe, we can see that Joshua Tree National Park is more expensive. And not only is South Lake Tahoe much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to South Lake Tahoe would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in South Lake Tahoe and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Joshua Tree National Park would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Joshua Tree National Park than you might in South Lake Tahoe.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Joshua Tree National Park Expensive? and Is South Lake Tahoe Expensive?.