Illegally Off-Roading in a Closed National Park Is Peak Asshole Behavior, Folks

Just stay on the track. It’s not that hard.
Just stay on the track. It’s not that hard.
Photo: Andrew P Collins

One result of the current U.S. government shutdown is that national parks are understaffed. At Joshua Tree in California, a small contingent of fuckbuckets took this as an opportunity to make the entire off-road community look bad by trampling protected land in a region surrounded by unlimited acreage of perfectly legal off-roading space.


Oh yeah, and then there’s the minor infraction of defacing a natural landmark that millions of people come from all over the world to see every year.

As Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith was quoted in National Parks Traveler:

“There are about a dozen instances of extensive vehicle traffic off roads and in some cases into wilderness,” Smith replied when asked about the damage in the park. “We have two new roads that were created inside the park. We had destruction of government property with the cutting of chains and locks for people to access campgrounds. We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping. Every day use area was occupied every evening.”

A dozen instances. That’s all it takes to do irreparable damage to the fragile desert ecosystem, make the general public sour toward 4x4s, and potentially inspire legislation that curbs legal off-roading. ABC News has a couple sad pictures if you need more help being disappointed in humanity.

What chaps my ass about this even more is that this particular national park is literally surrounded by sanctioned off-road areas that are excellent. Like, rocky trails, forest tracks, wide open dry lake beds, and smooth desert sand. All of which you’re 100 percent allowed to drive all over, are all within an hour or two of Joshua Tree. I took full advantage of this for my 2018 Jeep Wrangler review.

Of course, the 12 or so invidious cretins who hacked their way beyond the “please don’t drive here” signs were probably not off-road enthusiasts. If you took a close look at the tracks left over ancient now-destroyed vegetation, I bet you’d find a lot of cheap all-season tire tread marks from crossovers and rental cars.

A reported 2.8 million people went to Joshua Tree National Park in 2017. Somehow, the vast majority of those folks managed to enjoy it without pissing all over the place. Literally and figuratively. What the hell is wrong the rest of you?


The near-term future of all America’s national parks will be little nebulous while the federal government stays committed to its current rut of discord. So if all the grody shitmunchers intent on making a mess and wrecking the place for the rest of us could at least wait for the park staff and janitors to be on paid duty again, that’d be great.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles


Once you get into the nitty-gritty of the Joshua Tree ecosystem, it gets even more dire.
Much of the soil is held together by bacteria in the top layer of said soil, making sure it can take in the bits of rain each year and not get swept away by wind. This bacteria can be wiped out by a single footprint, let alone tire marks.

The Joshua trees themselves require the Joshua Tree moth to procreate, a moth species that only exists in the JT desert, and they take hundred of years to grow. Each branch on a tree shows where a new fruit grew, meaning each branch is a notch in the bedpost for tree sex.

How I know this, I don’t know. We spent some time in JT late last fall and looked it up, being mesmerized by the beauty of it.

These assholes off-roading all over should be thrown in prison. The deserts around it are all open to ATV-ing, there’s literally no reason to go do it in Joshua Tree aside from being an asshole.