Joshua Tree National Park

• Hiking in Joshua Tree  • Photos and Video  NPS Website  Trail Map 

 

Black Rock Canyon area

   
 Burnt Hill / Eureka Peak loop (dayhike)   Moderate-Difficult 8.9 miles
Synopsis: This is an enjoyable hike through some gorgeous Joshua Tree high desert terrain, culminating at a peak just short of the real Eureka Pk. There are great views of Mt San Gorgonio and beautiful traverses of canyons (don't skip Canyon View Trail) and walks through washes.
     
 High View Nature Trail (P.O.I.)   Easy-Moderate 1.3 miles
Synopsis: Take this hike if you want a Nature Trail with some teeth. There are excellent views from its high point (and even a summit register). This is a beauty of a 1.3 mile hike.
     
 Short Loop (dayhike)   Moderate 3.9 miles
Synopsis: If you don't have time to hike to Eureka Peak or Warren Peak, this is a really nice 4 mile trail with the terrific views typical of the Black Rock Canyon area. The middle section along the Fault Trail and before cresting the ridge on the Short Loop trail is especially nice.
     
 Warren Peak / Panorama Loop (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 7.8 miles
Synopsis: An excellent, classic Joshua Tree hike, full of ecological and geological variety, beautiful vistas, and interesting details. You begin inauspiciously (next to a water tower) but the trip soon picks up as you head up a sandy wash, then work your way through another before picking up the fairly challenging trail to Warren Peak. The Panorama loop offer nice views to the south as it heads up and over a ridge before descending back down to the wash through some fascinating rock formations.
     

Cottonwood Springs area

   
 Bajada Trail (P.O.I.) Easy  0.3 miles
Synopsis: The Bajada Trail introduces desert explorers to the plants of the deposition zones at the base of mountains. This is a flat, easy trail with several benches and good, informative signs. Fine for kids or the elderly and quite close to the freeway.
     
 Cholla Cactus Garden (P.O.I.)   Easy 0.2 miles
Synopsis: A short walk in an amazing spot. At the transition between upper and lower deserts there is a dense forest of Teddy Bear Cholla, and an interpretive walk that leads you through the fuzzy (but don't touch) bunch. This spot isn't really near anything else, so the excursion is best taken while en-route from the southern to northern parts of the park (or vice versa).
     
 Interpretive trail - Cottonwood VC (P.O.I.) Easy 0.1 miles
Synopsis: Though this trail is in need of some creativity and maintenance, it is short, requires very little time and does manage to educate visitors to the desert environment. 
     
 Lost Palms Oasis (dayhike)    Moderate 7.1 miles
Synopsis: This is very pretty hike in the southern part of Joshua Tree. It travels through Colorado Desert terrain, yet still offers lots of typically impressive JT rocks, as well as some different botany and the possibility of seeing Bighorn Sheep. Although you can't count on the sheep, there's still plenty to enjoy on this trip.
     
 Mastodon Peak Loop (dayhike)   Easy 2.7 miles
Synopsis: A pretty and engaging short hike out of the Cottonwood Springs area. The easy scramble up to Mastodon Peak is a short but worthwhile side-trip with nice views.
     
Morten's Mill (dayhike)   Easy 2.4 miles
Synopsis: A short, but entertaining hike down through a spectacular sandy wash, around (or over if you're a climber) a rocky drywall, and ending at an old mill site. If you manage to hit this trail during a good wildflower outbreak you will be rewarded with tremendous botanical diversity along with the usual Joshua Tree beauty.
     
Ocotillo Patch (P.O.I.)   Easy 0.5 miles
Synopsis: A fun little walk through a cluster of ocotillos. If you catch them at the right time the fiery red flowers will draw you out among the plants. It's also a great place to take in the Colorado desert scenery that characterizes the southern part of Joshua Tree.
     
Quartz-vein Ridge (dayhike) Easy 1.4 miles
Synopsis: As you drive north along Pinto Basin Rd. a few mile north of the Cottonwood Visitor Center you see off to the left a low ridge heading off to the west. What catches your eye, though, is the splatter of white that streaks the north side of the ridge. This is a quartz outcrop that is quite interesting to visit, as it appears to have been mined at one time. We made a short loop out of our visit, hitting some of the hilltops on the way back.
     
 Silver Bell Mine (dayhike) Easy-Moderate  1.6 miles 
Synopsis: We have little to no interest in the mining history of Joshua Tree, but any excuse to get off the road and venture into the spectacular desert backcountry is worth the time and effort. If you manage, as we did, to catch this trail during an excellent wildflower season then you will be doubly rewarded. The views from the ridge are typically expansive. 
     
Smoke Tree Wash - east (dayhike)   Easy 1.9 miles
Synopsis: This is a hike for which 2 miles barely scratches the surface. This wash provides a rich experience, but even if one hasn't the time to explore it at great length it's well worth any time you can spare. There are great desert plants and the always interesting Joshua Tree geology. And the long Colorado desert views provide a perspective that is seductively expansive.
     
Smoke Tree Wash - west (dayhike)    Easy-Moderate  4.8 miles 
Synopsis: Not all great hiking experiences in Joshua Tree are to be found on conventional trails. Finding a convenient parking spot off of the main road and striking out in one of the washes can reward the hiker with a profoundly beautiful, and solitary, experience. Smoke Tree Wash is a broad, gently sloping sandy walk through the Colorado Desert a few miles north of the Cottonwood Springs Visitor Center. Besides the abundant trees that give the wash its name, there are beautiful stands of Mojave Yuccas in the high ground on either side, plentiful small wildlife (especially jackrabbits) and some excellent examples of the endlessly fascinating rock formations for which Joshua Tree NP is deservedly known. 
     
 Turkey Flats sand dunes (dayhike) Easy 2.3 miles
Synopsis: This is a fun little line-of-sight hike through the low desert to some sand dunes. The trip is pretty much all off-trail and requires minimal orienteering skills (identifying land marks and keeping track of bearings).
     

Geology Tour Road

   
 Malapai Hill (dayhike) Moderate  1.9 miles 
Synopsis: One of the best parts of Joshua Tree is the off-trail exploring. This short, but challenging, hike from the Geology Tour Rd. is a particularly fun example. Be prepared for some steep, rocky climbing, rewarded by great views from the top.   
     
 Squaw Tank (P.O.I.) Easy  0.3 miles 
Synopsis: Another of the neat little rambles in the rocks Joshua Tree offers. Squaw Tank is easy, close to the parking lot, and not much of a worry if parents want to let kids scramble around by themselves a bit. But you're crazy if you let them have all the fun.   
     
 Squaw Tank Trail / Malapai Hill loop (dayhike) Easy-Moderate  3.4 miles 
Synopsis: The expected amazingness of Joshua Tree can be amped up even more if you catch it in wildflower season. This little hike, especially around the west side of Malapai Hill, offered some incredible post-rain bounty on the day we visited. Despite the look of the profile below, the hike feels very gradual and mostly flat. The trail itself (before heading off-trail around the north side of Malapai Hill) can be a bit difficult to follow, but if you keep an eye out for the intermittent markers, and have minimal orienteering skills, you should be fine.
     

Hidden Valley area

   
 Barker Dam Nature Trail (P.O.I.) Easy 1.3 miles
Synopsis: Except for a small bit of elevation around the dam, this trail is exceptionally flat. There may be a few rocky steps that will trouble grandparents, but kids will love it. Try to take this little hike after some rains to catch water behind the dam.
     
Garrett's Arch (dayhike)   Easy-Moderate 4.5 miles
Synopsis: An extremely fun hike in an extremely fun place. The Wonderland of Rocks is a playground of huge rock formations. This trip takes the explorer to a less-visited spot in the park: Garrett's Arch, a very pretty arch formation high up in the rocks framing some seemingly out-of-place trees. The return leg includes a good dose of relatively easy (though challenging at times) scrambling.
     
 Hidden Valley (P.O.I.) Easy 1.4 miles
Synopsis: Calling this a "point of interest" does it a disservice. The Hidden Valley trail is a little over a mile long but is worth spending hours exploring. There are wonderful rock formations all around, great desert flora and fauna, and, since it's a popular trail, probably plenty of people. You'll likely never get lonely, but don't let that stop you. This is a Joshua Tree must. Great for kids - provided careful supervision by parents.
     
  Johnny Lang Canyon (dayhike)   Moderate-Difficult 6.7 miles
Synopsis: Johnny Lang Canyon is an amazing spot, especially when you reach the gorgeous rocky area where the old mine is located. Taking the old canyon route and then looping back via the connector trail offers a trek through varying habitats, capped with tremendous view on the return descent.
     
 Northview / Maze Loop (dayhike) Moderate 6.5 miles
Synopsis: High desert hike. Excellent views and scenery. Great terrain for boulder hopping and geology buffs. Watch for rattlesnakes and cholla (acquaint yourself with this plant, and other potentially hazardous cacti). Hot in summer, can be windy and cold in winter. Water and sunscreen are always a must in JT.
     
 Wall St. Mill / Wonderland Ranch Wash (dayhike)   Easy 4.6 miles
Synopsis: This is a fun hike to a couple of historical sites, coupled with a ramble up a beautiful wash between some typically spectacular Joshua Tree rocks. You turnaround after reaching a couple of huge granite monoliths called the Astro Domes. For the return on investment of time and effort, this trip delivers.
     
 Willow Hole (dayhike)   Easy-Moderate 7 miles
Synopsis: Despite its length this hike is pretty easy going. And if you enjoy the rocky desert scenery of Joshua Tree, it's also one of the most rewarding easy hikes you'll find. The first and last parts along the Boy Scout Trail offer beautiful open vistas and iconic Joshua trees. The middle section, which takes you into and out of Willow Hole - a year-round watering hole in the Wonderland of Rocks - winds through sandy washes and spectacular boulder piles.
     
Indian Cove area        
     
 49 Palms Oasis (dayhike) Moderate 3.2 miles
Synopsis: The geology along this trail is fascinating. The rocks would make for a great hike all by themselves. But of course there is a lovely oasis on the other side of the hill that provides some cool shade as well as a restful spot for a break and/or lunch. Keep your eyes open for interesting lizards, and as always in Joshua Tree, make sure you have enough water.
     
 Indian Cove Nature Trail (P.O.I.) Easy 0.7 miles
Synopsis: This is a fun little walk down into a wash and through some interesting geology. There are nice views and good interpretive signs along the way.
     
 Oasis of Mara (P.O.I.) Easy 0.5 miles
Synopsis: This Visitor Center Nature Trail is a good place to pick up on some of the history of Joshua Tree National Park. It's a short walk, good for kids and even wheelchairs. And as usual - remember to bring water.
     
 Rattlesnake Canyon (dayhike)   Moderate 1.1 miles
Synopsis: If you like scrambling then Rattlesnake Canyon is a great spot to check out. Only the first few yards of walking through a wash resemble a trail. After that it's all about climbing boulders up into and through the canyon. The normal Rattlesnake Canyon hike is about three miles round trip, but due to time constraints I cut it short and exited through a side canyon to the north. 
     
Jumbo Rocks area    
     
 Arch Rock (P.O.I.) Easy 0.5 miles
Synopsis: A quick and easy walk out of the White Tank campground to an erosion arch (you'll have to get off the trail for a decent look at it). The short trail has some informative signs and little in the way of obstacles or elevation change to prevent any but the most infirm from taking it in. Good for kids. As usual in Joshua Tree, consider time of year and day in planning a hike.
     
 Crown Prince Lookout (dayhike) Easy-Moderate 3 miles
Synopsis: A walk in the desert followed by a scramble through the rocks. In most cases this would sound like a fun couple of hours. In Joshua Tree it's guaranteed to be a blast. Oh, and there are amazing views from the top, too.
     
 Grand Tank (P.O.I.)   Easy-Moderate 1 mile
Synopsis: Hiking off-trail in Joshua Tree is nearly always interesting. Scrambling over boulders adds to the fun, and finding your way to a spot like Grand Tank filled with prehistoric-looking creatures is an extra treat. Cap it all off with a return trip through a wash and over the sandy desert and you have a great little trip.
     
 Live Oak Wash (P.O.I.) Easy 0.9 miles
Synopsis: Live Oak day-use area is a nice spot for a lunch break. At the end of the dirt road there's a parking area that gives access to the south to the Live Oak Wash. It's a pretty little loop around the area's rock outcrop, and through the wash that give's this spot its name.
     
 Skull Rock Nature Trail (dayhike)   Easy  2 miles 
Synopsis: Skull Rock is a popular attraction in the park. It's also right next to the road so many people (and even tour buses) stop for pictures and to climb on the rocks. Don't let that keep you away from a very nice trail, though. The walk from the campground is certainly enjoyable, but the part of the trail on the north side of the park road is quite pretty, and less crowded.   
     
Stirrup Tank (P.O.I.) Easy 0.5 miles
Synopsis: Stirrup Tank is mostly a climber's area, but it's full of fun scrambling opportunities. This little hike climbs in and around a few boulder groups, then turns back to the trailhead. We're still looking for the tank itself - a good excuse to return for more rocky fun.
     
 Twin Tanks (dayhike) Easy 2.2 miles
Synopsis: This hike requires some minimal, but important, orienteering skills. There is no trail to the Twin Tanks area, one needs to be able to take a compass bearing and follow it while route-finding through desert washes and rocky outcrops. The hike is easy, and the tanks area is fascinating. Just be sure of your compass skills, and watch out for the cat-claw acacia.
     

Queen Valley area

   
 Desert Queen Mine / Eagle Cliffs Mine (dayhike) Easy-Moderate 3.6 miles
Synopsis: We're not huge fans of hikes to areas of historical interest, but consider that this is Joshua Tree, and the park is always a fascinating place to travel and play in the rocks. The mine sites are interesting, and worth visiting - especially for those who are into that kind of thing - but as usual the real star of this hike, which really gets fun after passing the Desert Queen area, is the landscape itself.
     
Lucky Boy Loop / Vista (dayhike)   Moderate 3.5 miles
Synopsis: This hike leads you up a some gently (at first) ascending foothills before leveling out on your way to a ridge where the views extend east over the Split Rock area. After backtracking a bit you can either return the way you came, or make the hike a loop by heading north and down to a beautiful wash area, where you'll gradually climb along the stream-bed to the Desert Queen parking area, then walk back to your car along Desert Queen Mine Rd.
     
 Pine City (dayhike)    Easy  4.3 miles 
Synopsis: An easy, fairly level hike through starkly beautiful JT scenery. It takes you to a boulder-strewn area with a number of pinyon pines (not really as dense as the name implies). There is a continuation of the trail around the west side of the boulders which takes you to the top of a knoll with a view down into the desert to the north. To the west of this trail extension there is a canyon with more pines and interesting rock formations which makes for fun exploration.
     
 Split Rock (dayhike) Easy 2.4 miles
Synopsis: Split Rock trail is an enjoyable hike through the hills on the north side of JT's Queen Valley. As usual, there are beautiful and interesting rocks (Tulip Rock and Face Rock stand out) and tremendous desert scenery. The side trip to face rock is not really a must-do, but it's short and fun, just like the rest of the trail. As usual in Joshua Tree, bring water, and watch out for cholla.
 

Ryan Mountain area

 Cap Rock Nature Trail (P.O.I.) Easy  0.4 miles 
Synopsis: The nature trails in Joshua Tree aren't uninteresting throwaways. They're generally quite engaging, and Cap Rock is no exception. There are fun rock formations here (you'll likely see some climbers) and at the right time - in the spring or after good rains - the variety of wildflowers can be amazing. The picnic tables at the north end of the parking lot also make this a great place to stop for a break. 
     
 Hall of Horrors (P.O.I.) Easy 0.6 miles
Synopsis: This is mostly a technical rock-climbing area with some great bolder formations. But it has some fun trails, its own parking area and a restroom so it's a good place for just about anyone to stop and explore. Didn't see any picnic tables, but who needs them when there are so many monzogranite slabs just waiting to host your lunch?
     
Inspiration Peak (dayhike) Easy-Moderate 1.5 miles
Synopsis: The views from Keys View are excellent. But if you want even excellenter views, and a bit of solitude to boot, you may want to take the short trip along the ridge to the west which leads to Inspiration Peak. It's a short, and quite sturdy trek, but worth the effort.
     
 Juniper Flats (backpack)   Moderate 5.6 miles
Synopsis: If you're a wildflower fan, and you hit this trail at just the right time, the first few miles out of the trailhead can be spectacularly colorful and varied. Of course even if the flowers disappoint the scenery in Joshua Tree never does. The hike to Juniper Flats is relatively flat and straightforward, ending with a night spent in an open and beautifully wild part of the park. Strangely, the further you travel into the Flats area the fewer Junipers you see.
     
 Keys View (P.O.I.) Easy 0.1 miles
Synopsis: Keys View is an overlook that takes advantage of Joshua Tree's southern range of mountains to offer a tremendous, though often quite hazy, view to the south. Included in the vista are the Salton Sea, the Palm Springs area, and the western pass between San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains that heads over to Los Angeles. It's a paved sidewalk, but it is a little steep for the infirm or wheelchair-bound. Just to the east of this spot there are a few parking spots for a smaller, more handicapped-accessible overlook.
     
 Lost Horse Loop (dayhike)   Moderate 7 miles 
Synopsis: This enjoyable loop trail takes you through washes, over ridges, up steep hills and to an old, abandoned mine. Along the way there are great views west and south to the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Ranges, as well as east into the expanse of Joshua Tree NP. The Lost Horse Mine is an interesting bit of history that's worth checking out.   
     
 Lost Horse Mountain (dayhike)   Moderate 4.5 miles
Synopsis: The views from Lost Horse Mountain are just about as dramatic as from any peak in the park, and they come at a cost in elevation gain that's less than many other spots - though there are a couple of short steeps to gain the summit. Plus you get to work on your off-trail and scrambling skills a bit. Also, taking a side trip to the Lost Horse Mine is worthwhile.
     
 Oyster Bar (P.O.I.) Easy 0.8 miles
Synopsis: This is another one of those Joshua Tree spots where you could spend all day hanging out and playing in the rocks. It's an easy, short walk from the main park road. If you're looking for a more challenging hike, the Ryan Mountain trailhead is just a few tenths of mile east of here.
     
 Ryan Mountain (dayhike)   Moderate  2.9 miles 
Synopsis: This is a popular hike, so if you take it on a weekend in winter (in season for JTNP) then expect plenty of company. Nevertheless it's a beautiful trek with tremendous views on the way and of course at the top, where you get a 360° spectacle including San Jacinto and San Gorgonio to the west, the amazing Wonderland of Rocks to the north, and far out into the deserts to the east. A Joshua Tree must-do.  
     
 Ryan Ranch (P.O.I.) Easy 1.3 miles
Synopsis: Ryan Ranch is a former homestead that was abandoned for lack of water. This short easy hike takes you to the remains of the attempted mining ranch. There are remnants of engines and adobe walls and mining equipment. It's an interesting walk into some of the history of Joshua Tree. Please leave everything where you find it, and save the graffiti for adolescent fools.
     
 Stubbe Spring trail (backpack)   Moderate-Difficult 10 miles
Synopsis: A beautiful loop trail that, taken as a dayhike, is about 12 miles. I took it as a return trip from an overnight at Juniper Flats and enjoyed it immensely. The path is well-designed, and even though it travels through washes in several different spots it remains easy to follow. Even the end of the loop trail that descends through a canyon that shows the scars of a fire was an interesting experience.
     
     
 

All photos and video by Laura or Bob Camp unless otherwise indicated. Use without permission is not cool.