Looking for the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park?
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular parks in the state, and for good reason. The park has a lot to offer visitors, and it’s a great place to get away from it all.
The park is in southeastern California, about an hour east of Palm Springs and two hours west of Los Angeles. It’s home to some of the best rock climbing and hiking in the United States, as well as some stunning views and wildlife sightings. Whether you’re looking for a quick day trip or planning to spend a week camping out in Joshua Tree National Park, there are plenty of things to do here.
Top Things To Do And See When Hiking And Camping In Joshua Tree National Park
There are over 800 miles to explore the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, so there’s no shortage of options for exploring your surroundings. Most hikes will take anywhere from two hours up to several days, depending on how far you go and how much time you have. Joshua tree is one of the best cheap places to travel in the USA
Reasons to Explore Joshua Tree Best Hikes and Trails
There are over 150 miles of trails within Joshua Tree National Park. From easy strolls through the desert to challenging climbs up rocky mountainsides, there’s something for everyone. If you want to get away from it all without leaving civilization behind, then hiking is a great way to explore this unique landscape. Just remember to bring plenty of water (at least three liters) and sunscreen!
Camping is one of my favorite things about Joshua Tree National Park. Because there are so many campsites available at various locations throughout the park. There are a lot of trails that start just outside many of the campgrounds.
There is some great wildlife in the park! From bighorn sheep, white-tailed antelope, kangaroo rats, and snakes. Some of these animals, like snakes, are poisonous. Encounters are rare. Still hike safely in Joshua Tree Np.
So what are the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park? Let’s break them down below!
The granite that forms the rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park is part of the larger Colorado Plateau. Which extends across much of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. The granite in this area is called monzogranite and was formed about 1 billion years ago. By magma coming up from deep inside the Earth and cooling slowly at depth.
Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is a desert, and the weather here can be extreme. Summer days are hot and dry, with temperatures in the triple digits (Fahrenheit). Winter nights drop below freezing. During spring and fall, temperatures are milder but still change often.
The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is during the spring or fall months. Summer is extremely hot and dry, while winter brings cold nights. Winter storms can bring rain or snow to higher elevations of Joshua Tree National Park. Summer storms can bring flash floods and high winds to lower elevations of the park. We are backpackers, which means we should always be ready for these events.
16 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
cholla cactus garden Nature Trail
The cholla cactus garden Nature Trail is a great introduction to Joshua Tree National Park. This easy hike takes you around a cactus garden, through an old homestead, and along a sandy wash.
The Cholla cactus garden is short and easy, so it’s perfect for families with young kids or seniors looking for an easy hike in Joshua Tree National Park. The terrain is flat and paved, so it’s also not too strenuous for those who are less physically fit or have trouble walking long distances.
It’s an excellent way to get away from the crowds and enjoy some solitude in this desert landscape. And because why not embark on a sunrise cholla cactus garden hike, or maybe a cholla cactus garden sunset trek?
This tiny hike is quick, easy, and has no elevation gain! Making it perfect for people with health conditions are limited time in the park.
Barker Dam Trail
Barker Dam nature trail is a famous hike in which you see the desert landscape and learn about mining history.
Barker Dam is a great hiking trail for those traveling with a family.
And Barker Dam is not only one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree, but it is also a popular nature trail.
In the past, people raised cattle near Barker Dam. They built a huge dam to store water for the cattle. Today, you can’t see much water there, but if you can find it, the water attracts birds, fish, and other animals.
One highlight, one reason people consider Barker Dam the best hike in Joshua Tree National Park is because of the history. An old Native American tribe made this 1.3-mile trail along Barker Dam. It has markers for trees, plants, and animals. You should take a side trail to see some ancient cave paintings.
Ryan mountain trail
Ryan Mountain is a 4.7-km out-and-back trail near Twentynine Palms, in the Mojave Desert. The moderately challenging route climbs through Joshua trees. And Mojave yucca to a viewpoint that offers views of the surrounding desert landscape. The trail is popular with hikers, runners, and mountain bikers, who enjoy the area’s warm weather and mild temperatures in fall, winter, and spring.
You can find out more about this hike at all trails Joshua tree website.
Arch Rock Nature Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. The trailhead is on the west side of Hidden Valley Campground.
The hike to Arch Rock trail starts flat but quickly gains elevation as it winds through a wash for about a mile and a half. You’ll pass through several sandstone formations along the way, including Arch Rock itself.
Warren Peak Trail
The Warren Peak Trail is a fairly easy trail that is on the east side of Joshua Tree National Park, near Yucca Valley, California. This short hike has an elevation gain of 1200 feet. The first 2.5 miles are relatively easy, with an elevation gain of only 625 feet. The last 1/2 mile to the peak is the only hard part of this hike where you quickly get an elevation gain of over 600 ft.
The Warren Peak Trail is moderately challenging towards the end. But since Warren Peak passes through several unique ecosystems and some beautiful backcountry along the way. There are no water sources along the trail, so make sure you bring plenty of water with you on this hike. And while this hike is mostly easy, it has some challenging points. You don’t need professional hiking skills. But be prepared.
A cool trail is the Skull Rock Loop in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s about a mile and a half, and it goes through huge piles of rocks. One pile of rocks has holes that look like eyes, so it looks like a skull.
There are also a lot of animals in this area of the park.
The best way to get to Skull Rock Trail is by parking on Park Boulevard, near the landmark of Split Mountain.
It is fun to go there in the spring. There are flowers, and you get to see them when they bloom. You can also walk on a trail surrounded by desert plants.
Desert Queen Mine and Eagle Cliff Boulder House
Desert Queen Mine dirt road comprises a series of tunnels that lead to the canyon wall and part of it is a loop. The trailhead sits on the Desert Queen Mine dirt road and comprises a series of tunnels that lead to the canyon wall and part of it is a loop. At one point, you can climb up onto the canyon wall, which has magnificent views of Eagle Cliff Boulder House ruins.
The Boulder House ruin is much more accessible than the Desert Queen Mine, but it also requires more effort to reach it. The trailhead sits on the Desert Queen Mine dirt road and crosses several hills before descending into a narrow canyon. Once there, hikers can explore the ruins themselves. Or join a ranger-led hike through them (check with visitor centers for schedules).
Visitors often use these two historic sites together on their trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Both sites are within proximity to each other and provide excellent opportunities for learning about local history
Hidden Valley trail is a great family hike and a favorite for people who want to see the beauty of Joshua Tree without too much effort. The trailhead is located 1.2 miles up Hidden Valley Road, which can be accessed from the Cottonwood Visitor Center. This short hiking trail doesn’t make much of an elevation gain. Making it perfect for people of all ages.
The trail itself is an easy, 1-mile loop through the beautiful desert landscape. The trail follows along the bottom of a dry wash that leads to a spring-fed pond filled with cattails. Hikers will enjoy this spot as they rest and look out over the valley below them.
Surprise, surprise, the Hidden valley nature trail ends at another trail junction that leads to Hidden Valley Campground. Or past it to Ryan Mountain (another popular hike).
Black Rock Canyon Trail
The Black Rock Canyon Trail is a 5.6km out-and-back trail near Yucca Valley, California. And it features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers several activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs can also use this trail but must be kept on a leash.
The Black Rock Canyon Trail is open year-round. And passes through two distinct plant communities: creosote scrub and Joshua tree woodland. The trail begins at the parking lot for the Black Rock Campground. From here it heads east along an access road before turning north into the canyon itself.
Willow Hole trail is a moderate 11.6-km out-and-back trail that leads up to the top of Willow Peak. The hike is easy, but it is long and exposed, so it’s not advisable to bring small children or anyone who has a fear of heights.
The trailhead for Willow Hole is on the west side of Cottonwood Spring Road ( paved road) about 36 km north of Joshua Tree Visitor Center. From here, you can either shuttle or drive your vehicle to the trailhead.
Once at the trailhead, you will follow a dirt path along with signs that guide you through the first section of the hike. The first section is relatively easy and flat. But after 20 minutes, it climbs up more steeply over rocky terrain before reaching an elevation gain of 340 meters. Just under 4 kilometers from your starting point at Cottonwood Spring Road. Once you reach this point, there is no way back except by retracing your steps and making sure you don’t miss any turns or markers along the way.
Boy Scout Trail
The Boy Scout Trail is a popular trail in Joshua Tree National Park that features stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape. The trail runs along a ridge with views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as the high desert below.
The trail is 8 miles long and can be done as an out-and-back trip, or as part of a loop hike. The trail passes by several points of interest. Including Indian Cove, Ryan Mountain, and Keys View, before returning to the Boy Scout Trailhead.
The hike begins at the Boy Scout Trailhead on Park Boulevard just north of Keys View Road. The trail proceeds north through a sandy wash until it reaches Ryan Mountain after about 1 mile. From here it climbs up ridges and switchbacks to reach Indian Cove after 2 miles. The next 2 miles are fairly level until the trail descends into a wash where it meets the Pinto Basin Trail around 5 miles in. After another quick climb, you’ll reach Keys View. Which offers outstanding views of the Coachella Valley backcountry below. This is also where you’ll turn around if you’re hiking this as an out-and-back trip (or continuing to complete the loop).
49 Palms Oasis trail
Joshua Tree National Park is a vast wilderness of sandstone spires, mountains, and desert valleys. It’s an amazing place to hike.
The 49 Palms Oasis trail is one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a 3-mile round-trip hike with 300 feet of elevation gain. The trail descends into the canyon filled with giant palm trees.
This hike has challenging terrain and some rock scrambling, but it’s not too difficult if you’re in decent shape and have some experience hiking. This hike is good for families with kids who are old enough to handle rocky terrain and hills without help from mom and dad.
The 49 Palms Oasis trail starts at the Barker Dam parking lot on Pinto Basin Road. If you want to start your hike early in the morning, be sure to arrive early so that all cars are out of the parking lot by 8:00 am (when it closes).
Wall Street Mill
The hike to the Wall Street Mill is a short and easy one that leads to the remains of an old mill. Great for any skill level. The journey begins at the Wall Street Mill Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. And follows a dirt road for a quarter mile before reaching the actual trail. From this point, it’s less than two miles until you arrive at the mill. This is an easy hike with little elevation gain.
The hike is flat and easy, with only 88 feet of elevation gain along the entire route. It’s also very well maintained and marked, so you’ll never get lost or have trouble finding your way. There are plenty of side trails that lead off in different directions. But they all eventually lead back to your starting point, so don’t worry about getting lost if you decide to explore any other areas along your journey.
Along the hike, you’ll be able to see some rusty remains of automobiles and other machinery that were used to process ore during its operation. While these are interesting to look at, they’re not necessarily what makes this hike worthwhile. Instead, it’s the view from atop one of several hills surrounding the area. Where you’ll look down over Joshua Tree National Park backcountry below that makes this hike worthwhile.
Minverva Hoyt Trail
The Minerva Hoyt Trail is a short, easy hike that offers breathtaking views of the desert landscape.
This hike isn’t on most hiking apps. But luckily you can see the parking lot on a lot of maps.
Pine City Trail
The Pine City Trail is a great alternative to the more popular Wonderland of Rocks. It’s off-the-radar and few people hike it, which makes it ideal if you’re looking for solitude.
The trailhead is at the end of Pine City Road, which is just off Keys View Road. The trail starts by following an old roadbed through some pine trees but soon turns into a single track as you enter the Wonderland of Rocks area.
This trail isn’t as well known as other Joshua Tree hikes, so you’ll likely have it all to yourself. That said, there are still plenty of opportunities for rock scrambling and exploring. The best time to hike this trail is during spring. This is when the desert plants are blooming. And much of the rock scrambling can be done on the slick rock rather than sandstone slabs or talus fields (which are rough on your feet).
Cap Rock – Best Short Hike in Joshua Tree NP
Cap Rock is a 0.6-km loop trail near Twentynine Palms. This short, straightforward route takes an average of 8 min to complete. The trail is flat and wide, with a smooth surface and loose gravel.
Some people consider Cap Rock the best hike in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a little easier than most hikes in the park, but it’s still amazing. This is a great family-friendly hike. And suitable for any skill level.
Jumbo Rocks Campground Loop
The Jumbo Rock Loop is an easy and popular trail with a variety of terrain. And it is perfect for all skill levels. The trail begins at the Jumbo Rocks Campground and winds through boulders, Joshua trees, and desert vegetation. This trail is just a loop around Jumbo Rocks’ campground, but it is a great place for some easy bouldering, or watching the sunset.
The hike is very popular with visitors and locals alike. There are many places to stop along the way to enjoy views of the surrounding area. The trail is accessible year-round but can boil during the summer months.
What do you think about the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park? If this hiking didn’t do it for you, do not worry. There are some other great hiking trails in southern California as well. Another great destination is exploring the best hikes in San Diego. I hope you enjoyed this list of Joshua Trees best hikes! I found a lot of inspiration and peace in this park.
And I hope you enjoyed this national park and the otherworldly landscapes as much as I did. Happy hiking and remember always to have conservation in mind!