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Unearthing the Best Hikes in Joshua Tree for All Ages

Hiking is one of the favorite activities done in any national park. Most people prefer to get out of their cars, get on the trails, and explore nature. Joshua Tree National Park has a plethora of picturesque treks ranging in difficulty.

There’s a good mix of simple, intermediate, and challenging Joshua tree hikes on the paths below. However, they all provide beautiful views, many of which can only be found in this park. Start with the first two treks if you’re short on time or want to go for an easy trail.

These are each around a mile long and relatively level. Choose one of the final four hiking trails if you just have a few hours and want good exercise.

1. Joshua Tree National Park

In Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is located around three hours west of Los Angeles. Joshua Tree Town, Black Rock Canyon, Twentynine Palms, and a long way outside Route 10 are the four access sites to the national park.

The bulk of the treks can be accessible from Park Boulevard in Joshua Tree town, so that’s where you should start if you want to tackle the trails.

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by: Ladia Koh/Unsplash

The tallest Joshua tree grows up to 40 feet high in the desert Queen Valley Forest. Joshua Tree National Park combines two unique desert landscapes: the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. A remarkable array of plants and animals make their homes in a terrain shaped by powerful winds and occasional torrents of rain.

The presence of unique Joshua trees is the park’s most distinguishing characteristic. The south entrance of this massive wilderness in California surrounds mountain ranges, desert landscapes, many nature trails, and unusual natural qualities like the Joshua tree, which add to the majesty of this national park.

Except for the paved Oasis of Mara Trail, no pets are allowed on any of the park’s trails.

2. The right time to visit Joshua Tree National Park

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by: Jayma Leavengood/Unsplash

When the weather is typically nice, spring and fall are the finest periods to trek in the park. Summers may be scorching, so anything longer than the shortest trails will necessitate an early start to avoid the worst of the heat.

Winter is beautiful but can also be brutally cold, as we have experienced. There may be frost and howling wind, making the temperature seem like -4C.

3. Joshua Tree hikes map

The bulk of Joshua Tree paths are located in Black Rock Canyon and Park Boulevard. In our opinion, the walks in Black Rock Canyon on the park’s west end are the best, with wilder routes that make you feel like you’re venturing further into the wilderness.

They’re also quieter, with just a few individuals in this section. The Park Boulevard treks are still fantastic and offer plenty of gorgeous vistas, but they’re a lot shorter and busier now – though they aren’t overcrowded in the winter.

4. Short Walks and Hiking Trails

These Joshua tree trails are recommended year-round, and some are wheelchair accessible. If hiking in the summer, make sure the trail starts before 9 am.


4.1. Cholla Cactus Garden Trail

The Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Route is a 0.3-kilometer frequently visited circular trail near Desert Hot Springs, California, exhibiting lovely wildflowers and suitable for hikers of all abilities. The route is open all year and is famous for hiking, walking, jogging, and bird viewing.

  • Trailhead: 20 miles (32 km) north of Cottonwood Visitor Centers
  • Distance elevation:0.25 mile (0.4 km)
  • Estimated time:15-30 minutes
  • Route type: Loop
  • Description: Thousands of closely packed, organically growing cholla cacti may be seen. Keep on the track, wear closed-toe shoes, and watch for thorny cactus.

4.2. Arch Rock Trail

Arch Rock Nature Walk is a 1.9-kilometer out-and-back trail in Twentynine Palms, California that contains stunning wildflowers and is suitable for hikers of all abilities. This trail is functional year-round, and the footfall is mostly for hiking and small walks here and there.

Joshua Tree National Park - Arch Rock Tour
  • Trailhead: Twin Tanks Parking lot, aka the Arch Rock Trailhead
  • Distance elevation:1.4 miles (2.1 km)
  • Estimated time:1 hour
  • Route type: Out & back
  • Description: A lollipop trail through sandy and rocky terrain. A 0.6-mile trail leads to a 0.2-mile loop. The arch rock is located halfway along the loop.

4.3. Skull Rock Trail

Skull Rock Nature Trail is a 2.7-kilometer widely used loop trail near Twentynine Palms, California, that features lovely wildflowers and is suitable for hikers of all abilities. The trail is best utilized for trekking, walking, and camping from October to April.

  • Trailhead location: Skull Rock parking area just east of Jumbo Rocks Campground; also accessible from within Jumbo Rocks Campground
  • Distance elevation:1.7 miles (2.7 km)
  • Estimated time: 1-2 hours
  • Route type: Loop
  • Description: Explore rock stacks, desert washes, and the famous Skull Rock on a short trip.

4.4. Barker Dam Trail

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by: Vladimir Haltakov/Unsplash

Barker Dam Nature Route is a 2.1-kilometer widely used circle trail in Joshua Tree, California, that features magnificent wildflowers and is suitable for hikers of all abilities. There’s also a wide variety of plant life along the Barker Dam trail.

The trail is used for hiking, walking, and nature treks and is open year-round. The initial mile of walk is generally comfortable as giant rock formations shade the trail.

Although it winds past hundreds of Joshua trees of varying shapes and sizes, the trail’s last length has little shade. Toward the end, be sure to look inside the wind-carved rocks.

  • Trailhead location: Barker Dam parking area
  • Distance elevation:1.1 miles (1.8 km)
  • Estimated time: 1 hour
  • Route type: Loop
  • Description: View an early cattle rancher’s water tank and learn about cultural history. Be careful of the bighorn sheep.

4.5.Hidden Valley Trail

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by: Pavol Svantner/ unsplash

Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a 1.6-kilometer regularly used loop trail near Twentynine Palms, California, that features magnificent wildflowers and is suitable for hikers of all abilities. The path is available all year and is mainly utilized by walkers.

In Hidden Valley, you’ll also get a taste of history since the area was previously popular with cattle rustlers looking to hide their loot. It’s said that when Keys blasted through the rock to establish larger access for his cattle, he built the entrance to Hidden Valley – and the beginnings of this route.

Hikers will go through a vast valley surrounded by massive boulders and rock formations on this flat, mile-long trail. This valley’s peculiar environment attracts a variety of species that aren’t seen anywhere else in the park. You’ll notice a variety of plants and cacti along the trip.

  • Trailhead location: Hidden Valley picnic area
  • Distance elevation: 1 mile (1.6km)
  • Estimated time: 1 hour
  • Route type: Loop
  • Description: This rock-enclosed valley was once rumored to have been used by cattle rustlers.

5. Moderate hikes

These hikes might not be appropriate during the summer. When trekking in the desert in the heat, be cautious.

5.1. Split Rock Loop Trail

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By: Kindel Media/ pexels

Split Rock hike is a 3.1-kilometer widely used loop trail near Twentynine Palms, California that contains attractive wildflowers and is perfect for hikers of all ages. The track is open yearly and is famous for hikers, walkers, joggers, and nature lovers.

  • Trailhead location: Split Rock picnic area
  • Distance elevation:2.5 miles (4 km)
  • Estimated time: 1.5-2.5 hours
  • Route type: Loop
  • Description: Distance includes a safe trip to Face Rock

5.2. Lost Horse Mine Trail

The Lost Horse Mine Circular Route, a 10.9-kilometer moderately trafficked loop trail near Twentynine Palms, California, features lovely wildflowers and is moderate. The trail is open all year and is largely used for hiking.

The Lost Horse Mine Trail follows the route developed to carry the ore by J.D. Ryan, one of the former mine owners. The round-trip distance for this moderate path is 4 miles. Views of the surrounding park may be enjoyed along the route, but the ancient mine is unquestionably the primary attraction.

A chain-link fence blocks everything because of the hazards of disintegrating buildings and collapsing shafts. However, seeing this piece of history is worth the trip. Continue following the lost horse route to the ridge, where you can see the mine if you’re prepared for a harder challenge.

This trail has the benefit of being less well-known and, hence, less congested. Continue up the road to Keys View for one of the park’s greatest picturesque overlooks after your climb.

  • Trailhead location: Lost Horse Mine trailhead off Keys View Road
  • Distance elevation:4 miles (6.4 km)
  • Estimated time: 2-3 hours
  • Route type: Loop
  • Description: Out and back. Explore the area surrounding one of the park’s most productive gold mines. To safeguard the mill site and mine, stay outside the gated area. See Lost Horse Loop under Challenging Hikes for a longer option. The elevation difference is 550 feet.

6. Challenging Hikes

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Image Source: depositphotos

Because of the dangers of sun exposure, high temperatures, and dehydration, the following paths should not be tried during the summer or whenever it is hot outside. Every year, people must be rescued from these climbs, and some even die.

6.1. Black Rock Canyon Trail to Warren Peak Trail

The Black Rock Canyon Hike to Warren Peak is a moderately used 9.0-kilometer out-and-back trail near Yucca Valley, California, with spectacular views.

The trail is open all year and is generally utilized for hiking and walking.

There aren’t many Joshua trees in this park section; instead, you’ll find pinyon, juniper, and oak trees. Along the way, you’ll pass by Black Rock Spring, an essential water source for animals.

You’ll get views of the park, as well as the Santa Rosa Mountains, San Jacinto Mountains, and San Bernardino Mountains, by the time you reach the top.

The Warren Peak Trail is 6 miles long and mostly considered moderate. The last stretch, however, is quite steep and rated as tough. Because the trail is primarily sand, it will take some time to complete. Bring water and sunscreen because there isn’t much shade on this stroll.

  • Trailhead location: Black Rock
  • Distance elevation:6.3 miles (10.1 km)
  • Estimated time: 3-4.5 hours
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Description: Out and back. Hike to the summit of Warren Peak. Enjoy panoramic views of the quiet western part of Joshua Tree.

6.2. Ryan Mountain Trail

Ryan Mountain trail is a moderately trafficked 4.8-kilometer out-and-back trail situated in Twentynine Palms, California, that features magnificent wildflowers. The path is open all year and is largely utilized for hiking and jogging.

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Ryan Mountain is located in the center of Joshua Tree, and the trek to its summit will provide a solid exercise as well as spectacular vistas. You’ll observe a broad diversity of plant life along the walk, but the view of the park truly brings visitors here. You’ll enjoy a 360-degree panorama of Joshua Tree from the summit.

Ryan Mountain is frequently called the park’s best path by park visitors. This is a beautiful sunset trek, but the descent requires a headlamp or torch.

This is the most popular hike in the Joshua Tree National Park. Be ready with your snacks while you’re at the top, admiring the surrounding national parks and the desert landscape. Ryan Mountain is one of the most popular paths; getting there early in the day is suggested.

  • Trailhead location: Parking area between Sheep Pass and Ryan Campground
  • Distance elevation:3 miles (4.8 km)
  • Estimated time: 1.5-2.5 hours
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Description: Out and back. Hike to the most popular summit of Ryan Mountain.

6.3. Boy Scout trail

Joshua Tree Boy Scout Trail is a 12.9-kilometer moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Joshua Tree, California, that features beautiful wildflowers and is rated as moderate. Hiking, camping, and backpacking are the most popular activities on the path.

  • Trailhead location: North end: Indian Cove backcountry board. South end: Boy Scout Trailhead.
  • Distance elevation:8 miles (12.9 km) or 1190 feet (362.7 m)
  • Estimated time: 6 hours
  • Route type: Point to point
  • Description: It’s just one way. Explore the depths of the Rocks Wonderland. To prevent getting lost amid the stones, stay on the route. The majority of hikers prefer to begin from the south trailhead, which is located within the West Entrance, and end at Indian Cove. Hikers who want to complete the path in its entirety can make use of the vehicle shuttle service.

6.4. California Riding and Hiking Trail

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Image Source: depositphotos

The California Riding and Hiking Trail, a 60.5-kilometer infrequently traveled point-to-point trail near Yucca Valley, California, is regarded as tough and has magnificent wildflowers.

The path is best utilized from October to March and is mostly used for hiking, jogging, camping, and backpacking.

  • Trailhead: Several
  • Distance elevation:35 miles (56.3 km)
  • Estimated time:2-3 days to hike the entire length
  • Route type: Point to point
  • Description: Shorter walks are available on some stretches of this extensive path. Pass through a variety of Mojave Desert vistas on your way from Black Rock Canyon to the park’s North Entrance.

6.4.1 10 Summer Hiking Essentials

  1. Water – plain water and also some electrolyte supplements.
  2. Food – especially salty foods. Eat twice as much as normal.
  3. First Aid Kit: Bandages, ace bandage, antiseptic, moleskin, and other first-aid supplies
  4. Map – Maps are useful aids, even if many paths are well-marked.
  5. Pack – to carry the essentials.
  6. Flashlight/Spare Batteries – permits you to hike out in the evening when it is cooler.
  7. Spray Bottle – Fill a spray bottle with water to create your air conditioner.
  8. Sun Protection – Wear a hat and use sunscreen to protect your skin and keep the sun off your face.
  9. Whistle or something to signal  – for emergency use.
  10. Waterproof Clothing – Waterproof clothing, such as a poncho or jacket, is essential during the rainy season (mid-July to early September).

6.4.2 Safety Tips

  • Tell somebody about your hike and also when you will be returning.
  • Even for short walks, bring plenty of food and drink.
  • Don’t force fluids—drink when you are thirsty.
  • Eat frequently—salty snacks are essential for salt loss due to sweat.
  • Rest in the shade
  • Plan and avoid trekking during the summer between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Read more safety tips here before you visit Joshua Tree
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Image Source: depositphotos

7. Reservation Camping

The majority of the 500 campsites in the Joshua Tree National Park are available by reservation. Reservations can be made the same day or up to 6 months in advance and can be booked on service is unreliable and nonexistent in Joshua Tree National Park.

One should make a reservation if you want to camp in the spring on a holiday, a weekend, or any other day of the week. From November through May, they have a very active spring season.

Summer Hours: All reserve campsites are open throughout the year. Several portions of Indian Cove Campground, Black Rock Campground, and Cottonwood Campground are closed throughout the summer.

Three types of Joshua tree campgrounds available are:

  • Reservation required
  • First come, first served
  • Group sites

7.1 Reservation required

7.1.1 Black Rock Campground

  • Sites: 99
  • Elevation: 4,000 feet
  • Amenities: Water, flush toilets, tables, fire grates, and a dump station.
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by: Vladimir Haltakov/Unsplash

Black Rock Campground (with 99 campsites) is in the park’s northwest corner. Each campground features a picnic table, fire ring, restrooms, and drinking water. Yucca Valley, a five-mile drive away, has shopping opportunities.

Campsites are available in different sizes and can accommodate both tents and RVs. There is also a disposal station and a day-use picnic area. Horse owners will find a separate space for camping or staging a ride.

7.1.2 Jumbo Rocks Campground

  • Sites: 124
  • Elevation:4,400 feet
  • Amenities: Pit toilets, tables, and fire grates. No water.

Jumbo Rocks Campground has 124 individual/family sites. During the peak season, from September to May, reservations are necessary. The campsite is conveniently positioned and offers spectacular views of the surrounding granite formations.

7.1.3 Ryan campground

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Image Source: depositphotos
  • Site: 31
  • elevation:4,300 feet
  • Amenities: Pit toilets, tables, and fire grates. No water.

Ryan Campground has 31 campsites. All campsites are reserved only. The campsite is in the heart of the park, right next to the California Riding and Hiking Trail. Reservations are necessary for the four certified equestrian locations.

Black Rock Campground has more horseback campsites. There is no water available at this Campground. Three bicycle spots are offered for $5 per night, with no more than three tents per site.

7.1.4 Hidden Valley Campground

  • Site: 44
  • Elevation:4,200 feet.
  • Amenities: Pit toilets, tables, and fire grates. No water.
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by: Ben Duchac/unsplash

Hidden Valley Campground is a 44-site campground with pit toilets and no running water. The campsite is surrounded by big stones and Joshua Trees and is located along the park boulevard.

At Hidden Valley Campground, all sites are first-come, first-served. Camping fees must be paid in advance at an admission station.

7.1.5 White tank campground

  • Sites:15 sites.
  • Elevation: 3,800 feet
  • Amenities: Pit toilets, tables, and fire grates. No water.

White Tank Campground is set among massive granite boulders near Pinto Basin Road in the park’s northern end. All campsites are first-come, first-served.RVs and trailers are limited to a total length of 25 feet. If there isn’t any water available, carry a lot of it. White Tank sits in the park’s darkest region and offers excellent night sky viewing.

7.2 Group Sites

Cottonwood, Indian Cove, and Sheep Pass are the three places with group campsites.

  • Group sites can accommodate 10-60 people.
  • Cottonwood, Indian Cove, and Sheep Pass reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.
  • Only tents are permitted in Cottonwood and Sheep Pass Group Campgrounds. Small RVs or trailers totaling little more than 25 feet are allowed at Indian Cove Group Campground.

8. What To Know Before You Go

Joshua Tree National Park - Trail Hiking to Arch Rock - 4K Walk Tour

Joshua Tree National Park comprises two desert landscapes. As a result, summer temperatures can reach far over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you go to Joshua Tree hiking trails during the summer, wake up early, wear sunscreen, and carry lots of water.

Spring is the greatest time to explore the desert park. The sun is shining brightly, and the wildflowers are in full bloom. Layer your clothing because winter may be chilly and windy. Autumn is also a good time to spend there.

Because the park has no services, carry everything you’ll need for the day: food, water, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit. Bring your hiking boots because most routes are rugged, and you’ll likely be encouraged to try rock scrambling. Also, keep an eye out for mileage indicators. Many wild creatures have died as a result of speeding in the area.

You’ll fall in love with the topography of Joshua Tree National Park, which is rich in unusual plant and animal life and gives limitless opportunities to learn about the region’s human and natural history, no matter which walk you take.

Staying in a vacation rental property is the greatest way to immerse yourself in the park’s environment fully. Look at the best suggestions for places to stay near Joshua Park National Park.

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