Whether you’re a novice hiker, or more of an expert looking to take on a challenge, Joshua Tree National Park is a place with hikes to suit everyone.
The treks, ranging in difficulty, distance, and breath-taking scenery, promise to keep even the most enthusiastic hikers on their toes. But knowing which one to start with can be tricky.
So, we’ve listed 15 of the best trails in Joshua Tree to help you decide upon your next hike.
What Makes Joshua Tree Such a Great Hiking Spot?
Joshua Tree National Park, which is located in Southern California, has a unique and beautiful landscape. It’s home to the iconic Joshua Trees, which can grow up to 40 feet tall and can be seen from miles away.
The park has some of the most incredible views of the desert, with its rugged terrain and stunning rock formations. And with miles upon miles of hiking trails to explore, there’s always something new to see.
As well as hiking, the park is an ideal location for rock climbing, stargazing, and camping, although you must stick to the designated campgrounds for that. It’s home to some incredible wildlife, including kangaroo rats, bighorn sheep, and coyotes. And offers an unforgettable experience to all its visitors.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway or an adventurous outdoor experience, Joshua Tree has something for everyone! The only question is, which trail will you start with?
Still not sure? Check out the best trails in Joshua Tree below to help you decide.
Trail 1: Hidden Valley Trail
Hidden Valley Trail is an easy and popular hike, perfect for exploring the unique rock formations and diverse vegetation of Joshua Tree National Park.
The trailhead is located at the Hidden Valley Campground and Picnic Area on Park Boulevard, making it easily accessible for park visitors.
Spanning a distance of 1 mile, this loop trail can be completed in around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your speed and how much time you spend enjoying the scenery.
As you follow the well-marked path, you’ll come across fascinating boulder formations, as well as a variety of plant species, including the iconic Joshua trees and pinyon pines.
Throughout the hike, you’ll find interpretive signs that provide interesting details about the park’s plants, animals, and history, making this trail an educational experience as well.
While hiking, make sure to stay on trail and tread lightly to preserve the delicate ecosystem in the area. Also, remember that dogs are not allowed on this trail.
Trail 2: Barker Dam Nature Trail
The Barker Dam Nature Trail is a 1.1-mile loop trail situated near Twentynine Palms, California.
Being relatively flat, with minimal elevation gain, this easy trail offers a charming and accessible experience as it passes through diverse Mojave Desert landscapes.
Along the trail, you’ll come across the historic Barker Dam, which is accompanied by some interesting petroglyphs.
While exploring, keep an eye out for the diverse plant life and impressive monzogranite boulders that this trail has to offer.
The Barker Dam Nature Trail is an excellent choice for hikers of all ages and abilities, providing an enjoyable snapshot of the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park.
Trail 3: Skull Rock Trail
Skull Rock Trail is an easy and popular hiking trail in Joshua Tree National Park.
This 1.8-mile loop trail features a unique rock formation called Skull Rock, which resembles a human skull. The trail has 120 ft elevation gain and takes hikers through a large boulder field and a seasonal spring with various water-loving plants, depending on the time of year.
On the way, hikers can also encounter desert wildflowers, especially during the spring season, adding a touch of color to the otherwise rugged landscape. The Hedgehog Cactus can be spotted with its magenta flowers, according to the National Park Service.
The Skull Rock Trail is a great choice for families with children or those looking for a shorter hike that still showcases the beauty of Joshua Tree.
Trail 4: Ryan Mountain Trail
The Ryan Mountain Trail is a popular choice among hikers visiting Joshua Tree National Park.
Located in the heart of the park, this 2.9-mile out-and-back trail offers stunning panoramic views of the park’s unique rock formations and Joshua tree forests(Hikespeak).
While the trail is relatively short, the hike is considered moderately challenging due to its 1,062 ft elevation gain(AllTrails).
Expect a solid workout, as the National Park Service rates the trail as strenuous(TravelAwaits).
The well-trodden path takes you up a series of stone steps, eventually leading to the 5,457-foot summit(Hikespeak).
At the top, hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of Joshua Tree National Park, making the climb well worth the effort.
To access the trailhead, use the following address: Ryan Mountain Trail, Park Blvd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277(HikingGuy). Keep in mind that the parking lot tends to fill up quickly, so aim to arrive early.
Trail 5: Fortynine Palms Oasis
The Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail offers a secluded palm tree oasis with a 3-mile round trip hike and an elevation gain of 350 feet. This hidden gem is nestled on the north end of Joshua Tree National Park.
Visitors can expect to traverse through diverse desert scenery and enjoy stunning panoramic views. The trail is considered moderately challenging, making it suitable for those looking for a bit of an adventure.
One of the most easily accessible trails in the park, Fortynine Palms Oasis offers free access via the north side. The trail type is out-and-back with a length of 3.1 miles and an elevation gain and loss of 617 feet.
Trail 6: Arch Rock Loop
The Arch Rock Loop is a family-friendly trail located near the Twin Tanks parking lot in Joshua Tree National Park.
This easy 1.4-mile trail comprises a 0.6-mile path leading to a short 0.2-mile loop. The beautiful natural arch, Arch Rock, can be found halfway along the loop.
With a sandy and rocky terrain, hikers can complete the trail within an hour, making it perfect for a quick outing.
As you explore the Arch Rock Trail, take time to admire the unique rock formations and enjoy some light rock scrambling.
Remember to bring your camera to capture stunning photos of the picturesque arch and surrounding scenery.
Trail 7: Lost Horse Mine Loop
The Lost Horse Mine Loop is a moderately challenging 6.8-mile trail that offers a blend of natural beauty and history. You’ll trek through expansive desert landscapes as you make your way to an over-100-year-old mine.
This trail provides an interesting “choose your own adventure” element, as hikers have a few options in terms of how they can tackle the hike. With 900 feet of total elevation gain, Lost Horse Mine Loop showcases the rich mining history of Joshua Tree.
Key highlights of the hike include a stamp mill, mining equipment, artifacts, and the remnants of an old cabin. While exploring, make sure to respect the historical landmarks by staying out of the fenced-off milling site and any closed-off mines.
To access the trailhead, venture about 10 minutes south of the main road at Park Blvd. The turn-off for Lost Horse Mine Trail is marked by a roadside sign, and the last stretch of the dirt road leading to the trailhead is passable for cars and lower-clearance vehicles.
Trail 8: Split Rock Loop
The Split Rock Loop is a picturesque trail located in Joshua Tree National Park. It spans just over 2 miles and features some of the best rock viewing in the area, including Face Rock.
As hikers traverse the trail, they’ll encounter minor ups and downs, rocky terrain, washes, and oak and pine woodland. The trek provides a mini “best-of” scenery tour and is considered a moderate hike for most.
With an elevation gain of approximately 150 feet, the Split Rock Loop should take an average of 1 hour to complete. While on the trail, hikers will also have the opportunity to admire oak and pine forests, as well as typical Joshua tree woodland areas.
For more information on this trail, visit Joshua Tree National Park’s official website.
Trail 9: Indian Cove Trail
The Indian Cove Trail is a short and easy hike located near Twentynine Palms, California. Perfect for families and nature lovers, this trail offers a close-up view of the stunning rock formations and desert landscape.
With a distance of only 0.4 miles and an average completion time of 10 minutes, it’s a great option for those looking for a quick taste of Joshua Tree National Park. As you meander through the trail, you’ll appreciate the views, wildflowers, and a variety of wildlife that call this area home.
Getting to the trailhead is simple. Just drive 6.8 miles through Twentynine Palms and turn south on Indian Cove Road. After about 3 miles, you’ll find the Indian Cove Campground and the trail entrance nearby.
Accessibility is a strong point for the Indian Cove Trail, as it’s considered an easy hike for all skill levels. It’s also a great option for those who prefer a quieter experience, as it’s less crowded than some of the other trails in the park. So, if you’re looking for a brief but rewarding experience, the Indian Cove Trail is a must-visit during your time in Joshua Tree National Park.
Trail 10: Boy Scout Trail
The Boy Scout Trail is an excellent choice for hikers looking for a bit of a challenge in Joshua Tree National Park.
This point-to-point trail is roughly 8 miles long, but can be extended to 16 miles for roundtrip adventurers. It’s also a popular choice for those interested in backcountry camping.
Starting at Keys West, the trailhead offers a primitive toilet and trash cans, but no water, so be sure to pack enough for your journey. The lot is one of the biggest in the park, but it can fill up during popular times, so it’s best to arrive early.
Experience a 226 feet elevation gain as you hike through diverse landscapes, including boulders and desert terrain. Keep in mind that this trail is considered challenging, so it may not be suitable for beginners.
Trail highlights include unique rock formations, Joshua Tree forests, and spectacular views throughout. Be prepared to navigate some challenging sections and ensure you have proper footwear for the varying terrain.
Trail 11: Mastodon Peak Loop
Located in the south of Joshua Tree National Park, the Mastodon Peak Loop is a fantastic way to explore the more rugged parts of the park without excessive effort. The trail takes hikers through sandy landscapes filled with ocotillo rather than the classic Joshua trees usually found in the park.
Starting from the Cottonwood Spring trailhead, it’s an easy downhill walk until you reach Cottonwood Spring, where you’ll find an oasis of palm trees. The loop is of moderate difficulty; it stretches 2.6 miles long and gains 440 feet in elevation.
What makes the Mastodon Peak Loop really unique are the stone-carved stairs leading up to the base of Mastodon Peak. Although the best time to hike it is during cooler months, if you find yourself visiting in the summer, try to avoid hiking during the hottest hours of the day.
Trail 12: Lost Palms Oasis
Lost Palms Oasis Trail is a moderately challenging hiking route located in the southern part of Joshua Tree National Park.
This out-and-back trail stretches 7.5 miles, and offers a scenic escape to a desert oasis with lush palm trees.
The hike starts at Cottonwood Spring, near the Cottonwood Visitor Center.
To experience a more enjoyable hike and secure a parking spot, it’s best to arrive at sunrise as the parking area can get crowded quickly.
As you traverse the Lost Palms Oasis Trail, you’ll gain an elevation of 1,046 feet, and have the opportunity to take in the captivating beauty of Joshua Tree’s unique desert landscape.
Along the way, you may encounter other hikers, as this is a popular trail, but don’t let that deter you from discovering the serene oasis waiting for you at the trail’s end.
Trail 13: Warren Peak Trail
Warren Peak Trail is a moderately challenging hike located in Joshua Tree National Park, near Yucca Valley, California.
This 6.3-mile out-and-back trail offers picturesque views along the way and takes an average of 2 hours and 58 minutes to complete, according to AllTrails.
For those who seek even more adventure, a more challenging 7.7-mile loop trail, Warren Peak via Black Rock Trail and Panorama Loop, is available, taking about 3 hours and 59 minutes to complete, as mentioned by AllTrails.
The Panorama Loop section adds stunning panoramic views, making the hike even more rewarding.
Warren Peak Trail has an elevation gain of 1,105 feet and can be accessed from Black Rock Canyon Road. The trailhead coordinates are 34.07155, -116.3909, as mentioned by Hikespeak.
While hiking along the Warren Peak Trail, expect mesmerizing landscapes, glorious vistas, and an opportunity for memorable rock scrambling adventures.
Trail 14: Black Rock Canyon Trail
Black Rock Canyon Trail is a picturesque 3.5-mile out-and-back trail located near Yucca Valley, California within Joshua Tree National Park. Encompassing an elevation gain of 465 feet, this trail appeals to hikers of all skill levels as it’s generally considered easy to complete (AllTrails).
Accessibility to this trail is within the northwest corner of the park, as the road to Black Rock Canyon dead-ends at the campground. The campsites are situated on a hillside surrounded by breathtaking Joshua trees, junipers, cholla cacti, and a variety of desert shrubs (National Park Service).
This trail provides an escape into nature, featuring fascinating rock formations, expansive views of the desert landscape, and a chance to see local wildlife. Hikers can expect a relaxing journey as they navigate the winding pathway through the canyon.
Trail 15: Panorama Loop Trail
One of the most captivating trails in Joshua Tree National Park is the Panorama Loop Trail. This 6.6-mile loop trail offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the park’s diverse landscape.
As you hike up the sandy wash and follow the ridgeline of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, you’ll be treated to scenic views and dense Joshua tree forests. The trail also leads through a pinyon-juniper woodland, adding to the variety of flora you’ll encounter along the way.
With an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet, the Panorama Loop Trail is considered moderately challenging, but the breathtaking panoramic views make the effort worthwhile. Expect to spend around 3 hours and 9 minutes to complete the trail.
Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen while on this trail. The Panorama Loop is truly an unforgettable experience, and a must-visit for hiking enthusiasts in Joshua Tree National Park.
Final Thoughts on Hiking Trails in Joshua Tree
It’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to Joshua Tree. It’s peaceful, powerful, and full of possibilities.
And the hiking trails are certainly impressive. So make time to step outside your comfort zone and get lost in the beauty of nature.
Take in the fresh air, and spectacular views. And challenge yourself to go further with each trail.
For more great places to hike, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 13 Best Hiking Trails in Pasadena, CA [2023 Edition]
- 11 Best Hiking Trails to Get Outdoors in Oklahoma
- 11 Best Hiking Trails in Orlando, FL [2023 Edition]