Hiking In Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Located just 140 miles east of LA, its landscape offers spectacular experiences in both the Colorado and the Mojave deserts.
This contrast in elevation (the Colorado Desert is 3,000 feet below sea level and the Mojave Desert is 3,000 feet above sea level) contributes to the breathtaking views you’ll experience while hiking here.
There are lots of trails at Joshua Tree that are great for beginners and adrenaline junkies alike, so you’ll find a variety of trails to accommodate everyone, including wheelchair accessible trails, short walking loops perfect for children, and dog-friendly trails.
Easier Hiking Trails In Joshua Tree National Park
Hidden Valley Trail is an easy, one-mile loop with steps that take hikers through stacked rocks and interesting history as a former cattle rustler’s hideout.
This trail is a great hike for families and the kids will love the abundance of plants, trees and flowers as well as the rocks surrounding the valley.
The one mile Barker Damn Trail is a gently climbing loop and a great hike for families or those with less stamina. You'll most likely see several species of birds and other wildlife such as prairie dogs, jackrabbits, and iguanas. Let the kids scramble through the rocks and boulders to see the petroglyphs from centuries past.
Skull Rock is a must-see for kids or kids at heart! This skull-shaped rock is located just off the main park road and offers a 1 1/2 mile easy nature trail around the rock.
This is a great trail for kids and they will enjoy climbing over the rocks and boulders, looking for rabbits and climbing into the eyes of skull rock.
Be sure to check out all our tips for things to do with kids while visiting Joshua Tree.
Cholla Cactus Gardens is home to thousands of cholla cactus. Although this is an easy trail through the cactus and is very interesting, the "jumping cholla" seem to jump on the skin and clothes. (This is probably not the place to go if you have small children.)
The Oases of Mara Trail is a short, handicap-accessible walking loop, that is also the only dog-friendly trail in the park. Learn about the history of the oases and the people who inhabited it, see abundant plant life and learn how plants were used by Native Americans who first inhabited the area.
Challenging Trails At Joshua Tree National Park
Ryan Mountain Trail is a 3-mile round-trip hiking trail with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet offering sweeping views from the top. This is a fantastic place to catch a sunrise or a sunset! This is a more challenging hike and takes a couple of hours to enjoy all of the breathtaking views.
Another moderately difficult hike is the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail. It’s a 3-mile round-trip hike with an elevation gain of 300 feet. The oasis at the half-way point is stunning and full of various examples of plant life, wildflowers and multiple species of cacti.
This is a highly recommended hike that is well worth the estimated time to complete (approximately 2-3 hours). (Caution: This is a challenging hike, and there are occasionally rescues in this area due to hikers overestimating their abilities.
Perfect for history lovers and hiking enthusiasts, Lost Horse Mine Loop offers a 4-mile hike with an elevation gain of 550 feet to one of the most lucrative gold mines in the park. You'll see relics of the old mining days.
Black Rock Canyon offers several trails to choose from including Warren Pea, which offers an overlook of the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains.
You can also find the trailhead for the extremely challenging 35-mile hike along the California Riding and Hiking Trail. If you attempt this hike, be sure and talk to a park ranger to let someone know you will be in the area, take plenty of water and be prepared.
Wildlife sightings are very common along this trail as there are fewer people traveling through here than on other trails. You'll most likely see lizards, prairie dogs, jackrabbits, roadrunner, and possibly turtles and rattlesnakes.
Driving Trails Through Joshua Tree
During the heat of the summer, when hiking is nearly impossible, you can still experience the park via the driving trails.
To see sweeping panoramic views of the San Andreas fault and the Coachella Valley in addition to the high peaks of San Jacinto and the snowy San Gorgonio, check out Key’s View drive-up lookout area.
The 2-hour, 18-mile drive along Geology Tour Road will give you a beautiful overview of all Joshua Tree has to offer without leaving the comforts of your car. This road winds through Pleasant Valley and the San Bernardino Mountains, offering a great first impression of the desert landscape.
Most of the drive requires a higher-clearance vehicle and a four-wheel drive is a must if you want to make the entire trip. Stop 16 offers breathtaking views. Be sure to pick up a brochure at the ranger station before heading out.
As always, be sure to check into a visitor center upon your arrival to make sure your plans match up with your group’s ability. Inquire about navigating the park safely, especially in hot weather, and read our safety tips before you go.
Before you head out be sure and take a couple of copies of the Joshua Tree National Park Map.