The cool thing about Joshua Tree National Park is the fact it is divided between the high (Mohave) desert and the low (Colorado, which is part of the Sonoran) desert and exploring those diversities is a must do.

Short Walks and Nature Trails

These trails are recommended year-round and some are wheelchair accessible. If hiking in the summer, start these trails before 9 am.

Trail Trailhead Location Distance
Estimated Time Description
Arch Rock Trail Twin Tanks Parking lot aka the Arch Rock Trailhead 1.4 miles (2.1 km)
100 feet
1 hour A lollipop trail through sandy and rocky terrain. A .6-mile trail leads to a .2-mile loop. The arch is located halfway along the loop.
Bajada South of Cottonwood Visitor Center; 0.5 mile (0.8 km) north of the South Entrance 0.25 mile (0.4 km)
20 feet (6.1 m)
15-20 minutes Loop. Walk on a bajada and discover plants of the Colorado Desert on this easy path.
Barker Dam Barker Dam parking area 1.1 miles (1.8 km)
50 feet (15.2 m)
1 hour Loop. Explore cultural history and view a water tank built by early cattle ranchers. Watch for bighorn sheep.
Cap Rock Cap Rock parking area, at the junction of Park Boulevard and Keys View Road 0.4 mile (0.6 km)
20 feet (6.1 m)
30-45 minutes Loop. View boulder piles, Joshua trees, and other desert plants on this easy path.
Cholla Cactus Garden 20 miles (32 km) north of Cottonwood Visitor Center 0.25 mile (0.4 km)
10 feet (3 m)
15-30 minutes Loop. View thousands of densely concentrated, naturally growing cholla cactus. Stay on the trail, wear closed-toe shoes, and be aware of prickly cactus.
Cottonwood Spring 1 mile (1.5 km) east of Cottonwood Visitor Center 0.1 mile (0.2 km)
25 feet (7.6 m)
10 minutes Short walk to fan palm oasis with cottonwood trees. Fantastic birding location with plentiful shade.
Discovery Trail Skull Rock parking area just east of Jumbo Rocks Campground 0.7 mile (1.1 km)
70 feet (21.3 m)
30-45 minutes Loop. Connects Skull Rock and Split Rock Loop trails at Face Rock. Easy hike through boulder piles and desert washes.
Hidden Valley Hidden Valley picnic area 1 mile (1.6 km)
100 feet (30.5 m)
1 hour Loop. Discover a rock-enclosed valley that was once rumored to have been used by cattle rustlers.
Indian Cove West end of Indian Cove Campground 0.6 miles (1 km)
50 feet (15.2 m)
30-45 minutes Loop. Walk on a gently rolling path with a few steps. Take a closer look at desert plants and learn about their traditional uses by Native Americans.
Keys View Keys View 0.25 miles (0.4 km)
25 feet (7.6 m)
30 minutes Short, paved loop path is steep. Breathtaking views of the San Andreas Fault, Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea.
Oasis of Mara Oasis Visitor Center, Twentynine Palms 0.5 mile (0.8 km)
minimal elevation
30-45 minutes Loop. Explore a desert oasis on this easy walk. See how the Oasis of Mara has been used by wildlife and people throughout time. Pets on leash allowed.
Ryan Ranch Ryan Ranch trailhead, about 0.5 mile (0.8 km) east of Ryan Campground 1 mile (1.6 km)
135 feet (41.1 m)
1 hour Out and back. Enjoy an easy hike along an old ranch road and see a historic adobe structure.
Skull Rock Skull Rock parking area just east of Jumbo Rocks Campground; also accessible from within Jumbo Rocks Campground 1.7 miles (2.7 km)
160 feet (48.8 m)
1-2 hours Loop. Take an easy hike and explore boulder piles, desert washes, and of course the namesake Skull Rock.

Moderate Hikes

These hikes may not be recommended for summer. Use caution when hiking in the desert in the heat.

Trail Trailhead Location Distance Estimated Time Description
Hi-View Northwest of Black Rock Campground

1.3 miles (2.1 km) from parking area.

3 miles (4.8 km) from visitor center.

400 feet (121.9 m)

1.5 hours

Loop. Hike up a steep ridge to discover the world of Joshua tree forests. Trail leads to a ridge on the western side of the park with panoramic views of the area. There are some steep sections, as well as a several benches to take a break and enjoy the view.

Lost Horse Mine Lost Horse Mine trailhead off Keys View Road 4 miles (6.4 km)
550 feet (168 m)
2-3 hours Out and back. Explore around one of the most successful gold mines in the park. Stay outside the fenced area to protect the millsite and mine. For a longer option, see Lost Horse Loop, under Challenging Hikes. Elevation change is 550 feet.
Mastodon Peak Cottonwood Spring parking area 3 miles (4.8 km)
375 feet (115 m)
1.5-2.5 hours Loop. An optional rock scramble takes you to the top of a craggy granite peak. The trail then loops around past an old gold mine. Elevation change is about 375 feet.
Pine City Pine City trailhead at end of Desert Queen Mine Road 4 miles (6.4 km) 2-3 hours Out and back. The highlight of this fairly flat trail is a dense stand of junipers and pinyon. The trail also goes to an old mining site.
Split Rock Loop Split Rock picnic area 2.5 miles (4 km)
150 feet (45.7 m)
1.5-2.5 hours Loop. Distance includes safe trip to Face Rock.
West Side Loop Black Rock 4.7 miles (7.6 km)
785 feet (239.3 m)
2.5-4 hours Loop. Explore the ridge and washes west of Black Rock Campground.

Challenging Hikes – Do Not Attempt in the Heat

The following trails should not be attempted during the summer or whenever it is hot out, because they are extremely dangerous due to sun exposure, temperatures, and dehydration risks. Every year visitors have to be rescued and sometimes perish on these hikes.

Trail Trailhead Location Distance
Estimated Time Description
Boy Scout Trail North end: Indian Cove backcountry board. South end: Boy Scout Trailhead. 8 miles (12.9 km)
1190 feet (362.7 m)
6 hours One way. Go deep into the Wonderland of Rocks. Stay on trail to avoid getting lost among the boulders. Most hikers prefer to start at the south trailhead, inside the West Entrance, and finish at Indian Cove. Vehicle shuttle strongly recommended for hikers interested in doing the full length the trail.
California Riding and HIking Trail Several 35 miles (56.3 km) 2-3 days to hike entire length One way. Shorter hikes possible on sections of this long trail. Travel from Black Rock Canyon to the North Entrance of the park, passing through a variety of Mojave Desert landscapes.
Fortynine Palms Oasis Fortynine Palms parking area, accessed off Highway 62. 3 miles (4.8 km)
300 feet (91 m)
2-3 hours Out and back. There is a 300 foot (91 m) elevation gain in both directions, as you hike up and over a ridge dotted with barrel cactus. Beyond the ridge, descend to a fan palm oasis in a rocky canyon. Avoid this trail when it’s hot out.
Lost Horse Loop Lost Horse Mine trailhead off Keys View Road 6.5 miles (10.5 km)
550 feet (167.64 m)
3-4 hours Loop. For a shorter option, see Lost Horse Mine, under Moderate Hikes.
Lost Palms Oasis Cottonwood Spring parking area 7.5 miles (12 km)
500 feet (152 m)
5-6 hours Out and back. Enjoy sandy washes and rolling terrain, then hike down into a canyon to explore a remote fan palm oasis. Climbing back out the canyon is strenuous.
Panorama Loop Black Rock 6.6 miles (10.6 km)
1,100 feet (336 m)
3.5-4.5 hours Loop. Hike up a sandy wash, then follow the ridgeline of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Enjoy scenic views, dense Joshua tree forest, and pinyon-juniper woodland.
Ryan Mountain Parking area between Sheep Pass and Ryan Campground 3 miles (4.8 km)
1,050 feet (320 m)
1.5-2.5 hours Out and back. Hike to the summit of Ryan Mountain. This is one of the most popular hikes in the park.
Warren Peak Black Rock 6.3 miles (10.1 km)
1,110 feet (338.3 m)
3-4.5 hours Out and back. Hike to the summit of Warren Peak. Enjoy panormaic views of the quiet western part of Joshua Tree.
Willow Hole Boy Scout Trailhead – south end inside the park 7.2 miles (11.5 km) 4 hours Out and back. Mostly flat trail along the edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. Travel through Joshua tree forests, boulder landscape, and sandy washes. Trail ends at willow trees.
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