The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park  - AdventureTripr

The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park 

Kirsten Forrester · September 28, 2021

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The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Even as interest in national parks has exploded, somehow, Joshua Tree still feels like a hidden getaway. Legend has it that Mormon pioneers saw the outstretched arms of the trees and were reminded of the biblical character Joshua. The name stuck, and the park is known for the unique trees that dot its landscape. With over half a million acres to explore, this desert treasure has plenty to offer, and hiking is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in the park. In this blog, we’re sharing the best hikes in Joshua Tree.

Where is Joshua Tree National Park? 

128 miles East of Los Angeles up into the high elevations of the Mojave Desert lies Joshua Tree National Park. The nearest airport is Palm Springs International, located less than an hour from the park’s south entrance off Interstate 10. By the west entrance of the park you’ll find the colorful community of Joshua Tree, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Los Angeles. 

Rock formation near arch rock, Joshua Tree National Park
Rock formation near arch rock, Joshua Tree National Park

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Joshua Tree?

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is March to May and October to November. Though the park is open year-round, temperatures are most comfortable in the spring and fall, with an average high of about 85 degrees.

Where to Camp in Joshua Tree? 

Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park
Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Snagging a campsite in Joshua Tree can be difficult during peak seasons, but definitely give it a go. The Indian Cove, Black Rock, Jumbo Rocks, Jumbo Rock, and Cottonwood Campgrounds (from $15) are all reservable via Recreation.gov. All others campsites are first come first serve, including Belle, White Tank, and Hidden Valley. If you’re unable to grab a site, consider camping on Bureau of Land Management land outside the park, or using a private campground or lodging.

A few other must-knows about Joshua Tree camping: Hammocks are not allowed for camping in the park. This is to protect the Joshua Trees! Also, firewood should be locally-sourced and purchased before arrival (it isn't available on site). To protect the vegetation, it's not okay to use fallen branches.

Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park 

Warren Peak 

Distance: 6 miles 

Elevation gain: 1,000 ft 

Warren Peak is located in the northwest corner of the park adjacent to the Black Rock Campground, and is definitely one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Since it’s tucked away, this is the perfect trail for views but not crowds. This hike is unique in that it straddles the Colorado and Mojave desert environments. So while you will see lots of Joshua Trees towards the start of the trail, the later stretches are notable for pinyon pines, oak, and juniper.

Night sky in Joshua Tree National Park.
Night sky in Joshua Tree National Park.

Discovery Trail 

Distance: 0.7 miles, loop

Elevation gain: flat

If you want a quick tour of some of the most interesting geology and landscapes in Joshua Tree, it’s hard to beat the Discovery Trail. You’ll find information placards highlighting some of the neatest rocks in the area, making it a great hike for kids. 

Black Rock Canyon Panorama Loop 

Distance: 6.5 miles 

Elevation gain: 1,273 ft 

Black Rock Canyon is known for having some of the densest groves of Joshua trees in the park, and one of the best hikes in that area of the park is Panorama Loop. You’ll start in a sandy wash, but by 2.8 miles, you’ll hit a long ridge that provides some absolutely incredible views in all directions. Hence the name, Panorama Loop!

Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.
Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.

Hidden Valley Trail 

Distance: 1.0 miles 

Elevation gain: flat

Hidden Valley Trail is rumored to have been a famous hideout for cattle rustlers. The huge stacks of boulders that create distracting acoustics that make it difficult to determine where anyone is. The trail is only a mile long, but it's still one of the best Joshua Tree Hikes as you can spend plenty of time exploring in the boulders. You will also find picnic tables and BBQ grills along the trail to stop and have lunch.

Boy Scout Trail 

Distance: 7.0 miles 

Elevation gain: 400 ft 

A classic hike in Joshua Tree Park, Boy Scout Trail is a seven-mile trip that lets you discover the Wonderland of Rocks (12 square miles of massive jumbled granite). With only 400 ft of elevation, the hike is a favorite of photographers and backpackers who are looking for some solitude out in the desert. 

Cholla Cactus Garden Loop, Joshua Tree National Park
Cholla Cactus Garden Loop, Joshua Tree National Park

Cholla Cactus Garden Loop

Distance: 0.3 miles 

Elevation gain: flat 

One of the shortest and best hikes in Joshua Tree is a walk through the Colorado Desert cactus garden. The view of thousands of natural cholla cactus makes for a unique experience. Beware though, the nickname for the cholla cactus is the “jumping cactus.” If you brush up against one, the spines will detach and “jump” onto your skin and clothes. 

Wall Street Mine Trail 

Distance: 2.8 miles 

Elevation gain: 100 feet 

All the history lovers out there will love the Wall Street Mine Trail. Bill Keys (whose name is also found elsewhere in the park, at Keys Point), operated Wall Street Mine from 1930 to 1966 to process gold ore. On your hike out to the mine, you’ll pass the ruins of Wonderland Ranch, rusted cars, and an old windmill that pumped water for the mill. 

Boulders in Joshua Tree National Park.
Boulders in Joshua Tree National Park.

Ryan Mountain Trail 

Distance: 6 miles 

Elevation gain: 1,000 ft 

Centrally situated in the middle of Joshua Tree and conveniently located off Park Boulevard, the hike up Ryan Mountain will get your blood flowing and reward you with panoramic views of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset, so throw a headlamp in your pack just in case. 

Hall of Horrors

Distance: 0.6 miles

Elevation gain: flat

A short distance from the parking lot, Hall of Horrors is an area of Joshua Tree National Park that provides great rock climbing. Even if you're not a climber, this is a fun stop to scramble around on rocks, and squeeze through narrow passageways.

There you have it: the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park! Make sure to practice leave no trace, and consider traveling with us! In our Joshua Tree Getaway ($300) we’ll book your accommodations and provide you with an itinerary personalized to your preferences and needs. 

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