Cholla Cactus Garden is one of Joshua Tree National Park’s one-of-a-kind adventures! It’s also known as Joshua Tree’s most dangerous hike, not because of rugged trails or exposed ridges, but because of the plant it's named for: the cholla cactus. Ironically, the cholla cactus is nicknamed the teddy bear cactus, but this is one teddy bear you do not want to hug!
If you even brush up against the cholla cactus, the spines will jump into your shoes, clothes or skin. While this serves as a defense mechanism, the main purpose of the jumping spines is dispersal. The cholla detaches its joints onto unsuspecting animals and birds, and when these joints fall off they create a new cactus. Don’t worry though - If you stay on the designated path of the Cholla Cactus Garden, you’ll be spine free.
The Cholla Cactus Garden trail is short and sweet, at just a third of a mile long, and features an intense concentration of cholla cacti. This trail is well worth the drive any time of the day, but the best time to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden is during the last hour of light before sunset when the cacti really glow. Spring bloom is another special time to stop by, which usually happens in March or April.
The Cholla Cactus Garden trail is located in Pinto Basin on the way to Cottonwood Springs. To get there, take Pinto Basin Road for 12 miles. The Cactus Garden will be on the south side of the road. When you arrive, grab a free brochure and start by hiking counter-clockwise. 16 markers are found along the trail, which refer to the brochure and describe the unique blend of flora and fauna found within the garden.
If you plan on spending a day driving around the park, this is a great addition to other quick stops like Key’s View, Skull Rock, and the Hidden Valley Trail. If you’re coming from the Cottonwood entrance, the Cholla Cactus garden is an easy stop on your way in or out of the park.
For more on Joshua Tree, check out our blog, The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Or, if you’re ready for your adventure, consider our Joshua Tree Getaway. We’ll book your accommodations and create an itinerary that’s personalized to your needs!
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