Best Hikes In Joshua Tree National Park: 14 Can’t-Miss Trails

The iconic desert scenery of Joshua Trees, cholla cactus, and epic rock formations is not to be missed. Our guide to hiking in Joshua Tree National Park has you covered for the best trails to choose from.

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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Boasting a rugged desert landscape and an abundance of its namesake Joshua trees, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the premier hiking destinations in the United States.

With so many treks to choose from, selecting only one to hike can be a challenge. To help out, we’ve put together this guide to the top Joshua Tree National Park hiking trails to get you started.

We’ll walk you through the 14 best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park with a selection varying from easy to hard in difficulty and with a variety of lengths so you’ll be sure to find the perfect hiking trail for your circumstances and group. We’ll also offer up some need-to-know information to ensure your travels to the park go off without a hitch.

About Joshua Tree National Park: What To Know Before You Go

Named after the funky Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most stunning national parks in the United States. 

Due to its location in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the best time to visit Joshua Tree is in the fall, winter, or spring. Temperatures are exceptionally hot in the park during the summer (100ºF/28ºC or higher).

Nevertheless, the campgrounds and trails in the park can get very busy from fall to spring. So, it’s best to book your campsite early to avoid disappointment. Or, if you’re staying at one of the many first-come, first-served campgrounds inside the park, try to arrive early in the morning to claim a spot.

Also, don’t forget to stop by one of the park’s visitor centers during your trip. They are open year-round and they have great Joshua Tree hiking maps available to guide you on your adventures.

The 14 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

1. Black Rock Canyon Panorama Loop

View of San Gorgonio Mountain, Joshua
This loop will take you to stunning views of San Gorgonio Mountain
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 6.6 miles (1,273ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Access: Black Rock Nature Center near Yucca Valley

One of the best hikes in the park, the Black Rock Canyon Panorama Loop is a must-do for excellent views of the surrounding area.

Starting near the Black Rock Nature Center, this 6.6-mile round-trip loop follows a well-marked path into the desert. The trail steadily climbs upward after departing the parking lot, making its way toward an ephemeral spring.

Beyond the spring, you’ll travel up a set of switchbacks as you ascend to a stunning viewpoint. From here, you can gaze out over San Gorgonio Mountain, Mount San Jacinto, and the rest of the vast Colorado Desert.

Once you’ve taken in the views and head back down the path toward the trailhead don’t forget to check out the nature center. It boasts some great educational exhibits, a picnic area, and a superb bookstore that’s well worth a visit. 

2. Warren Peak

Warren Peak
Views of the Mojave desert from the top of Warren Peak
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 5.8 miles (1,116ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Access: Black Rock Nature Center near Yucca Valley

Another great trek near the western edge of the park is the hike to Warren Peak starting near the Black Rock Campground. This hike shares the same trailhead with the Panorama Loop, so intrepid hikers can cross them both off at the same time.

After departing the Black Rock Campground, this trail gradually gains elevation for the first few miles. Once you’re toward the end of the canyon, however, the real elevation gain begins.

From the end of the canyon, you’ll take a spur trail up to the summit of Warren Peak, first climbing steadily to a viewpoint. Beyond the viewpoint, you’ll scramble over some tricky terrain (proper hiking boots are a must) until you reach the summit itself.

As soon as you make it to the summit, you can sit back and enjoy the views. With vistas stretching as far away as Big Bear, the trek to Warren Peak is one of the best Joshua Tree hikes to do all year round.

3. Ryan Mountain Trail

Ryan Mountain Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
A well-maintained trail that showcases all the highlights of Joshua Tree National Park (Photo by Steve FUNG / CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 2.9 miles (1,029ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Ryan Mountain Trailhead on Park Blvd

One of the best family-friendly summit treks in Joshua Tree, the Ryan Mountain Trail is a popular choice for adventures near the town of Twentynine Palms.

This trek starts along Park Boulevard about 1 mile from the intersection with Keys View Road. From the get-go, this hike immediately starts climbing uphill. However, the elevation gain is quite reasonable and the path is well-maintained.

Along the way, you’ll get phenomenal views of the surrounding area. The path boasts everything from massive boulders to Joshua trees, so there’s no single best time of year for this hike. In fact, wintertime ascents of Ryan Mountain offer a chance to see some snow in the high desert. So, there’s something to love at any time of year with this climb.

At the summit of Ryan Mountain, the views are hard to top as panoramic vistas abound. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes spot the endangered desert bighorn sheep on your outing as an extra bonus for your efforts.

4. Hidden Valley Nature Trail

Hidden Valley Nature Trail, Joshua
For a short venture around Joshua Tree National Park the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is ideal
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 1 mile (112ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Access: Parking area near the Hidden Valley Campground on Park Blvd

The ideal family outing in Joshua Tree, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a must-do for all visitors.

Starting from the parking area near the Hidden Valley Campground, this trail charts a casual course through the desert. It follows a mellow path through a natural amphitheater that was once used by ranchers such as the famous William Keys.

Nowadays, this 1-mile round trip trek offers a chance to see some of the most stunning flora and fauna in the park, like the cholla cactus. Plus, while the path itself is fairly sandy and flat, there are plenty of crags and boulders to explore for the more adventurous visitor.

When all’s said and done, you can head back to the trailhead and enjoy a snack at the picnic area. Or, you can head on over to nearby Barker Dam to add another short hike to your tick-list.

5. Wonderland Wash

Nolina Parryi in Wonderland Wash
Nolina Parryi in Wonderland Wash
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 2.1 miles (75ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Wall Street Mill Trailhead on Queen Valley Road off Park Blvd

This lesser-known trail is one of the top hikes in Joshua Tree if you’re looking to get off the beaten track. At just 2.1 miles round trip, the trek to Wonderland Wash is a quick way to visit the Wonderland of Rocks. 

It starts at the trailhead for Wall Street Mill and follows a somewhat unmaintained single-track path through the desert. To get to the trailhead, you will need to drive on a dirt road.

Once you’re on your way, you’ll pass by a collection of ruins of the Wonderland Ranch, maintained by the Park Service as a historical artifact of the region. Beyond the ruins, you’ll continue to the Wonderland of Rocks and to Wonderland Wash itself. Here, the trail can be tricky to follow, but you’ll get to see some beautiful desert flora along the way.

There’s technically no end to this trek, so you can continue on and scramble up rocks as you please. If you venture far enough, you’ll even come across the Astro Dome, which is one of the area’s best rock climbing areas. 

Whenever you’ve gotten your fill of adventure, you can turn back and head toward the trailhead after a day well spent in the Mojave.

6. Lost Horse Mine Loop

Lost Horse Mine Trail, Joshua
Looking down over the valley from Lost Horse Mine
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 6.4 miles (664ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Lost Horse Mine Trailhead off of Lost Horse Mine Road

Perfect for the history buffs among us, the Lost Horse Mine Loop is a popular Joshua Tree hiking trail.

To access this hike, you’ll want to enter via the north entrance or west entrance and follow Park Boulevard until you reach Lost Horse Mine Road. From there, you’ll set off on a moderately difficult loop through what’s left of the park’s most historic gold and silver mine.

Along this walk, you’ll get a chance to see the Lost Horse Mine’s shafts and now-ruined buildings. Plus, after you get your fill of the mine, you can even continue on toward the summit of Lost Horse Mountain which offers great views of the valley below.

The trail is relatively straightforward and well-marked, so it’s a nice option for most hikers. Do keep in mind, however, that there’s no shade on this trek. So, avoid hiking it in the midday heat of summer whenever possible.

7. The Maze Loop

Maze Loop Trail, Joshua
Maze Trail by name, this trail is not well maintained so make sure to have something to navigate with (Photo by Joseph / CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 5.0 miles (372ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Maze Loop Trailhead on Park Blvd near the West Entrance

If you’re a geology-lover or an intrepid hiker looking to venture into more remote terrain, the Maze Loop is the trek for you. This 5-mile round trip loop offers a chance to see some of the most stunning rock formations that Joshua Tree National Park has to offer. 

Getting to the trailhead can be a little tricky, though you’ll find the parking area right off of Park Boulevard. The trailhead is about 4.5 miles east of the West Entrance Station, so keep an eye out for it as you drive.

During this adventure, you’ll hike through some beautiful washes, slot canyons, and stands of Joshua Trees. That said, route finding can be tricky due to the relative lack of maintenance on this trail. Solid navigation skills are therefore a must for trips to the Maze.

Eventually, you’ll meander your way through large bouldery outcroppings and wide expanses of cactus-filled landscapes. Plus, as you near the end of this hike, you can even extend your trek by connecting up with the Window Loop Trail for extra fun. 

8. Willow Hole Trail to the Wonderland of Rocks

Wonderland of Rocks, Joshua
Climber on the route known as ‘Godsend 5.10c’ at the Wonderland of Rocks
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 7.2 miles (510ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Boy Scout Trailhead on Park Blvd

When it comes to views of gorgeous rock formations and large stands of Joshua trees, the Willow Hole Trail to the Wonderland of Rocks can’t be beaten.

Departing from the Boy Scout Trailhead, this trek is mostly flat, so it’s a good option for most hikers. Nevertheless, shade is nearly non-existent on this hike, so bring plenty of water and avoid hiking during the middle of summer.

As one of the best Joshua Tree hikes for viewing the park’s namesake trees, the Willow Hole Trail is a great choice for nature lovers. Right off the bat, you’ll pass by massive stands of these trees as you make your way toward the Wonderland of Rocks.

Eventually, you’ll make your way to the cliff where you might see some climbers in action and depending on what time of year you visit, may even see some of the park’s cacti in bloom. Once you arrive at the Wonderland of Rocks, you can relax in the shade of a few willow trees before heading back to the trailhead.

9. Lost Palms Oasis Trail

Lost Palms Oasis Trail, Joshua
For displays of the native Fan Palm Tree then the Lost Palms Oasis Trail is a must
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 7.3 miles (1,012ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Parking area near the Cottonwood Springs Road by the South Entrance

Among the most popular hikes in the park, the Lost Palms Oasis Trail is a fan-favorite adventure near the South Entrance.

At about 7.3 miles round trip, this hike is a solid day trip for most visitors. You’ll depart from a parking area near the Cottonwood Visitor Center and follow a well-used path toward the oasis.

Along the way, you’ll gradually climb upward over undulating desert terrain. Eventually, beyond some sizable stands of Joshua trees and large boulders, you’ll find yourself overlooking the oasis itself.

Here, you can see one of the largest stands of California fan palms – the only native palm species in the state. If you’re lucky, you might also see the ever-elusive desert tortoise or the endangered desert bighorn sheep near the oasis.

Do be warned, however, that although there is some shade at the oasis, there is little sun protection on the trail. As such, this is a good hike to do in the morning before the midday heat is in full force.

10. Boy Scout Trail

Boy Scout Trail, Joshua
The Boy Scout Trail offers everything quintessentially Joshua Tree National Park
  • Trail type: Point to Point
  • Length: 8.3 miles (199ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Access: Boy Scout Trailhead (at Keys West) on Park Blvd or Indian Cove Campground

Joshua Tree National Park’s premier backpacking route, the Boy Scout Trail offers a chance to see nearly everything that the region has to offer.

This point-to-point trek starts at either the Boy Scout Trailhead on Park Boulevard or at the Indian Cove Campground near the North Entrance. However, if you want to do this as an out-and-back backpacking trip, we’d recommend parking at the Boy Scout Trailhead. That way, you can camp for the night at Indian Cove and return for your car the next day.

At 8.3 miles one-way (or 16.6 miles round trip), this hike can be quite challenging. While there are no major peak ascents along this trek, you will cross over washes and undulating terrain throughout the journey.

You can combine this hike with a trek to Willow Hole allowing you to also see the Wonderland of Rocks as an added bonus for your efforts.

11. Barker Dam Nature Trail

The Wonderland of Rocks and reservoir above Barker Dam
The Wonderland of Rocks and reservoir above Barker Dam
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 1.3 miles (49ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Access: Barker Dam Trailhead on Queen Valley Road off of Park Blvd

A fun, family-friendly trek for a free afternoon, the Barker Dam Trail offers the chance to see one of the few standing bodies of water in Joshua Tree National Park.

Perfect for first-time hikers, this walk starts at a parking area off of Queen Valley Road and follows a mostly flat, wide path to the old dam. Although this path is pretty casual, hiking boots or closed-toed shoes are recommended due to the abundance of cacti.

Most hikers walk the Barker Dam Trail in a counterclockwise direction, which brings you straight to the dam. The dam was built to supply water for agricultural and mining uses, though it’s now an artificial reservoir that quenches the thirst of the local wildlife.

After the dam, you’ll continue your wander back to the parking area. Here, you can even walk the small spur path from the parking area to a large crag with rock art to see some of the cultural remains that Joshua Tree National Park has to offer.

12. Munsen Canyon to Summit Spring Oasis

Munsen Canyon, Joshua
A more remote and difficult trail this ones for experienced hikers (Photo by Chris M Morris / CC BY 2.0)
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 11.4 miles (2,510ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Access: Parking area near the Cottonwood Visitor Center

Among the most remote of Joshua Tree National Park’s natural oases, this difficult journey to Summit Spring is a solid choice for experienced hikers.

Departing from the Cottonwood parking area in the south of the park, this trek through Munsen Canyon takes you well off the beaten path. This hike allows you to see several different oases and springs, so it’s a nice option for nature lovers.

After leaving the parking area, you’ll pass by Cottonwood Spring Oasis and its many cholla cacti on your way to Victory Palms through a narrow canyon. From here, you’ll press onward into Munsen Canyon, which then leads to Summit Springs.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even continue beyond Summit Springs to Munsen Oasis. Otherwise, you can head back to the trailhead for some well-earned rest after your long day of hiking.

13. Mastodon Peak

Mastodon Mine on Mastodon Peak, Joshua
For a bit of history check out the old Mastodon Mine on Mastodon Peak
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 3 miles (470ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Parking area near the Cottonwood Campground

Perhaps the best summit hike in the southern part of Joshua Tree National Park, this 3-mile trail to Mastodon Peak isn’t to be missed.

The best place to start this trail is at the Cottonwood Campground. From here, you’ll hike up and out of a sandy wash and to the base of the peak itself.

Once at the base of the peak, you’ll press on to the summit of Mastodon. As you hike, however, you’ll pass the remains of the old Mastodon Mine, which was active in the 1920s. Beyond the remains, continue on to the summit itself, which offers superb views of the Coachella Valley.

On your return to the parking area, you can also add a trip to the Lost Palms Oasis. However, if you want to venture to the oasis, do keep in mind that there’s minimal shade on the path. So, start your hike early to avoid the midday heat.

14. Skull Rock Nature Trail

Skull Rock Nature Trail, Joshua
A quick easy trail to see the iconic skull rock
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 1.7 miles (146ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Access: Skull Rock Trailhead on Park Blvd near White Tank and Jumbo Rocks Campgrounds

Short, sweet, and family-friendly, the hike to Skull Rock is a great choice for adventurers of all ages.

The easiest place to start this hike is from within Jumbo Rocks Campground. In the campground, you can pick up a path that travels over mostly flat terrain to the rock itself. Once at the rock, you can scramble up and down the various rocky outcroppings and snap photos of the many wildflowers.

Additionally, if you have some extra time there are plenty of other hikes in the area to check out. For added fun, visit nearby Split Rock, located on the other side of Park Boulevard. The walk to Split Rock is just under 2 miles, so it’s a nice afternoon activity following a morning spent exploring Skull Rock.

California National Parks Day Hiking

Joshua Tree Hiking Trails: Adventure Time In The Mojave Desert

Hiking in Joshua Tree is an experience like no other. From sweeping views over the San Bernardino Mountains to its unique rock formations, visiting Joshua Tree for the first time is sure to be a magical adventure.

We hope you enjoyed our guide to the best Joshua Tree hikes. If you have been on any of these treks on your last visit to the park, let us know in the comments below! Oh, and don’t forget to share this article so everyone can make the most of their visit to the wonderful Mojave Desert.

Last update on 2023-05-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Gaby Avatar

Gaby is a professional polar guide, wilderness medicine instructor, and freelance writer with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She splits her time between the northern and southern hemispheres, chasing the midnight sun and helping others get outside to experience some of the world’s most beautiful places.

As an outdoor educator, Gaby is passionate about making the outdoors as accessible as possible for anyone looking to get into the mountains or out on the water. She is a certified Polar Guide, an AMGA Climbing Wall Instructor Course Provider, a NOLS instructor, and an accomplished climbing guide with a penchant for telemark skiing.

When she’s not hanging out with penguins in Antarctica or scouting for polar bears in the Arctic, you can find Gaby backpacking in Wyoming’s Wind River Range or drinking debatably excessive amounts of espresso and reading French existentialism in a quirky café.

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