Looking for a Hike in Joshua Tree National Park? Here we go!

Hike in Joshua Tree National Park? Yes, please! A hike is an absolute must when visiting this natural wonderland where two deserts meet. The park is a transition zone where the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert overlap, creating an area rich in biodiversity, beauty…and hiking trails!

A coyote at the jumbo rocks campgrounds at joshua tree
A coyote at the Jumbo Rocks Campground at Joshua Tree

Many of the hikes at Joshua Tree are short and sweet, which is a good thing in the summertime when the heat is extreme. (Download my hiking survival kit for a checklist of everything to carry in your backpack on every hike here.)

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Let’s dive in!

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Here is a map of what we’ll discuss:

Video of a one-day itinerary in Joshua Tree National Park:

You can watch this video right here on the blog! (Don’t forget to subscribe for more hikes and tips!)

For an easy to moderate hike in Joshua Tree:

The Barker Dam Hike

A Joshua Tree on the Barker Dam Trail at Joshua Tree
The Barker Dam Hike in Joshua Tree National Park

An easy 1.1-mile loop through Joshua Trees and monzogranite boulders, the Barker Dam Trail takes you by the man-made dam and past petroglyphs carved into the rocks by Native Americans.

The dam was created by cattlemen including C.O. Barker in 1900. When I visited in the summertime (end of June) there was no water in the dam, but it was still a fun little loop to explore.

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Petroglyphs like the ones on the Barker Dam Trail are often found carved into desert rocks where water could be located nearby. The rock art found on this hike in Joshua Tree is a highlight of the trail. Unfortunately, people have painted over the petroglyphs so that we aren’t seeing the carvings in their original form. Still very cool, though!

The Skull Rock Hike

There is no doubt why they call this one Skull Rock. Just take a look at this rock!

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree

You can meet up with the Skull Rock Nature Trail at various points near the Jumbo Rocks Campground. From the campground itself, it’s an easy 0.5 mile out and back. Or you can take the full 1.7-mile loop from the Skull Rock parking lot.

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I recommend this one around sunset so that you can scramble up some of the nearby rocks and watch Mother Nature’s show.

Rocks near the Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park
Sunset across the way from Skull Rock
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The Hidden Valley Hike

Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree
There is a valley hiding back there!

It’s rumored that early cattlemen hid stolen cattle here! An easy one-mile loop through rocks and, of course, a valley.

The Cap Rock Hike in Joshua Tree

Cap Rock Hike in Joshua Tree National Park
Walking the Cap Rock hike in Joshua Tree National Park

This easy 0.4-mile loop is a great one for kids because there are so many places to clamber! Like most of the hikes at Joshua Tree, there are informational signs dotting the trail to teach you about the plants and animals that make this seemingly inhospitable place home.

For a more strenuous hike in Joshua Tree:

In the summertime, it’s really important to use caution on these trails. It gets hot so quickly out there!

The Fortynine Palms Oasis Hike

Twentynine Palms Oasis at Joshua Tree
The Twentynine Palms Oasis (in October)

When I visited in June, the Fortynine Palms Oasis trail was closed due to extreme drought conditions with no plans of reopening until the expected summer monsoons create an adequate water supply. However, I was able to walk this beautiful hike on an October visit in 2019, and I highly recommend it if weather conditions allow.

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A three-mile out-and-back that takes you over a ridge and to fan-palm oasis, this hike in Joshua Tree is an incredible experience.

The Ryan Mountain Hike in Joshua Tree

Ryan Mountain Trail
Ryan Mountain Trail

This is a classic hike in Joshua Tree. It’s best to do this hike in the morning to avoid crowds and heat. A three-mile out-and-back that can really be described as an up-and-back, you’ll summit Ryan Mountain (1,050 feet / 320 meters) and get rewarded with panoramic views of the park.

The Lost Palms Oasis Hike

Lost Palm Oasis at Joshua Tree National Park
A little bit of green in the desert! Lost Palm Oasis. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Westfield

When you’re in a Joshua Tree Oasis, you are right on top of an actual crack in the crust of the Earth! When water hits a geological fault, it rises to the surface and creates the right condition for the fan-palm oases of Joshua Tree.

The Lost Palms Oasis Hike is a 7.5-mile out-and-back down into a canyon where you’ll find the oasis. It’s a tough climb out, but well worth it!

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Other places to visit at Joshua Tree National Park

Keys View

Keys View at Joshua Tree
Keys View at sunrise

Take in the surrounding mountains and the nearby cities of Palm Spring and Palm Desert from this viewpoint in the park.

There is a pollution haze that often obscures the view, but even with the haze this is a beautiful place to watch the sunrise.

Oasis Visitor Center

There are two visitors centers in Joshua Tree National Park, the Oasis Visitor Center near the north entrance in the town of Twentynine Palms and the Joshua Tree Visitor Center at the West entrance.

The Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms includes interactive exhibits and the Oasis of Mara, a 0.5-mile loop on a paved walkway. Twentynine Palms grew up around this oasis and, as the visitors center guide told me, “it’s what started it all around here”.

The address for the Oasis Visitor Center is: 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

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Campgrounds at Joshua Tree

The most centrally located campground at Joshua Tree is Hidden Valley, but it’s first-come, first served, which can be a problem in the cooler months when the park is busy. ($15/night)

Ryan Mountain and Jumbo Rocks are convenient campgrounds as well. Here reservations are required ($20/night). When we stayed in June, Jumbo Rocks Campground was nearly empty except for the bees, which were everywhere.

Jumbo Rocks Campground at Joshua Tree
Jumbo Rocks Campground

Indian Cove Campground is on the northern edge of the park and a longer drive from the centrally located trails. Reservations are required here ($25/night). On the northwest corner of the park is Black Rock Campground, which takes reservations (25/night).

On the eastern side of the park there are two first-come, first-served sites at Belle and White Tank ($15/night). And finally there is Cottonwood, which is further from action on the far southeast edge of the park, but the night sky is something to see out there. Reservations are required ($25/night).

For a full list of hikes in Joshua Tree, visit here.

If you liked this post, you’ll love this collection of stories and videos on USA National Parks! For some of my favorite trails and walkabouts, visit here!

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21 Comments on “Looking for a Hike in Joshua Tree National Park? Here we go!”

  1. I am always looking for a hike, but unfortunately I don’t have many around with such incredible sceneries! Your pictures (and the sunlight) are absolutely breathtaking. Thanks for sharing, and I hope to be able to visit the national park soon!

  2. The landscape looks so incredibly scenic! It’s good to know that you don’t have to do excessive hikes to see amazing things like the monzogranite boulders or petroglyphs. I’m sure long hikes in the summer heat are very intense!

    • It gets so hot that those little loops (and a quick retreat to the AC) make this an approachable place in the summer. BUT..spring/fall is still a better time to visit.

    • That is the best hike. Do it just before sunset and then pop across the street to the jumbo rocks for the big sun show!

    • So many beautiful hikes. Can see you’re absolutely spoiled for choice! Camping looks like so much fun, particularly when you can look up at the clear night sky!

  3. I’ve love the idea of hiking to an oasis. I didn’t realize there was such a thing in the US. I need go down there and do it sometime after these droughts end.

    • Yeah, definitely wait for the weather to cool and the rain to start. The Fortynine Palms Oasis is closed right now until summer monsoons arrive.

    • You and your snake issues! 🙂 YES. There are definitely snakes at Joshua Tree, including the rattlesnake. Gah.

  4. You must spend a lot of time hiking here Jen. You are a bundle of information. I’m drawn to the area, because of the U2 connection. But now to so much more.

    • A bit, yes! Two different trips. But there is still more to explore! We listened to U2 while driving through. 🙂

  5. Gotta love Joshua tree! I’ve done cap rock but I know there’s way more great hikes to do! Thanks for suggesting a few more!

  6. These hikes at Joshua Tree look amazing, Jen! The views are spectacular. I can definitely see how the Skull Rock hike got its name! Such a cool rock formation.

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