Joshua Tree is a protected area in Southern California. It straddles the hot, dry Colorado Desert and somewhat cooler, elevated Mojave Desert. It offers desert landscape, animated-looking Joshua trees, unique rock formations, and stunning views of the Coachella Valley.
The park has several hiking trails that weave through Hidden Valley and beyond. Here are a few you will want to check out when you visit.
Discovery Trail offers some of the best geology and landscapes in the area. It was built in 2012 and designed by students from the local Morongo School Districts based on what they felt were the coolest rocks in the area. The actual construction was performed by high school students in the Youth Conservation Corps. It is known as being a path made by kids for kids.
The trail forms a .7-mile loop and has an 8-foot elevation making it challenging for some hikers. Along the way, you’ll find informational placards that educate you on the area’s geography. There’s also a viewing telescope midway through where you can take in views of the surroundings.
Boy Scout Trail is an out and back trail that spans 8 miles each way. Many people turn it into an overnight camping trip. Its 1,190 feet of elevation provides one heckuva workout.
Although the trail is one of the more popular ones in the park, it tends to be unpopulated which is terrific for those looking for solitude. And while you may not see many people, you will spot endangered species like the bighorn sheep and desert tortoises. You will also see dense bunches of granite boulders that offer an otherworldly feel.
Panorama Loop is a favorite among many Joshua Tree hikers. It starts at a sandy wash and takes you to scenic mountain ranges. It is also one of the few trails in the park that winds through the juniper forest.
The trail is looped to form a lollipop shape. Its signed intersections and connections to the nearby Black Rock Campground make it difficult to get lost. It offers a 6.5-mile round trip with an elevation of 1200 feet. Stop along the way to take in breathtaking views of Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, and part of Sand to Snow National Monument.
Wall Street Mill is a go-to for those who love nature and history. The mill was in operation from 1930 to 1966 and was used to process gold ore. Miners carted ore to the top of the mill where it was crushed and processed.
On your way to the mill, you’ll pass a bunch of interesting artifacts including the ruins of Wonderland Ranch, old cars, and a windmill that used to pump water to the mill. There’s also a stone marker that shows where mill owner Bill Key killed Worth Bagley in a land dispute. Travel through the 1.4-mile 100-foot elevation loop to find out what it was like living in the area way back when.
Barker Dam is one of the more popular trails in Joshua Tree. It spans 1.4 miles and has an elevation gain of 100 feet. While you may have to deal with crowds and limited parking, it’s worth exploring as it offers a terrific mix of culture and history.
The trail will take you past one of the park’s largest reservoirs which were built over a century ago to support cattle ranching. During the rainy season, a lake forms behind the reservoir. Other sites to see include a peaceful Wonderland of Rocks. Your journey will round out at a Joshua and yucca tree-filled valley.
Split Rock Trail spans 2.5 miles and offers 250 feet of elevation. However, it connects to many other trails so you can easily turn it into a day trip. It will take you past three of the park’s iconic monzogranite boulders, Split Rock, Tulip Rock and Face Rock.
There are plenty of places to stop and play on the rocks along the way including an overhanging boulder that forms a tunnel kids can crawl through. There are also many house-sized formations large enough to accommodate adults. And if you want to keep going, Split Rock will lead you to a whole system of trails that feature large boulders.
This .25-mile loop is one of the few located solely in the Colorado Desert section of the park. It runs along the relatively non trafficked Pinto Basin Road. The garden itself offers a unique botanical experience.
The trail is an elevated platform designed to protect your feet from the cacti. It is recommended that hikers wear closed-toe shoes and stay on the lookout for these pointy plants. It is not unusual for people to get injured by spikes during their hike.
Ryan Mountain is a 3 mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 1069 feet. Though ranked as moderate, many consider it to be quite challenging. It includes natural stairs that take you through expanses of wildflowers.
The payoff is a terrific view on the top with a pile of rocks to rest on. You can view awe-inspiring scenery and catch glimpses of wildlife along the way.
This trail is ideal for those that are new to bouldering. It offers a fun yet challenging experience. It spans a 1.2-mile loop and offers an 88-foot elevation gain.
The grand finale is the arch itself. Many say it’s not as impressive as the scenery you will see on the way. This includes wildflowers, wildlife, and spanning views of the surrounding mountains.
Joshua Tree is a great place for nature lovers to visit. Its many trails will provide you with hours of outdoor adventure. Which will you be hiking when you visit?