hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park, with its contorted trees and boulder-strewn landscape, is one of Southern California’s strangest and most beautiful regions. The park itself spans almost 800,000 acres at the point where two deserts (the Colorado and Mojave) meet. This magical place, studded with palm oases, natural springs, and open desert plains, is just waiting to be discovered.
Joshua Tree’s otherworldly landscapes have long attracted visitors, from gold prospectors and miners, to the Mormon settlers that gave the region its name. The strange trees that dot the landscape appeared to them as the arms of the Biblical Joshua, raised heavenwards, and the name stuck. However, today the majority of pilgrims come for the dramatic rocks and climbing routes that can be found all over the park.
The massive boulders and craggy rocks that characterize Joshua Tree National Park are the result of volcanic activity, which pushed molten monzogranite up to the surface of the earth. Over time, these rocks were cracked and weathered, creating the strange towers and cliffs that you see today. Punctuated with wild flowers and distinctive cacti, trees and shrubs, this landscape is truly out of this world.
Long sidelined in favor of California’s other natural attractions, Joshua Tree has recently become a popular destination for hiking, backpacking and rock climbing. Get in on the action and start planning a trip to this beautiful and surprising national park today!
Top 10 Hikes In Joshua National Park
Joshua Tree National Park may appear to be a stark, unforgiving landscape, but it’s actually one of the best places in California for easy, family-friendly hikes. You’ll find lots of short, flat hikes passing through the magical landscape, with plenty of attractions that will delight visitors of all ages. You’ll find beautiful nature trails, climbing routes and possibilities for stargazing – perfect for family adventures. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something a little more strenuous, many of these hikes can be linked together to form challenging day hikes that pass through some of the most beautiful scenery in the park. There’s a trail here to suit everyone.
- Indian Cove Nature Loop Hike: This short trail is one of the best easy hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll pass through the desert area of Indian Cove, where you can discover the distinctive local plants and the towering rocks that litter the landscape. If you’re interested in learning how to climb, this is a wonderful place to try – consider hiring a guide to help you explore the crags.
- Hidden Valley Loop Hike: The Hidden Valley Loop hike is very popular, and with good reason! The loop is close to the road and very short, so it’s the perfect hike if you don’t have much time. The path snakes through a gorgeous valley with some classic Joshua Tree scenery, studded with boulders and green shrubs. This hike boasts some of the finest monzogranite rock formations in the park.
- Pine City Hike: The name of this lovely, secluded trail is somewhat misleading, as there are only a handful of pines dotting the route. However, don’t let this put you off – this trail is a wonderful place for a family hike in Joshua Tree National Park, with expansive views and interesting rock formations. The trail is mainly flat but there’s very little shade, so make sure to bring a hat!
- Split Rock Trail Hike: This short hike is one of our favorite family hikes in Joshua Tree National Park! The trail snakes in and out of towering cliffs, imposing boulders, and strange rock formations, offering some fantastic opportunities for photos. This route is flat and easy to follow, making it ideal for younger children or visitors with mobility issues.
- Lost Horse Loop Trail Hike: This scenic route is one of the best day hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll enjoy some wonderful views over the mountains as the trail undulates gently along the ridgeline. The loop passes by a historic gold mine, before dropping into a beautiful valley. This lovely route is a wonderful way to spend a day in the national park.
- Warren Peak Hike: This stunning hike is one of the slightly more challenging hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, climbing all the way up to the rocky summit of Warren Peak. This wonderful hike offers a fantastic panorama over the park, and follows one of the lesser-travelled routes so you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery in complete peace. If you’re feeling energetic, you can easily add on the Panorama Loop to extend the hike.
- Boy Scouts Trail Hike: If you’re looking for a fun adventure don’t miss this wonderful route, one of the best challenging hikes in Joshua Tree National Park! You’ll pass through expansive desert basins surrounded by small mountain ranges, rising to meet a number of exquisite rock formations. The trail continues over a number of small ridges with views down into the Indian Creek area, where you’ll enjoy a marvelous panorama.
- Ryan Mountain Hike: Ryan Mountain is a popular peak in the center of Joshua Tree National Park, with wonderful 360-degree views. This trail is often busy, and is very exposed to the sun, so it’s best to arrive early to avoid the crowds and take advantage of the cool morning weather. The trail will take you through a wide gully with weird and wonderful rock formations, and the summit offers simply wonderful views over the region.
- High View Trail Hike: Looking for a place to avoid the crowds in Joshua Tree National Park? Try the High View Trail, which ascends a small hill in the northwest of the park. This route is quieter than some of the other hikes on the list, meaning you’ll be able to enjoy the peace and quiet! The climb is relatively easy, but offers spectacular views over the rolling mountains and rocky slopes of this secluded corner of Joshua Tree National Park.
- 49 Palm Oasis Hike: This wonderful hike is a local favorite, ascending to a small pass before dropping down to discover a hidden oasis. This is a great hike for older kids, who will feel as though they are uncovering a secret treasure in the desert. As the name suggests, there are a total of 49 palm trees filling the oasis, providing some welcome shade for weary hikers.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Joshua Tree National Park?
Joshua Tree National Park is open all year round, and it’s possible to go hiking here at any time. However, the best times to hike in Joshua Tree National Park are between March and May and October and November. In spring and autumn the temperatures are cool and pleasant and you’ll be able to enjoy the trails without exposing yourself to the hot summer sun! What’s more, the wildflowers are in bloom from February through April, when you can see another side of this dramatic park. In July average temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius, although the trails will tend to be fairly quiet. In winter, the trails are accessible but temperatures drop, and you may encounter snow on higher ground.
Other Outdoor Activities In Joshua Tree National Park
Although hiking is very popular, there are plenty of other fantastic outdoor activities in Joshua Tree National Park. The park is a popular spot for backpacking, with several excellent campgrounds where you can slip into slumber under a sky filled with innumerable stars. One of the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park is rock climbing and bouldering, as the amazing rock formations and cliffs provide some incredible climbing routes. In addition to this, you can take a nature tour to learn about the wonderful flora that decorates the park, or watch the hummingbirds dart in and out of the rocks and plants. There are also many opportunities to find out about the human history of Joshua Tree, including the native Cahuilla Indians, miners and gold prospectors that have traversed this region over the centuries.
How To Plan A Trip To Joshua Tree National Park
If you’re itching to explore the strange, otherworldly landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park, don’t worry – we’ve got all the information you’ll need to plan your adventure! We’ve put together a guide to planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, with insider tips on when to go, where to stay, and how to get the most out of your trip. We’ve even come up with some ideas for how to spend the perfect day in Joshua Tree. There’s never been a better time to explore this wild, magnificent corner of California.
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Joshua Tree National Park
Is Joshua Tree National Park dangerous?
Joshua Tree National Park is a wilderness area, and so it’s important to take precautions when you’re out on the trail. In particular, many of the trails in Joshua Tree are very exposed to the sun, meaning that you’ll need to bring plenty of water and don’t hike alone. Desert wildlife and plants can also cause problems, especially for younger children, so make sure to take advice from local rangers before setting out.
Is Joshua Tree safe at night?
Joshua Tree National Park is very safe at night and indeed, is a popular spot for camping. This remarkable park is one of the best places for stargazing in California.
Are there mountain lions in Joshua Tree?
Mountain lions, otherwise known as cougars or pumas, have been spotted in Joshua Tree, although they are very shy of humans so you are unlikely to encounter one on the trail.
How did the Joshua Tree get its name?
The most famous resident of Joshua Tree National Park is the eponymous Joshua Tree itself. This slow-growing tree is an important part of the desert ecosystem. It was given its name by Mormon settlers in the mid-19th century, who thought that the tree’s strange shape was akin to the Bible story of Joshua raising his hands to the heavens in prayer.
The best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Are we missing your favourite hike?
Tell us! If you've got photos, a GPS track and know the hike, we'd love to share your favourite hike with the rest of the 10Adventures community.