Skull Rock Nature Trail

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Very Easy
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
2.7 km
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
49 m
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Directions to Trailhead
Skull Rock Nature Trail

The Skull Rock Nature Trail is a family-friendly hike just off one of the main roads in Joshua Tree National Park. The desert environment has sculpted many of the larger boulders in the area into unique and beautiful formations, with the most notable being Skull Rock itself. With an abundance of desert vegetation, and lots of opportunities to see wildlife, the Skull Rock Nature Trail has something for everyone.

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Route Description for Skull Rock Nature Trail

Being easily accessible, the Skull Rock Nature Trail is known to be a fairly heavily trafficked hike. As such, those looking for a more secluded experience may want to do the hike at a less busy time of day or perhaps even skip the hike in favor of the more unfrequented trails found within Joshua Tree National Park.

That being said, the Skull Rock Nature Trail is ideal as a family-oriented activity with lots to see and do. With an abundance of informational signage spread throughout the Skull Rock Hike, many opportunities exist to learn about the geology, plants and animals of the region for those who are interested. Likewise, the trail’s namesake, Skull Rock, is a majestic rock formation that is picturesque and mesmerizing in its uniqueness.

Having parked your car along Park Blvd, the trail starts on the southern side of the road. Almost immediately, you will see the Skull Rock itself, so it is recommended that you stop and take in the unique rock feature from different angles.

After you have experienced Skull Rock, follow the trail southwest approximately half a mile to arrive at Jumbo Rocks Campground. The trail continues on beside the campground in first a westerly and then northern direction until you reach the road you arrived by, Park Blvd. With caution, cross the road and meet up with the trail on the other side. The Skull Rock Nature Trail then continues in a northeastern direction for a few hundred feet while gaining a small amount of elevation.

Shortly after, the trail plateaus before declining in elevation and heading south a few hundred feet towards the road, where your car is parked.
Trail Highlights

Skull Rock

Skull Rock, oddly enough, resembles the shape of a skull! Creative, right? This popular granite rock in Joshua Tree National Park attracts flocks of people every day. The eye sockets started forming as the granite eroded due to raindrops! And alas, a plain old granite rock transitioned into a skull-looking rock.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to hike to Skull Rock?

No! You can actually see Skull Rock from the roadside. However, if you want to get the best views, it is best you do the short walk up to the rock itself.

What kind of rock is Skull Rock?

Skull Rock is made out of granite. Its distinctive shape has been carved by the elements over a long period of time.

Insider Hints for Skull Rock Nature Trail

  • Consider doing the Skull Rock hike either earlier or later in the day, as the midday desert heat can become uncomfortable.
  • Stop and check out the informational signage if you're interested in the natural history of the region.
  • Looking for a place to stop for the night? The Jumbo Rocks Campground is an excellent place to camp.
  • Sunrise and sunset hikes are the best time to see wildlife in the area.

Getting to the Skull Rock Nature Trail Trailhead

To get to the Skull Rock Nature Hike Trailhead, drive 36.2 km southeast of the town of Joshua Tree wherein you will arrive at a campsite called Jumbo Rocks. Just past the campsite, using the same road, you will come to a junction with hiking trails crossing from either side of the road. Your car can be parked here, and the trail starts on the southern side of the road.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    Jumbo Rocks Campground

  • When to do


  • Pets allowed


  • Family friendly


  • Route Signage


  • Crowd Levels


  • Route Type


Skull Rock Nature Trail Elevation Graph

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