8 Best Day Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Located in Southern California, east of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is a unique and diverse experience in both the landscape and the plants and wildlife. The uniqueness and reason why this area became a national park is because it is where three different ecosystems meet: the Colorado Desert, the Mojave Desert, and the San Bernardino Mountains. The park is also a geology lover’s dream as it has some immense granite monoliths and rugged canyons; all great to hike and climb through. The trails listed below are the 8 best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park that you won’t want to miss! Official Website.

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1. Ryan Mountain Trail

Hike up the steep trail on the right side of Ryan Mountain to its summit. This may be a difficult trail but it’s one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Once you are at the summit, enjoy some of the best views in the park before returning the way you came. The trailhead is located off of Park Blvd. near Sheep Pass and Ryan Campground.

  • 2.9 miles – Out and back
  • 1000′ gain
  • Strenuous

2. Lost Palms Oasis Trail

Beautiful changes in scenery along the entire trail make this one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Hiking / scrambling over the rocks into the canyon at the end of the trail is a challenge but also one of the many things that make this such an enjoyable hike. The trailhead is located in the Cottonwood Springs area.

  • 7.3 miles – Out and back
  • 950′ gain
  • Strenuous

3. Hidden Valley Loop

Loop through a rock enclosed valley with immense walls and boulders. The valley naturally holds a lot of rainwater making it a beautiful place to view plants and wildlife. The trailhead is located off of Park Blvd. west of Hidden Valley Campground.

  • 1.0 miles – Loop
  • 100′ gain
  • Easy

4. Barker Dam Loop

Short loop trail to a dam constructed in 1900 for mining purposes. There are plenty of rocks to climb over and some petroglyphs that give visitors an idea of the area’s past. The trailhead is located next to a parking area off of Queen Valley Road.

  • 1.1 miles – Loop
  • 50′ gain
  • Easy

5. Skull Rock Loop

Short, popular trail that passes interesting rock formations. The trail’s namesake is a large eroded boulder that resembles a human skull. The trailhead is right next to the Jumbo Rocks Campground.

  • 1.7 miles – Loop
  • 150′ gain
  • Easy

6. 49 Palms Oasis Trail

Hike up and over a 300′ ridge to a fan palm oasis in a rocky canyon. The trail is completely exposed to it is best completed early in the day – the trail is closed in the evenings to allow wildlife uninterrupted access to the water and shade of the oasis. The trailhead is located off Canyon Road, 5 miles west of the Oasis Visitor Center.

  • 3.0 miles – Out and back
  • 600′ gain
  • Moderate

7. Arch Rock Trail

More of a walk than a hike, but one that should not be passed up. The natural arch and surrounding boulders make for the best rock scrambling in the park. Overall, just a fun area to explore! The trailhead is north of White Tank Campground off of Pinto Basin Road.

  • 0.3 miles – Out and back
  • No elevation gain
  • Easy

8. Lost Horse Mine Trail

Hike to the Lost Horse Gold Mine used over 100 years ago. The mine is surrounded by a chain link fence to prevent people from venturing in to the unstable mine. Just past the mine is a terrific view of the surrounding area. The trailhead is next to a parking area at the end of Lost Horse Mine Road.

  • 4.0 miles – Out and back
  • 500′ gain
  • Moderate

 

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