8 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park Overview

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!

StateCalifornia
Nearest Metro AreaLos Angeles, CA
Area Size792,510 acres
EstablishedOctober 31, 1994
Hiking Trails112 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Ryan Mountain Trail
View of Ryan Mountain at Sunset
View of Ryan Mountain at Sunset, Photo by Joshua Tree National Park

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 and best 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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Lost Palms Oasis Trail
Lost Palms Oasis
Lost Palms Oasis, Photo by Joshua Tree National Park 

Beautiful changes in scenery along the entire trail make this one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Hiking and 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′ elevation gain
  • Strenuous
Hidden Valley Loop
Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, California
Hidden Valley, Photo by Ken Lund

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 mile loop
  • 100′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Barker Dam Loop
Sunset at Barker Dam
Sunset at Barker Dam, Photo by Joshua Tree National Park

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 mile loop
  • 50′ elevation gain
  • Easy
Skull Rock Loop
Skull Rock
Skull Rock, Photo by Patrick Emerson

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 mile loop
  • 150′ elevation gain
  • Easy
49 Palms Oasis Trail
49 Palms Oasis; Twentynine Palms, CA
49 Palms Oasis, Photo by Joshua Tree National Park

Hike up and over a 300′ ridge to a fan palm oasis in a rocky canyon. The trail is completely exposed so 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′ elevation gain
  • Moderate
Arch Rock Trail
Moon & Arch Rock
Moon & Arch Rock, Photo by Joshua Tree National Park

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
Lost Horse Mine Trail
Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail
Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, Photo by Joshua Tree National Park

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 into 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′ elevation gain
  • Moderate

Featured Image: Joshua Tree National Park, Photo by Giuseppe Milo

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