The best hikes in Joshua Tree have something for everyone: enchanting desert scenery, expansive valleys, crumbling mines, and rugged mountain peaks. With easily accessible viewpoints to strenuous eight-hour treks, Joshua Tree hikes cater to all fitness levels and ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the park landscapes.
Keep reading to discover the best hikes in Joshua Tree, whether you’re looking for a quick stroll through the cacti or an epic, lengthy trail.
13 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree to Get Your Blood Pumping
1. Cholla Cactus Garden Trail
Distance: 0.25 miles / 15-30 minutes
Trailhead Location: North of Cottonwood Visitor Center
The Cholla Cactus Garden Trail is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree if you’re looking for a short stroll among the local flora and fauna. Expect to see rare teddybear cholla and a huge variety of cacti that burst into colorful bloom during the spring months.
The prickly friends are set in an expansive basin surrounded by mountains for postcard views. It’s especially magical at sunset when the entire area glows golden. A quarter-mile walk navigates the terrain across wooden boardwalks with a few gravel patches. It’s an easy way for people of all ages to experience the wonders of Joshua Tree hikes.
2. Arch Rock Trail
Distance: 1.4 miles / 1 hour
Trailhead Location: Twin Tanks Parking Lot
This lollipop trail is teeming with epic rock formations and geological wonders that make it one of the most special Joshua Tree hikes. It starts with a half-mile walk from the parking area before turning into a loop. Go counterclockwise for the best views of the arch, which appears close to the beginning.
Walking to the arch is among the most popular things to do in Joshua Tree, so expect to see plenty of people hanging out and posing for pictures. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for informational panels that explain the science behind the other-worldly landscape. Bring plenty of water because there’s no shade on the trail.
3. Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Distance: 1 mile / 1 hour
Trailhead Location: Hidden Valley picnic area
As one of the best short Joshua Tree hikes, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail sees plenty of foot traffic. It’s a great choice if you’re short on time or want a quick morning trail to beat the mid-day heat.
The track journeys through rock-enclosed valleys, up stone-carved steps, and over boulders, showcasing incredible scenery the entire way. You’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Hidden Valley after climbing to the top, and many people say that if you only do one hike in Joshua Tree, it should be this.
Parking fills up fast, so arrive early to secure a spot. The area is also a well-known rock climbing spot – bring your gear or try your hand at bouldering during your visit.
4. Keys View Trail
Distance: 0.25 miles / 30 minutes
Trailhead Location: End of Keys View Road
This panoramic lookout is one of the best Joshua Tree hikes if you’re after a short walk with splendid views. From the end of Keys View Road, there’s a quarter-mile loop trail that travels up and across the ridge for sweeping views of the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea, Santa Rosa Mountains, and the San Andreas Fault. On exceptionally clear days, you can even see Mexico in the distance.
Keys View is one of the most beloved Joshua Tree attractions, so count on lots of other visitors, especially around sunset.
5. Skull Rock Trail
Distance: 1.7 miles / 1 hour
Trailhead Location: Skull Rock parking area or Jumbo Rocks Campground
Skull Rock Trail is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree to revel at the giant rock formations in the park. This track winds through massive granite boulders that have weathered over time to take on interesting shapes. The star is, of course, Skull Rock, which has accumulated water in several places, resulting in depressions that look like hallowed eye sockets set in a big head.
This is an easy Joshua Tree hike, traveling over desert washes and through rocky expanses. The intriguing scenery and close proximity to Jumbo Rocks Campground make this walk an attractive option for many visitors. Remember to bring lots of water and sun protection since there’s little shade on the way.
6. Barker Dam Trail
Distance: 1.1 miles / 1 hour
Trailhead Location: Barker Dam parking area
The best hikes in Joshua Tree showcase a little bit of everything: desert scenery, curious rock formations, and unique flora and fauna. The Barker Dam Trail encapsulates all of this on an easy flat loop, past the historic dam that was once used for ranching in Joshua Tree. When there’s been some rainfall, the dam is particularly impressive and welcomes all sorts of desert wildlife to the oasis-like atmosphere.
Throughout the walk, the area displays signature Mojave Desert vegetation, riddled with Joshua trees, yucca, pinon pines, and beyond. There’s also compelling rock art along the trail and great climbing in the area, suitable for beginners and advanced scramblers alike.
7. Hi-View Nature Trail
Distance: 1.3 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes
Trailhead Location: End of S Park Road, near Black Rock Canyon Campground
The Black Rock area is home to the trailhead of some of the best hikes in Joshua Tree, including the Hi-View Nature trail. This moderately difficult walk sees 400 feet of elevation gain for rewarding views of sprawling mountains from the top. While walking, you’ll be treated to sights of Joshua trees, juniper trees, and pinyon pines. In early spring, it’s particularly magical when the vegetation bursts into bloom.
You can double the distance of the Hi-View Nature trail if you start from the Black Rock Nature Center, turning it into a three-mile lollipop. Though it’s quite a popular track, so start early in the morning to secure parking.
8. Mastodon Peak
Distance: 4 miles / 2-3 hours
Trailhead Location: Cottonwood Spring parking area
Beginning from Cottonwood Spring, the Mastodon Peak loop is a top option for varied Joshua Tree hikes. While you won’t see any of the park’s namesake trees, this trek covers three stunning miles of glorious desert scenery with blooming wildflowers, lush oases, and craggy boulders.
From the summit of Mastodon Peak, you’ll have views as far as the eye can see, putting the south part of Joshua Tree National Park on full display. On the way back down, you’ll pass by the old Mastodon Mine from the 1930s, with historic structures and shafts to check out, along with the remnants of the Winona townsite to discover more about Joshua Tree’s past.
9. Lost Horse Mine Trail
Distance: 4 miles (6.5 mile loop) / 2-3 hours (3-4 with loop)
Difficulty: Moderate / Strenuous
Trailhead Location: Lost Horse Mine trailhead (Keys View Road)
To understand the California Gold Rush, the Lost Horse Mine Trail is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree. The mine itself dates back to the late 1800s and was extremely successful in its gold production. It’s an interesting place to visit to learn more about gold rush history and see fascinating relics from the time.
You can also turn this out-and-back trail into a challenging loop by continuing past the mine and up Lost Horse Mountain. Though the climb is tough, the views from the top of Pleasant Valley are well worth the extra steps. The loop is best walked clockwise, and it’s known to be very windy, so layer up!
10. Boy Scout Trail
Distance: 8 miles / 6 hours
Trailhead Location: Boy Scout Trailhead (South), Indian Cove Road (North)
As one of the longest Joshua Tree hikes, the Boy Scout Trail is a top choice for strong trekkers and backpacking enthusiasts. It covers eight miles, one way, and leads walkers through the Wonderland of Rocks in the northern area of the national park. This is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree to escape the crowds since most visitors opt for shorter, easier trails.
If you start from the southern trailhead, the walk is mostly downhill, with beautiful scenery and varying features. Rather than walking the whole trail in one go, you can split up the journey and camp along the way. Just remember to self-register before heading out.
Keep in mind there are no water sources and limited shade along the trail, so if you plan to spend the night, bring plenty to drink.
11. Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail
Distance: 3 miles / 2-3 hours
Trailhead Location: End of Fortynine Palms Canyon Road
The remote Fortynine Palms Oasis is among the most mesmerizing spots in Joshua Tree National Park, with fresh water and a thriving palm grove in the middle of a harsh desert landscape. It’s an enchanting place to explore, and the Fortynine Palms Oasis trail delivers you to the threshold.
The three-mile walk covers undulating terrain, with dramatic ridges and washes before dropping down to the namesake fan palm oasis. The views are unreal, but due to the fragile conditions, entering the oasis is forbidden in order to preserve the area. In the summer, the oasis provides a critical water source for surrounding herds of bighorn sheep that depend on it for survival. It’s crucial to stay on track and respect local guidance to maintain this special place.
12. Panorama Loop Trail
Distance: 6.6 miles / 3-4 and a half hours
Trailhead Location: Black Rock Canyon
Living up to its name, the Panorama Loop Trail provides 360° views from heights of four thousand feet. This Joshua Tree hike sees more than one thousand feet of elevation gain, weaving through a dense Joshua tree forest, across a sandy wash, and along a craggy ridge for vistas of the Coachella Valley and mountain ranges that span as far as the eye can see.
As one of the highest points in the national park, the flora and fauna differ from most of what you see throughout Joshua Tree. The temperatures also cool down the higher you hike (one reason why the vegetation thrives up here), though if you’re attempting this trail in summer, you need to start early in the day to beat the strong desert sun. There’s no water along the trail, but there’s a fountain in Black Rock Canyon before setting off.
13. Warren Peak Trail
Distance: 6.3 miles / 3-4 and a half hours
Trailhead Location: Black Rock Canyon
Following the Black Rock Canyon Trail, this hike leads to the summit of Warren Peak, the highest point in Joshua Tree National Park. The gentle uphill walk weaves through abundant desert highlands before a final, windy ascent to the summit. From the top, you’ll have insane views of the desert below, with Joshua Trees littering the landscape.
While it’s considered strenuous, the climb is really gradual until the last portion, which is a steep quarter-mile clamber to the top. There’s no shade on the trail, so plenty of water is essential, and it’s a good idea to start early in the day. Layers are also wise because the hike is exposed, and the wind can be super intense.
Joshua Tree Campervan Rentals Are The Best Way to Experience the Park
Without a doubt, the best way to experience Joshua Tree is with a campervan rental. Rather than spending a fortune on pricey hotel rooms, a campervan gets you closer to the insane desert landscape for a fraction of the price.
TB Outdoor Rentals has Los Angeles campervan rentals suitable for all budgets and ready for Joshua Tree. From cruising between the different Joshua Tree hikes to sleeping under the starry night sky, van life is the ultimate experience for any California trip. Some of our rigs include Jeeps with rooftop tents, family-friendly campervans, and Class C RVs to cater to all types of travelers.
Click here to check out Joshua Tree campervan rentals, plus our huge selection of add-ons for a completely custom adventure.
FAQs About Joshua Tree Hikes
What is the best dog-friendly hike in Joshua Tree?
Dogs aren’t allowed on any Joshua Tree National Park trails but can be walked on unpaved roads like Bighorn Pass Road, Geology Tour Road, and Queen Valley Road, which are the best dog-friendly hikes in Joshua Tree.
What is the best easy Joshua Tree hike?
The best easy Joshua Tree hikes are the Cholla Garden and Hidden Valley Nature trails which are short, and flat, and show off some of the best of the park’s diverse scenery.
What is the biggest hike in Joshua Tree?
The biggest hike in Joshua Tree is the Boy Scout Trail which covers eight miles one way and takes about six hours to complete. The Lost Horse Mine Loop, the Panorama Loop, and the Warren Peak Trail are other big options, all longer than six miles.
What is the most difficult hike in Joshua Tree?
The most difficult hikes in Joshua Tree are Ryan Mountain for elevation gain and the Boy Scout Trail for length. Though both are easily doable with plenty of water and the right walking shoes.