Planning to go hiking at Joshua Tree? Stick with us while we help you plan the perfect trip to this bucket list National Park!
Joshua Tree National Park is an outdoor paradise, offering breathtaking views and amazing hikes for all levels of hikers. From the easy-going Hidden Valley Trail to the challenging Lost Horse Mine Trail, there is something for everyone at this iconic park.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, Joshua Tree hikes will “cure what ails you”, as Gerry likes to say. 🙂 Joshua Tree is one of the most popular National Park hikes and we will tell you why.
With its stunning desert landscape, unique wildlife, and the beautiful night sky, it’s no wonder why so many people come back year after year. So grab your hiking gear and read on for planning the perfect trip to Joshua Tree.
What Makes Joshua Tree National Park a Hiker’s Paradise?
Joshua Tree’s vast desert landscape, rugged rock formations, and diverse wildlife make it an ideal spot for hikers looking for an adventure. The park is also home to some of the most spectacular views in the United States. From its towering rock formations to its unique trees and wildlife, there is much to see while hiking. At the park, you’ll find plenty of trails to explore and enjoy. Hiking Joshua Tree is on many people’s bucket lists, and we could see why once we arrived.
How to Get to Joshua Tree
Whether you’re looking to hike, camp, or just explore the desert landscape for the day, getting to Joshua Tree can be an adventure in itself. Let’s explore several different ways to get to your destination for Joshua Tree hiking.
Palm Springs to Joshua Tree
GPS address: 6554 Park Boulevard. Joshua Tree
The ride takes approximately 50 minutes. The best entrance for Joshua Tree from Palm Springs is the West entrance. The West entrance is one of the main gateways into Joshua Tree National Park. Note, it is very busy during its high season which is October-May. When leaving Palm Springs, you take I-10 West toward Desert Hot Springs, then get on to CA-62. This takes you to the Yucca Valley, then on to the West entrance of Joshua Tree.
Los Angeles to Joshua Tree
GPS address: 6554 Park Boulevard. Joshua Tree
The ride takes a little over 2 hours. Take I-10 East toward San Bernadino. Then, you will get onto CA-62 toward the Yucca Valley. Your best entrance is the West Entrance. Note the same recommendations exist that we mentioned above for the Palm Springs folks.
Las Vegas to Joshua Tree
GPS address: 74485 National Park Drive. Twentynine Palms
This journey takes a little over 3 hours. Take I-15 South toward the Mojave National Preserve. You will take a lot of twists and turns, but the ride is gorgeous! Boredom will not be an issue on this drive. The best entrance for you will be the North Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. The North entrance is in Twentynine Palms and is the backup for people wanting to avoid congestion and long ways at the busier entrances.
Indio to Joshua Tree
GPS address: this is tricky. You will need to use coordinates because there is no physical address. GPS 33.680914 -115.801928 The road into this area leads to a stop at the Bajada Nature Trailhead.
Only half an hour away, lucky you! Maybe you are visiting Coachella for the music and arts festival, or maybe you just happened to be in Indio. Either way, you want to know the best route for hiking at Joshua Tree.
Your closest entrance is going to be the one less traveled- the south entrance. Note, there is nothing really at this entrance except hiking trails, so gas up before you head there. This is also the entrance for those coming from the Phoenix area.
Top 5 Must-See and Do Hikes in Joshua Tree
Lost Horse Mine
The Lost Horse Mine is one of the top five must-see hikes in Joshua Tree and promises an incredible experience. Located in the heart of the park, this hike will take you through a variety of terrain and stunning views as you explore this historic mine from the 19th century. Get ready for a unique journey that will leave you with lasting memories and plenty of stories to tell (and show) your friends on the ‘gram!
Juniper Flats Campground Hike
One of the best hikes in the park is Juniper Flats Campground Hike. This hike takes you through some of the most stunning landscapes in the park, including juniper trees, desert oases, and the most breathtaking views. The hike is relatively easy and can be completed in half a day or less. While hiking Joshua Tree, this trail is a great way to explore the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park and take in some of its most spectacular sights.
Hidden Valley Trail
This hike winds you through a hidden valley nature haven filled with stunning rock formations, and unique horticulture that will leave you in awe. It is an easy one mile loop. The views from this hike are simply breathtaking; but aren’t they all in Joshua Tree? That isn’t really a question. You can see for miles in all directions as you make your way up to the summit.
You will often find people taking a hidden valley picnic lunch or time to just stop and reflect on their time while hiking at Joshua Tree.
Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail
Closest to the park’s North entrance, the Cactus Garden Nature Trail is about 1/4 mile and is one of the most unique trails Joshua Tree has. Why is it unique? Because you can see the rare teddybear cholla cacti along the trail. The rare cacti are only located in the Pinto Basin. No matter what trail you are going to hike, make the Cholla Cactus Garden trail one that you must experience.
If you prefer to simply see the teddy bear cholla, you can get a small view from Pinto Basin Road.
Keys View Trail
The Keys View Trail is a very popular one but for a reason. On this relatively easy trail, you will find landscapes like a panorama of the San Andreas Fault. On a clear day, it is said that you can see the San Jacinto Peak behind Palm Springs and Signal Mountain in Mexico. The view of Signal Mountain is reported to be rare due to the poor air quality. A big reason to fight climate change— in our opinion. You should at least go and try to see the view. Some say this is the best place to get a great view in the Coachella Valley.
Hiking at Joshua Tree- Tips & Gear for an Unforgettable Time
Don’t let intimidation keep you away from hiking or camping at Joshua Tree. You don’t have to be a boy scout to hike a trail in Joshua Tree. All you need is some common sense and a few things to make your time at Joshua Tree worthwhile.
It is hot during the day and cold at night. Be sure that you are layering if you are planning on spending a significant amount of time in Joshua Tree. While black may seem like the best option in most cases, I (shannon) happened to be wearing all black on one of our hikes and the only reason it was ok was that that day, we didn’t spend as much time on the trails. Don’t be like Shannon.
The right footwear
Make sure your shoes are comfortable and durable, and cover your toes. While Tevas are comfy, they aren’t the best for protecting you against the rugged terrain of cacti and rattlesnakes. Hiking boots are a good idea. Here are a great affordable pair. Just don’t use your time in Joshua Tree to break in your new hiking boots.
A communication device
Whether you invest in a GPS navigator for hiking, or your fully charged phone, you don’t want to be without a mapping device. You also want to have a phone to call for emergencies, should you have one. Some people rely upon a simple compass, which is also fine if you have a map.
Speaking of emergencies, a whistle will be handy if you have an emergency to help responders find you.
This whole list is about safety, but to add to the safety equipment while hiking at Joshua Tree, be sure to have sunscreen, a First-Aid kit, a multi-tool, insect repellent, and your identification.
Water and snacks
Don’t be without healthy, energy-boosting snack bars and water, water, water.
Please take something to put your trash in. There is nothing worse than enjoying nature and the beautiful landscapes than looking down and finding a Nature Grain bar wrapper. Why?!
Even if you are going on a hike for the day, a backpack is a great option to put the necessities in. Here is a backpack that we recommend.
Where to Stay
For the ultimate experience of hiking Joshua Tree trails, you should consider staying for more than a day.
Thinking of camping in Joshua Tree? We put together a beginner’s camping guide that may help. Be sure to also check out Hipcamp to find unique stays in and around Joshua Tree. All national parks showcase their camping availability, amenities, and pricing (if any). Joshua Tree National Park is no exception.
Jumbo Rocks Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds in the park. Though primitive, it offers a ton of views of many rock formations.
Prefer a hotel or non-camping situation? Check out the 10 best Joshua Tree Hotels and peruse through other options available in and around the park.
If you want to couple your trip with Palm Springs or even Idyllwild, be sure to check out The Paloma Resort or Grand Idyllwild Lodge. We stayed in both on our trip to the Coachella Valley to make the most of our time in the area.
Joshua Tree National Park is a stunningly beautiful destination located in the Mojave Desert. It is home to some of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world, including towering Joshua trees, rugged rock formations, and an array of wildlife. From hiking trails to scenic drives and stargazing opportunities, or just wanting to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature, this park has something for you.
If you prefer to put the scenic excursions in someone else’s hands, try the Joshua Tree Driving Tour. The tour is 4 and a half hours and takes you to the top attractions in the park like Arch Rock, Barker Dam, Skull Rock, and more.
Know Before You Go
There is a reason that most people go to Joshua Tree National Park between October to May. Beginning in June, it is just too hot and unsafe to navigate. There are plenty of signs that tell you, “Don’t die today”. Mainly, people don’t expect it to be so hot, and they don’t hydrate accordingly. Don’t be dumb and die on your trip to Joshua Tree.
You must make reservations if you are going to camp at Joshua Tree. Head over to Joshua Tree Visitor Center to find out more about reserving your spot, and paying park fees.
You may or may not drive through most of it and not have to pay. The day that we went (in March), most of the pay stops were not staffed, so we lucked out.
Frequently Asked Questions | FAQs
The best resource is National Geographic’s Joshua Tree hiking maps. You will be most prepared with this.
Keys View, by far, is the best place to watch the sunset. Read the above in the blog post to learn more.
To drive from one entrance through the entire park takes about two hours. Be sure to have cash as there may be a fee for entering certain areas.