Joshua Tree Hikes
Hiking in Joshua Tree offers some of the most unique, rugged, and surreal scenery in the world. Joshua Tree National Park is where the lower Sonoran Desert (like the one you see in movies) meets the rugged, higher altitude, Mojave Desert. This unique ecosystem is not only home to unique species like the Joshua Tree, but also home to unique and picturesque hiking trails for all levels. This hiking guide has not only lots of individual hikes you can do, but also some helpful insider tips on hiking at Joshua Tree. Don't forget to check out my Joshua Tree hiking tips page and the nearby hiking trails in Palm Springs.
|Amboy Crater Hike||3.7||Easy||Amboy||400||Y|
|California Riding and Hiking Trail (Joshua Tree)||38||Hard||Yucca Valley||3060||N|
|Hike the Pine City Trail (Joshua Tree)||4.2||Easy||Twentynine Palms||280||N|
|Boy Scout Trail (Joshua Tree) Hike||16||Hard||Twentynine Palms||1850||N|
|Desert Queen Mine Hike & Eagle Cliff Mine||1.8||Easy||Twentynine Palms||180||N|
|Hike Split Rock (Joshua Tree) Loop Trail||2.5||Easy||Twentynine Palms||360||N|
|Hike the 49 Palms Oasis Trail||3||Moderate||Twentynine Palms||700||N|
|Hike Willow Hole (Joshua Tree)||7||Moderate||Twentynine Palms||320||N|
|Lost Horse Mine Trail||7||Moderate||Twentynine Palms||1040||N|
|Ryan Mountain Trail Hike||3||Moderate||Twentynine Palms||1060||N|
|Hike Lost Palms Oasis Trail||7.4||Moderate||Twentynine Palms||700||N|
|Hike Mastodon Peak Trail||2.6||Moderate||Twentynine Palms||510||N|
The Amboy Crater hike takes you across the Mojave Desert, onto an ancient lave field, and then up the 250 foot extinct Amboy cinder cone. It’s a hike like no other, with wide-open views, tons of lava rocks, a circuit around the rim of the volcano, and all in a short 3-mile package right off of historic Route 66. I highly recommend making a stop to experience this fantastic hike.
Amboy, CA - 3.7 miles, Easy
Planning a hiking trip to Joshua Tree National Park can be intimidating. There are a lot of trails and if you’re not familiar with the area, it can be confusing. This Joshua Tree hiking tips guide will arm you with everything you need to know to get some epic hikes when you’re staying at the park. You can see a list of all the Joshua Tree hike guides here.
Backpacking the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) is like a mini thru-hike of Joshua Tree National Park. The CRHT takes you through some of the most remote parts of Joshua Tree, away from the crowds, and does it using gentle trails ideal for backpacking. There are some incredible camping sites with breathtaking views, and the 38 mile distance makes it doable as a 2 or 3 day hike. The only tough part is caching water and arranging a shuttle for the point-to-point route. This guide will tell you everything you need to know for a spectacular time on the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
Yucca Valley, CA - 38 miles, Hard
If you want to dip your toe into desert hiking at Joshua Tree, the hike on the Pine City Trail is a great place to get started. The Pine City Trail is straight and easy to follow, with no climbs. But you hike through some beautiful pinyon pine and Joshua Tree vegetation until you reach Pine City, not much of a city anymore. In fact, the only thing left are two hidden mine shafts. But you do get beautiful sweeping views into Pine City Canyon and onward toward Twentynine Palms in the distance. It’s a great hike for everyone, including families.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 4.2 miles, Easy
As one of the longer recommended day hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, the Boy Scout Trail is a popular hike. Starting at the Keys West Trailhead, you’ll hike across an open desert full of Joshua Trees, then transition into a rocky descent through the Wonderland of Rocks that offers panoramic viewpoints. And then, 1,000 feet lower, the trail makes its way through washes and canyons to Indian Cove. The hike is unusual in that you get a taste of the upper Mojave desert with it’s Joshua Trees, and then lower Mojave desert, with cactus and yucca. Do the out-and-back hike for 16 miles, or just hike to the viewpoint for a respectable 9.5-miler.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 16 miles, Hard
The Desert Queen Mine hike is a cool one; you can actually touch and explore the ruins of a mine that dates back to the 1890s and has a rich story involving cattle rustlers and gunfights of the Old West. And of course, you can enjoy all the natural beauty of Joshua Tree at the same time. If you’re feeling adventurous, I highly recommend the optional extended hike to Eagle Cliff Mine, a remote mine and rock cabin perched above a beautiful overlook.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 1.8 miles, Easy
The Split Rock Trail in Joshua Tree is one of those hikes that packs a lot of scenery into a small package. The hike is just over 2 miles with minor ups and downs, and offers a mini “best-of” scenery tour, with some of the best rock viewing including Face Rock. And unlike the roadside attractions like Jumbo Rock, a small effort to do this hike will mean that you leave the crowds behind. The Split Rock Loop Trail is one of my favorite short hikes here in Joshua Tree. It’s easy, great for beginners, and a feast for the eyes.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 2.5 miles, Easy
This hike on the 49 Palms Oasis Trail takes you to a pristine fan palm oasis, tucked into a hidden desert valley. The trail to 49 Palms Oasis is well-maintained and easy to follow, and along the way, you’ll enjoy some great views as you climb the ridge on the way to the oasis. After 1.5 miles, you reach the grove of towering fan palms, fed by a cool spring that is a favorite watering hole for bighorn sheep. 49 Palms Oasis is a perfect place for a snack and rest as you take in the spectacular scenery.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 3 miles, Moderate
The hike to Willow Hole in Joshua Tree takes you through quintessential desert scenery to a hidden willow grove that has its own microclimate. Willow Hole, a seasonal water source protected by a thicket of Willow trees, is nestled in a small canyon in the Wonderland of Rocks. The hike starts tame, making its way through some popular climbing areas, then it begins to feel like a real adventure, snaking through washes and canyons until you reach Willow Hole. And although the hike is 7 miles, it’s relatively flat and doable by most hikers.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 7 miles, Moderate
The Lost Horse Mine Trail hike offers not only a peaceful trip to a neat mine that’s over 100 years old but also a great deal of natural beauty and diversity. Hiking to just Lost Horse Mine is only 2 miles (4 out and back), but I highly recommend hiking the full Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, which offers expansive views and over Joshua Tree National Park, more ruins, groves of robust Joshua Trees, and quiet. Either way, you do it, it’s a fun adventure.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 7 miles, Moderate
The Ryan Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree for a good reason. Ryan Mountain, at 5,457 feet, right in the middle of Joshua Tree, offers panoramic views as far as the eye can see. On a clear day you’ll be able to see the massive peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, the highest point in Southern California. The actual trail is straightforward but tough, climbing 1,050 feet to the summit of Ryan Mountain. It’s a must-do hike in Joshua Tree, so give it a try!
Twentynine Palms, CA - 3 miles, Moderate
Hiking the Lost Palms Oasis Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a unique experience. The trail is in the southern part of the park, which has more of a Sonoran Desert feel than the majority of hikes in the northern part of the park. You won’t see any Joshua Trees on the Lost Palms Oasis Trail, but you will see the park’s largest grove of California fan palm trees, tucked into a hidden canyon. There are no big climbs as you make your way over the ridges and washes through the desert. It’s a fun desert hike that’s worth your time.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 7.4 miles, Moderate
A hike on the Mastodon Peak Trail loop is a fun way to explore the rugged southern part of Joshua Tree National Park without a huge effort. You’ll hike on sandy trails that are more Sonoran than most trails in Joshua Tree, then hike up stairs carved in the stone to the base of Mastodon Peak. It’s an easy scramble to the top of Mastodon Peak where you are treated to panoramic views of the desert and mountains. After that, the hike passes the abandoned Mastodon Mine on a long easy downhill back to the finish.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 2.6 miles, Moderate