Hike Indian Loop Trail at Pioneertown Mountains Preserve
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||8 miles (12.9 km)|
|Hike Time||3-4 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,460 feet (445m)|
|Highest Elevation||5,541 feet (1689m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Pioneertown Mountains Preserve|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
Pioneertown Mountains Preserve sits strategically between the high mountains and desert. It’s a unique and varied landscape, and the Indian Loop Trail takes you on a tour of everything it has to offer. You’ll climb to the 5,541-foot Chaparrosa Peak, wind through the foothills with views to the high peaks of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, and then descend through Pipes Canyon, along a critical watershed bringing life to the desert.
Where is the Pioneertown Mountains Preserve?
Pioneertown Mountains Preserve is just northwest of Joshua Tree National Park, and a few miles past the main drag of Pioneertown. Use this trailhead address:
51010 Pipes Canyon Road, Pioneertown, CA 92268
Entry is free and donations are appreciated.
You might see Pioneertown Mountains Preserve listed as Pipes Canyon Preserve. That was the original name here.
Gear For the Hike
This is a proper desert hike and you should be prepared accordingly. Bring enough water – 2L is smart for most conditions. In the summer it can get brutally hot here and you’ll probably want to time your hike for the cooler hours of the day.
Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated May 2022.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Indian Loop Trail Maps
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
- The area around the Indian Loop Trail was 90% destroyed by the Sawtooth Complex Fire, started by lightning and spread rapidly by very dry conditions. Before the fire the preserve was full of Joshua Trees, old-growth California Juniper, and pinyon pines, some over 1,000 years old. The area has recovered from the fire, but it’s believed that many of the species once found here won’t reappear because of climate change.
- The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC) got its start here. Originally this land was home to a car dealership, and when it went out of business, the area became a haven for trouble. Poachers hunted illegally, automatic weapons were shot, ATVs ripped up and down Pipes Canyon, and drug use was pervasive. Two local brothers, fed up with land being ruined, put an ad in the LA Times for “to conservation-minded buyers only,” and from there the Conservancy got its start. Today TWC owns and operates California’s largest nonprofit nature preserve system, and Pioneertown Mountains Preserve is the largest nonprofit-owned wilderness in California. This private entity relies on donations to protect land, so please consider giving a little something.
- Before recent climate changes, Pipe Wash (creek) flowed regularly and fully. At the end of the canyon, close to the parking area, you could find a large pond fed by the creek, known to the locals as Yucca Beach. Today the creek doesn’t provide enough flow for the natural pond.
- Pipes Canyon Road used to extend past the visitors center and connected with the mountains by Big Bear. The route was popular way with Native peoples, and then with pioneers, and in modern times became the 29 Palms National Historic Trail. When the TWC purchased the land, they removed the road, and locals started a campaign to reopen it. The locals lost the fight, and today as you hike in the canyon, you would never know that cars once drove through the wilderness here.
- The Sand to Snow National Monument was inspired by the TWC’s efforts to provide wilderness corridors between the mountains and the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. And although Pioneertown Mountains Preserve is not officially part of the monument because it’s privately owned, it borders the Monument and is effectively part of it. Sand to Snow is the most biodiverse of all the monuments in the United States.
XX Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Chaparro (Chapparal) is Spanish for “Scrub Oak” and the suffix of “osa” implies that the peak was dense with scrub.
Who was Olsen? Actually it’s John Olson, and he was a Swede who lived here from the 1920s, mining onyx. He was tragically murdered in 1945 by an Army deserter who he took in. There’s a quaint description of life at the cabin in this old article.
This guide last updated on February 21, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.