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Hike Indian Loop Trail At Pioneertown Mountains Preserve
Joshua Tree Hikes

Hike Indian Loop Trail at Pioneertown Mountains Preserve

  • 8 miles - Moderate Effort
  • 3-4 Hours (Total)
  • 1,460 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 5,541 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

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.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions
  • Parking for the Indian Loop Trail
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

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

Pioneertown
Pioneertown is an "old west" town built in 1946 to be a set for movies and television. Hundreds of productions used the buildings here. Today it's a tourist attraction and is still used as a set. On the day I created this guide, I saw a music video being shot here. Photo Wikipedia
Pioneertown Mountains Indian Loop Directions 3
Pipes Canyon Road is sand and doable by all vehicles.
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Stay on the sand road until you reach the main parking area for the preserve.

Entry is free and donations are appreciated.

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You can park in the first lot on the left.
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If you need restrooms or water, continue to the end of the parking lot where the main building is.
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There's also a trail board at the end where you can pick up a map and make a donation.

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.

Gear 2022 8

I waste my time with lousy hiking gear so you don't have to. Only the winners get onto my gear page. There's no fluff, sponsorships, or promotions. It's just gear I personally use, have tested, and recommend. Right now I'm liking my inReach Mini 2, Garmin Epix, and Lone Peak 6 shoes.
.
My November 2022 Top Gear Picks

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Indian Loop Trail Maps

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The trail is well marked throughout the loop with markers like this.
Click Here To View

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Guides to Help You Navigate

Elevation Profile

Hike Indian Loop Trail At Pioneertown Mountains Preserve Elevation
There's a gentle climb up to Chaparrosa Peak, then a rolling middle section, and then a nice long and gradual descent down Pipes Canyon.

3D Map

Hike Indian Loop Trail At Pioneertown Mountains Preserve 3d Map
We'll tackle the Indian Loop Trail clockwise in this guide, first hiking up to Chaparrosa Peak, and then continuing back down to the start through Pipes Canyon.

Hike Brief

La Times Sawtooth Fire
Before the Sawtooth Complex Fire in 2006, the area you are hiking through looked much different, with Joshua Trees and pines.

XX Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

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Go up the road and to the left from the first parking area. We're going to start on the Chaparrosa Trail.
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Hike up to the upper parking lot after the turn.
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Go to the end of the parking lot on the left.
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And look for the trailhead through the fence.
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Sign the register before you head on the trail.
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And then you'll see the big sign announcing the official start of the Chaparrosa Trail.
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The trail is easy to follow as it rolls in and out of washes, and there are a good amount of trail markers.
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Off to your left are the dramatic Sawtooths.
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The trail starts to follow the wash uphill.
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You'll pass a blocked off junction, which was the older routing of this trail.
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Keep following the trail markers up the wash.
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And then you start climbing up switchbacks.
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You'll start to get views into the San Gorgonio Wilderness's lower peaks. The three peaks in the distance are the Three Sisters Peaks, about 7600 or so feet high.
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At around 1.5 miles you reach a ridge.
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To the south are the high peaks in Joshua Tree National Park.
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And you'll pass the junction with the closed part of the trail we saw earlier.
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If you look back to the east as climb, you can see Flat Top Mesa.
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And in the distance beyond that is Granite Peak in Mojave National Preserve.
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And you get more great views of the Sawtooths as you climb.
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In front of you the higher mountains toward Big Bear come into view. The highest peak on the right is Onyx Peak, which you can hike up.
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Now the trail flattens out and you have a stretch through the desert scrub.
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And at about 2.3 miles in you hit the junction to the Chaparrosa Peak Spur. Make the left to continue up to the peak.
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The trail is a little more primitive, but is easy to follow, again going in and out of washes as it climbs.
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When you hit the ridge you'll see Chaparrosa Peak in front of you.
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And here you are at the summit of Chaparrosa Peak, with the peaks around Big Bear in front of you.

Chaparro (Chapparal) is Spanish for "Scrub Oak" and the suffix of "osa" implies that the peak was dense with scrub.

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There's a survey benchmark at the summit, placed here in 1939.
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And you can see south to San Jacinto.
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And east to Onyx Peak.
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When you're done, head back down to the last junction, enjoying the views into the Sawtooths.
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And then make the left, back onto the loop.
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Now we're on the Indian Springs Trail, which rolls up and down for the next mile or so, offering views along the way.
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And then at about 5 miles in, the trail turns east into a steep canyon.
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You'll descend through the steep upper reaches of the canyon.
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And you'll still have the trail markers to help along the way.
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When the narrow canyon joins the big wash, make the right to start the Pipes Canyon Trail.
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From here to the end we have a nice cruise down Pipes Canyon.
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As you approach the creek (Pipes Wash), the area becomes lush with vegetation, most of which has appeared since the Sawtooth Fire in 2006.
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It's fun to walk through the tunnels when the vegetation gets dense.
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You'll cross Pipes Wash several times on the way back.
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At around 6 miles in you'll reach a short spur to the Olsen Ruins.
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You can explore the ruins of the Olsen ruins. The structures were built in 1938.

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.

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Continue down the wash from the cabin. There are trail markers along the way too.
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As you continue, the wash gets wider.
Pioneertown Petroglyph
There's even a small viewing area for petroglyphs, keep your eyes open to the left for a small loop off the main trail.
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And then you reach the gate at the visitor center area. Go through gate and continue straight.
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And then you reach the end of the Pipes Canyon Trail. That's the hike!

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).

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