Hike Split Rock Joshua Tree Loop Trail

Hike Split Rock (Joshua Tree) Loop Trail

In This Guide
  • Video and turn by turn directions for the Split Rock Loop Trail
  • How to Get to Split Rock in Joshua Tree
  • Everything You Need to Know Before the Hike
Distance2.5 miles (4 km)
Hike Time1-2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)360 feet (110m)
Highest Elevation4,370 feet (1332m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Joshua Tree National Park
Park Phone760-367-5500
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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.

How to Get to the Split Rock Trail

There is a marked turn off from the main Park Blvd pointing to the Split Rock Trailhead. Once you leave Park Blvd the road turns to dirt, but it’s fine for regular cars. Use this trailhead address:
Split Rock Loop Trail, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

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There’s a medium-sized parking lot at the trailhead along with a primitive toilet. During busy times the lot gets full.

Gear for the Hike

This is a short, relatively easy hike, and you can get away with fitness or casual clothes here. If you have the option, light hiking gear will be your best bet. Hiking boots with cuffs will help keep the sand and debris away from your feet. Bring at least 1L of water, especially if it’s hot outside.

FYIBig Annual REI Co-Op Sale On Now + Free Shipping on Everything

La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Opsrey Stratos Blue

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
Reviews & Colors Here: Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) 

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated March 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

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 offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Split Rock Loop Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Hike Split Rock (Joshua Tree) Loop Trail Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

Split Rock Loop Trail Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

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Start the hike at the far end of the parking lot, just to the left of Split Rock.
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There’s a trail sign for the Split Rock Loop Trail at the start. The trail is best hiked in this direction (counter-clockwise). The signs and trail hints are oriented to hikers doing it this way.
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Go around the left side of Split Rock.
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And you are rewarded with a cave shelter, used by thousands of years by native peoples. You can even see the fire stains on the ceiling. Unfortunately idiots have put graffiti in here too.
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From Split Rock, continue on the well-marked path through the big boulders.
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If you look back from that last boulder, you’ll be able to clearly see the “split” in Split Rock. It’s also a good photo op.
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After that, you’ll go across some granite before the trail turns to sand again.
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Turn right at these boulders. You can also see the small sign pointing you in the right direction.
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After that, the trail becomes more of a trail again. And you have another small sign letting you know that you’re in the right place.

If wildflowers are in bloom, check out this guide to flowers on the Split Rock Trail from Joshua Tree National Park to identify them.

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After that last sign you have the only real “climb” on the hike, a gentle uphill to the ridge.
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And then down through a wash and up some stairs.
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And then though another great boulder field. The trail is well marked with rocks.
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Continue on to the next series of boulders.
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And again, walk over some granite sections of the trail.
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At this part of the hike, up to your left, you’ll be able to see the mummy face rock. Lots of rock faces on this hike. Lots of great places for photos.
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When you come to this junction, we’re going to make the right to do the short side trail to Face Rock, which only adds about 10-15 minutes onto the loop. When we’re done at Face Rock, we’re going to come back here and continue straight on the loop trail.
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The trail follows a wash that has narrow and wide parts.
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When the wash widens out there’s an old water basin on your left, likely the remnant of an old mine. There have been almost 300 mines in Joshua Tree. Some mines you can still see the remains of, while for others, like this one, only a small fragment remains.
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Here it is, Face Rock. Soak it in and then head back to the trail junction where we made the right turn.
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At the intersection, make the right to continue back on the Split Rock Loop Trail.
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The trail continues to another series of boulders and is easy to follow.
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You’ll pass through this little grove of trees, one of the only places with shade on the hike.
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Keep your eyes peeled as you pass the large boulder fields. This is a popular climbing spot.
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Continue on the trail past the rock climbing areas.
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One last rock face before the end of the hike, the sleeping turtle.
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And soon after that you’ll come back to the side of the parking lot, ending the loop hike.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.