Hike Willow Hole

Hike Willow Hole (Joshua Tree)

In This Guide
  • Willow Hole Trail Hike Directions & Video
  • How to Get to the Willow Hole Hike in Joshua Tree
  • Everything You Need to Know to Plan the Hike
Distance7 miles (11.3 km)
Hike Time3-4 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)320 feet (98m)
Highest Elevation4,150 feet (1265m)
Fees & PermitsPark Entry Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park Website (?)Joshua Tree National Park
Park Phone760-367-5500
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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.

Getting to the Willow Hole Trail

The hike to Willow Hole starts at the popular Boy Scout Trail parking lot, close to Joshua Tree’s west entrance on Park Blvd. Use this trailhead address:
Boy Scout Trail, 64568 Park Blvd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Willow Hole Trail 2
Three’s a good amount of parking at the Boy Scout Trail trailhead, but it can fill up.
Willow Hole Trail 3
There are primitive toilets by the trailhead.

Gear for the Hike

This is a moderately long (7 mile) desert hike, so I recommend having proper hiking gear if you have it available. Hiking boots with a cuff will keep the sand and debris out of your feet. There is no shade, so 2L of water and some sun protection make the most sense. And like most of Joshua Tree National Park, there is no/low phone reception, so having a satellite communicator is a safe bet.

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La Sportiva Spire

I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Osprey Talon

On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.

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.

Willow Hole Trail Maps

Overall the hike is well-marked and relatively easy to follow. You do go through a popular rock climbing area, and you will see many small use trails off the main trail leading to climbing spots. Most of these side trails have markers but some don’t. Stay on the larger, well-worn trail if you see a small use trail to the side.

Willow Hole Trail 28
Here’s an example of a marker for a side trail used for climbing. These trails are NOT the ones you use to get to Willow Hole.
Click To View Map

Hike Willow Hole (Joshua Tree) 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.

Elevation Profile

Willow Hole Trail Elevation
The trail is relatively flat and there’s some exaggeration in this one-way elevation profile, but it does give you an idea of the overall scheme of things. You have a gradual (and gentle) upslope until you reach the Wonderland of Rocks, then you head downhill to Willow Hole.

Hike Landmarks

Start Willow Hole Trail1.34130
Start of Wonderland of Rocks2.34130
Narrow Canyon3.24050
Start of Willow Grove3.44050
Willow Hole3.54050

3D Map

Willow Hole Trail 3d Map
The first half of the hike heads right across the desert, and the latter part of the hike makes its way through the washes and canyons in the Wonderland of Rocks.

Willow Hole Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Directions

Willow Hole Trail 5
There are many small use trails around the parking lot. You want to the main trailhead of the Boy Scout Trail, called Keys West, that is right next to the toilet.
Willow Hole Trail 4
Head past the hiker board to start the hike. You don’t need to fill out the permit forms, they are only for overnighters.
Willow Hole Trail 6
Soon after leaving the parking area there’s a trail sign confirming that you’re in the right place.
Willow Hole Trail 7
As you hike you’ll have great views of San Gorgonio,,the highest point in Southern California, to your left.
Willow Hole Trail 8
Avoid all the climbing access trails and continue on the main Boy Scout Trail.
Willow Hole Trail 1
At the junction with the Willow Hole Trail, make the right towards Willow Hole, leaving the Boy Scout Trail.
Willow Hole Trail 9
Here’s a closeup of the sign at that last trail junction.
Willow Hole Trail 10
To your right you’ll see some of the granite that has made Joshua Tree popular with climbers. This granite was pushed up from under the earth by action on the San Andreas Fault. Then thousands of years of erosion smoothed the edges of the rock, giving the granite at Joshua Tree that famous “melted ice cube” look. Keep your eyes out for climbers as you hike through all the rock formations. It can be fun to watch them make there way up the rock face.
Willow Hole Trail 11
This section of the Willow Hole Trail is mellow and has some nice Joshua Trees that you can get up close with.
Willow Hole Trail 12
And like before, there are climbing access trails to the side. Stay on the main trail.
Willow Hole Trail 13
Soon the landscape changes dramatically and you’ll enter the Wonderland of Rocks. There is more vegetation here because the plants extend their roots into the rock crevices where water pools.
Willow Hole Trail 14
Most of the trail from here follows washes. Look for rocks that block the side trails and lead the way for the main Willow Hole Trail.
Willow Hole Trail 15
Soon you’ll see a wall of granite in front of you and the trail gently bends downhill to the right.
Willow Hole Trail 16
Make your way down along the washes. Sometimes they are wide and obvious; and at other times you make your way around rocks and boulders.
Willow Hole Trail 17
You’ll also have some small rock piles, or cairns, to confirm where the trail is.
Willow Hole Trail 18
Eventually you’ll go through a narrow slot canyon with boulders.
Willow Hole Trail 19
Continue to follow the wash down as it goes through narrow and wide sections.
Willow Hole Trail 20
There’s a great piece of granite on this stretch that has a sad gorilla face.
Willow Hole Trail 21
The wide wash funnels into a thicket of vegetation. Take the narrow trail through the trees.
Willow Hole Trail 22
And you’ll come out in the hidden area where Willow Hole is. Continue straight and then up to the left.

The water at Willow Hole attracts lots of wildlife. Keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep and birds.

Willow Hole Trail 23
The water here is seasonal, but is usually found in bogs and puddles like this. Sometimes the entire area is like pond. Other times it’s totally dry.
Willow Hole Trail 24
Cross over the logs to the left of the area.
Willow Hole Trail 25
And take the small trail around the side of the granite.
Willow Hole Trail 26
And finally you reach the actual Willow Hole.
Willow Hole Trail 27
If you climb to the back of Willow Hole, there are some nice views to the East.

And that’s the hike! From here, just return the way you came.

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