Best Hiking Trails in Joshua Tree National Park


Since we’re in the desert, the hiking here is beautiful and otherworldly, and unlike any other hiking you’re likely to experience. With that comes its own set of challenges and experiences. Before we get started on the best places to hike around Joshua Tree, let’s cover a few pro tips. 

Top Tips for Hiking Joshua Tree

  • With very little water in the park, you will need to bring plenty of water, food, and pack out what you pack in. Did we mention bring ing water?
  • Don’t underestimate the possibility of dehydration, especially in the warmer months. The National Park Service recommends bringing two gallons per person, per day. So if you plan on doing a ½ day hike/visit, bring one gallon per person.
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, as most trails have little to no shade.
  • Many of the more accessible trails are family - friendly and don’t’ need special hiking gear. Regardless, wear comfortable trainers or hiking boots, especially if you plan to tackle moderate hikes. DO NOT wear flip flops. You’ll regret it.
  • When hiking in the early morning or late evening, wear layers as it will get cooler in the early mornings and after the sun sinks low. Doing this during the summer months is a smart idea.
  • Unlike many nation al parks, there is NO cell service or internet service. Download trail maps beforehand, use GPS, or get a free map in the visitor center.
  • Some of the more popular and shorter hikes can get crowded with tourists. Come early in the morning or late evening to beat the crowds. The park is open 24 hours, so you can come anytime. Just be sure to pack headlamps, flashlights, etc. when hiking at night.

Best Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

Barker Dam Trail. Take a stroll through history with this easy 1.5-mile trail. It is mostly shaded and winds through giant rock formations. This is a great hike for kids because they get to scramble over rocks (it’s not too difficult). If you’re looking for great photo opportunities, this trail is it. About half-way along the trail, Barker Dam comes into view. The last stretch of the trail offers no shade, but you do pass by hundreds of Joshua trees, with petroglyphs inside a wind-carved rock towards the end.

Hidden Valley Trail. An easy hike for multi-generational groups, this mile-long trail was once popular with cattle rustlers hoping to hide their plunder. It takes you through a large valley surrounded by giant boulders and other rock formations, with various trees and cacti along the way. The unique microclimate of this area sees plants found no where else in the park. Plaques along the route will explain the flora and fauna.

Ryan Mountain Trail. Located in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park, this hike is relatively short at only 1.5 miles but is rated as strenuous, which guarantees a good workout and gorgeous views. You’ll see a wide variety of plant life along with a 360-degree view of Joshua Tree at the top. It’s a great sunset hike! If you do hike for the sunset, be sure to bring a headlamp for the descent.

Warren Peak Trail. This is one of the lesser-known trails and is moderate to difficult. Instead of Joshua Trees, you’ll see mostly pinyon, oak, and juniper trees. You’ll also pass Black Rock Spring; an important source of water for wildlife. The trail is 6 miles long and considered moderate until you get to the last stretch which is quite steep. This is where you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the park and the Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, and San Bernadino Mountains. There’s little shade on this trail, so come prepared with a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water.

49 Palms Oasis Trail. For a bit of a challenge, this trail starts out steep and you’ll be scrambling over boulders in the sun, but once you reach the ridge, you’ll begin a long descent into an oasis of a cool, palm-tree packed valley, with giant boulders perfect for lounging and getting some energy with a snack for the journey back. Barrel cacti surround this area while lizards can be found basking under the sun’s rays.