Planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park in California? Use this guide to help you make the most of your time in the park with these top Joshua Tree hikes.
Joshua Tree National Park is a very unique and beautiful place to visit. It’s only a few hours from Los Angeles and basically in Palm Springs’ backyard. You’ll find the normal desert landscape such as cacti and boulders but you will also be treated to mountain views (sometimes even snow-capped!).
There are plenty of hikes to choose from in Joshua Tree but we’ve narrowed it down to our favorite three for those of you who only have a limited time to explore. You could even tackle all of these in one weekend. If you are looking for more, don’t’ worry, we’ve also outlined our entire three-day itinerary which includes even more hikes!
A few tips before you start hiking in Joshua Tree National Park:
- Drones are NOT allowed
- It is a desert so it gets HOT. Make sure you pack plenty of water and then pack a little extra. 😉
- Do NOT climb on the Joshua Trees
- Keep Wildlife Wild. Do NOT feed wildlife, no matter how cute the animal is and store all food items so animals cannot reach it
- Animals, such as desert tortoises, seek shelter from the sun underneath parked cars. A quick check can save a life!
- The only time when it’s okay to touch a tortoise is to remove them from the road. Move them slow, low, and in the direction they are already going. (source: https://twitter.com/JoshuaTreeNPS)
- Follow all Leave No Trace principles
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TOP 3 HIKES IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
1. Panorama Loop & Warren Peak (7.6 miles | 1,540 ft elevation gain)
Instead of only hiking to Warren Peak, we decided to do Paranorama Loop with a side trip up Warren Peak. The Panorama Loop trail is pretty gradual but there are some steeper sections. The views are gorgeous and the trail itself lends to a very interesting landscape.
The side trip up Warren Peak is steep but short. You’ll make your way up to a large pile of rocks and have even more beautiful views to take in at the top.
This is a loop hike that starts at Black Rock Campground in Yucca Valley, California.
2. Ryan Mountain (3 miles | 1,000 ft elevation gain)
Ryan Mountain is a 3-mile roundtrip out-and-back hike to a summit. This hike is definitely more challenging than some of the others in the park. You will climb a little over 1,000 feet in just a mile and a half so it is a steep and relentless climb to the top but the view is AMAZING! You definitely need to have Ryan Mountain on your list.
Start on this one early before it gets too hot outside as there are not many places for shade and the trail can get crowded.
3. Eagle Cliff Mine (2.6 miles | 450 ft elevation gain)
You will not find this out-and-back Eagle Cliff Mine hike on the pamphlet that you get from the park and it’s not well maintained. However, you do start out on a “groomed” trail but it doesn’t stay that way for long. At times the trail is hard to follow so make sure you have a compass and a map downloaded (here is a link to AllTrails where you can download a map).
After you leave the groomed trail you will be climbing straight up boulders in order to reach the mine. Follow the cairns up the mountain but do not build your own cairns. You will be very close to some cacti and plants so be careful where you step and put your hand.
This trail is definitely worth the effort and we didn’t see anyone else on the trail! Do not attempt this trail unless you have the correct route, mapping, and supplies as it is very easy to get lost.
Do not touch or move anything that is in the mine.
This trail begins at the Split Rock Picnic Area.
Looking for more information on our exact Joshua Tree itinerary? Look no further! Below we go into more detail on where we stayed and what we ate in addition to the other hikes we did.
3-DAY ITINERARY FOR JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
We were in California because Scott had to work out there for a few days. After the tournament, we headed down to Joshua Tree. Our trip to California was to include one day in Joshua Tree National Park and two days at Channel Islands National Park. We were in Joshua Tree National Park and left for Los Angeles to stay at our Airbnb until it was time to board the boat to Channel Islands.
Once back in LA we received an email that the trips (boat rides) were canceled due to high winds. Bummer! We’ve been trying to go to Channel Islands for years and something always comes up. We had to come up with an alternate plan… and quickly! We discussed going to Death Valley National Park (too far and we’ve already been there), Yosemite National Park (too far and we’ve already been there), and/or Sequoia National Park but ended up deciding to drive back to where we came from – Joshua Tree!
- Panorama Loop & Warren Peak (7.6 miles | 1,540 ft elevation gain)
Panorama Loop and Warren Peak is a hike that Scott actually did when he was in Joshua Tree a few years ago (he was only there for one day) but we decided to include it in our trip so that I (Whitney) could also explore the trail.
After the hike, we drove up to explore Pioneertown and eat lunch at Pappy + Harriett’s.
This was when we drove back to Los Angeles thinking we would be headed to Channel Islands the next morning, instead, we drove all the way back to Joshua Tree!
- Boy Scout Trail to Willow Hole (7 miles | 230 ft elevation gain)
- Skull Rock
Once we got back to the park we decided to grab lunch to take in the park with so that we wouldn’t have to leave the park again. We decided on Subway (how original!). We did the Boy Scout Trail to Willow Hole first. This isn’t included in our top three because it wasn’t one of *our* favorites but it was very pretty. The Boy Scout Trail seemed to go on forever and was pretty flat so it got kind of boring (!!). 😉
After Willow Hole, we went and explored Skull Rock. We didn’t include Skull Rock because it wasn’t really a hike. Sure, you can walk around the rocks but you can also just get out of your car and see Skull Rock. Take a quick drive through Jumbo Rocks Campground – it’s awesome!
Jumbo Rocks Campground was full so we ended up camping at Ryan Campground (thankfully we were able to snag one of the open spots!). Once we claimed our spot we headed out to watch the sunset at Keys View.
- Barker Dam (1.6 miles | 38 ft elevation gain)
- Ryan Mountain (3 miles | 1,000 ft elevation gain)
- Eagle Cliff Mine (2.6 miles | 450 ft elevation gain)
We woke up and decided to knock out two of the hikes we thought would get busy throughout the day. We did Barker Dam first which is an easy but very beautiful hike then headed to Ryan Mountain. After Ryan Mountain (and lunch) we ended up on a random but really, really cool hike called Eagle Cliff Mine.
The only one from this day that isn’t included in our top 3 hikes for Joshua Tree is Barker Dam and that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the time! It’s a very pretty and different trail but it’s relatively easy and not very long so we didn’t include it in our top 3. Add it to your list if you have extra time one day!
We ate lunch at Mexican Street Tacos in Twentynine Palms and stopped at In-N-Out Burger on the way back to Los Angeles.
Looking for more hiking inspiration? Keep exploring:
- Our Workout Plans
- How to Get in Shape for Hiking
- What to Eat While Hiking
- Easy Hiking Snacks to Make for the Trail
- What to Wear Hiking in Warm Weather
- What to Wear Hiking in Cold Weather
- Hiking Etiquette 101
- Top 5 Tips for Visting National Parks
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Hike
- Our Trip Recaps
- 6 Tips for Outdoor Enthusiasts to Help Keep Invasive Pests from Spreading
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