9 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree for All Levels (+ Map and Tips)

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Joshua Tree National Park is one of the rarest destinations in the United States. Its otherworldly landscapes will leave visitors puzzled and mesmerized at the same time.

This is a guide to the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Hiking in Joshua Tree is one of the best activities and it truly is one of the best national parks to visit in December or January when the weather is cooler and more comfortable.

If you have any favorite Joshua Tree trails that you recommend and we didn’t cover, please leave a comment! In addition, if you have any tips for hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, let us know!

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If you are visiting Joshua Tree National Park, or any of the other 2,000 federal registered sites in the US, we highly, highly recommend
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>> Purchase your National Parks Pass here and start traveling!

If you have a favorite trail in Joshua Tree National Park or have any tips to share with those venturing there for some nature therapy, please leave a comment below!

What to Know Before Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park

There are many things to know before you partake in the hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Click here to see a full list of what the park recommends bringing with you.

Joshua Tree National Park is the closest national park to LA when it comes to travel time. The park is known for being one of the best rock climbing spots but it is also a prime hiking spot during many times of the year.

If you’re visiting the national park in January, February, or any of the cooler months, it transitions into a star-gazing paradise. It is also the best time to do a little wilderness camping.

This guide details the best hikes in Joshua Tree for all levels. We have them broken down into easy, moderate, and difficult hikes.

Best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Many of the ‘difficult’ hikes are on the verge of being moderate but the unique landscapes can present challenges that not many hikers are used to.

One thing to note- do not climb the Joshua Trees!

Quick Facts about Joshua Tree NP

Location: California
Size: 790,636 acres
Annual Visitors: 2,942,382 (2018)
Established: October 31, 1994
Closest city: Twentynine Palms
Joshua Tree National Park Highlights: hiking trails, rock climbing, stargazing, Mojave Desert & Colorado Desert

Best Time to Go Hiking in Joshua Tree

You can hike in Joshua Tree any time of the year, but the best season to comfortably do it is during the spring or fall.

The average high then is about 85F and the low is around 50F. Winter can be much cooler at 60F, which makes it still comfortable for hiking (however, the evenings and nights can get below freezing).

Summer is hot in Joshua Tree and temperatures are often above 100F.  If you’re taking a California to Arizona road trip, this is a great stop along the way to stretch your legs and embark on an easier trail.

One perk of visiting Joshua Tree during the low-season, however, is that lodging is much cheaper.  You will find hotels and Airbnbs in Joshua Tree far more available and at cheaper prices.

Joshua tree national park

The spring blooms vary year after year depending on how the winter went. They usually begin in February for the lower-elevations and peak at around March or April. However, it is not uncommon for the cacti to bloom all the way into June.

Map of Best Trails in Joshua Tree NP

To add this map to your Google Maps account, click the ‘Star’ icon next to the map name. You can then view it on your cell phone or computer by heading to your Google Maps account, click the menu and add it to ‘Your Places’.

Best Easy Hikes in Joshua Tree

There are so many easy hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.  We have omitted the famous Arch Rock Trail on this guide to include some of the other trails, but if you’re wanting to complete that 1.2-mile, out and back hike, you will need to start at the Twin Tanks Day Use Area and follow the signs there.

Cholla Cactus Garden

Distance: 0.2 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 6 feet

Cholla Cactus Garden Trail
Cholla Cactus Garden Trail

The Cholla Cactus Garden Trail is hardly a hike but more of a stroll. With little to no incline, this 0.2-mile trail is fantastic for pretty much any person.

It is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree for beginners and those wanting to see a lot of Cholla cacti in one place! It illuminates early in the moring at sunrise and has a special glow that makes visitors enjoy their short time there.

Great for cacti photography and a quick nature walk.

Barker Dam Loop

Distance: 1.3 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 62 feet

Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park
Barker Dam

Barker Dam Nature Trail is one of the best trails in Joshua Tree for beginner hikers. It is heavily-trafficked and only 1.3-miles long. It features a lake and is great for hiking, walking, and birdwatching.

This hike tends to be the most popular hike in Joshua Tree, so do be prepared to see many people along the way. If you venture there in a time of the year where rain is frequent, you will be greeted with a full lake and the perfect spot to picnic.

If you’re traveling with children, this is a great Joshua Tree trail for kids! You can complete the entire loop within forty-five minutes and that is with a few photo stops.

Hidden Valley

Distance: 1 mile
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 114 feet

hidden valley trail in joshua tree national park
Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree NP

One great thing about hiking in Joshua Tree is that you will find so many trails that any level of a hiker can manage. Hidden Valley Nature Trail is one of the best.

This 1-mile, heavily-trafficked loop trail is located near Twentynine Palms and is renowned for its accessibility and beautiful wildflowers.

It is always said that if you only have time for one quick hike in Joshua Tree, pick this trail! The loop trail is encircled on all sides by beautiful golden rocks and used to be an area where 19th-century cattle rustlers would hide their cattle.

You will also notice many rock climbing opportunities along this trail. There is occasional shading but do bring water with you!

Moderate to Difficult Joshua Tree Hiking Trails

Mastodon Peak

Distance: 2.6 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 406 feet

View from Mastodon Peak in Joshua Tree National Park
View from Mastodon Peak

The Mastodon Peak Loop Trail is an easy to moderate hike and is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.

The heavily-trafficked trail is located near Mecca, CA and is typically trekked on from April until October and is also a favorite for birdwatchers and campers.

The hike is relatively easy and you will get to see many desert plants and wildlife. If the skies are clear, you may get a chance to see the Salton Sea from the trail. There is also an old mine on the trail that you’ll be able to see (but not visit!).

This trail can be a bit hard to navigate at times if it is not crowded so be sure to download an offline map for the journey.

Pine City

Distance: 4.1 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 170 feet

Pine City trail in Joshua Tree National Park
Pine City Trail

The Pine City Trail in Joshua Tree is a fantastic, moderately-trafficked trail that has several activities and is located near Twentynine Palms.

The 4.1-mile hike in Joshua Tree National Park is a very chilled out hike and has no real incline, making it a great hike for all levels but it is still classified as moderate.

There is a point on the hike where a sign will indicate that the trail remains unmantained past a certain point. You will need to climb on rocks a bit (for around ten minutes) and you will be rewarded with an epic panoramic view at the top.

This trail is completely unshaded so you will need to dress accordingly and start off early.

Lost Horse Mine

Distance: 4 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 515 feet

Lost Horse Gold and Silver Mine Platform and Rust Colored Industrial Machine Equipment in Joshua Tree National Park
Lost Horse Mine

Joshua Tree National Park has so many fantastic hiking trails and the Lost Horse Mine Trail is 4 miles of amazing views and gorgeous wildflowers.

The Joshua Tree hike is an out and back located near Twentynine Palms and is accessible year-round.

It will take you past an abandoned mine and is truly a unique site! It is advised to start this hike early as there is very little shade along the way.

While it is classified as moderate, it tends to be a bit easier than other moderate hikes in Joshua Tree NP. The hike will take around 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete and it is essential to bring plenty of water!

You will also have a great chance of seeing lizards, chipmunks, snakes, and birds along the way.

Ryan Mountain

Distance: 3 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 1,069 feet

Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
View from Ryan Mountain

Located near Twentynine Palms, California, the Ryan Mountain Trail is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree. It is classified as a moderate trail and is renowned for its beautiful wildflowers along the way.

It is best accessed from January to May and offers very little shade. It is known for getting incredibly hot so try to head there early in the morning or later in the evening. It is known for offering spectacular sunset views.

Bring a lot of water and give yourself time to enjoy the trail at the top where you will be gifted with 360-degree views over the California desert.

Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes when there.

Lost Palms Oasis

Distance: 7.2 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 1,026 feet

Lost Palms Oasis Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
Lost Palms Oasis Trail

The Lost Palms Oasis trail is a favorite trail in Joshua Tree National Park and the out and back trail is lcoated near Mecca, CA. It is classified as moderately difficult.

The best time to access the trail is from October until April and it provides no shade- so be sure to pack accordingly!

Lost Palms Oasis Trail is located on the southern side of Joshua Tree and while you won’t find many Joshua Trees there, you will enjoy seeing the many palms surrounding the oasis!

This trail takes you to an oasis at about 3.5 miles in. It is easy to get lost on this hike as it is poorly marked and you can get disoriented easily if hiking at Joshua Tree when the heat is extreme.

Many hikers report that the hike is a bit lackluster until the end when you come upon the oasis. Bring a lot of water!

Willow Hole

Distance: 6.8 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 246 feet

Wonderland of Rocks along Willow Hole Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
Wonderland of Rocks on the Willow Hole Trail in Joshua Tree

Willow Hole is a popular hike in Joshua Tree that is considered moderately difficult. The out and back trail is known for its wildflowers and copious number of activities while it is open during the entire year.

This hike takes you through the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree and the trail is not all that well-marked once you reach Willow Hole.

It is essential to download a good offline map in order to hike Willow Hole.

You will see a vast amount of vegetation on this Joshua Tree trail – everything from pinyon pines to California junipers to Muellers Oak. You will also witness several birds and other wildlife along the way, such as bighorn sheep.

If you plan to wild camp in Joshua Tree, you will need to obtain permission by registering at one of the park’s backcountry boards beforehand. You can not camp along this trail, however, and it is only open to day hikers.

What to Pack and Wear

Here are some essentials that you should pack for a day of hiking at Joshua Tree National Park:

Hiking boots: I swear by my Keen Targhee hiking boots and they are an excellent choice for traipsing the wild trails at Joshua Tree National Park. Click here to see the Keen hiking boots I use.

Reusable water jug: Water is so essential if you’re on one of the hikes in Joshua Tree and you definitely need to remain hydrated. I always tote along a Klean Kanteen water jug with me for the journey.

Sunscreen: Lather on up as many of the Joshua Tree hikes have no shelter from the sun! The California desert sun is ruthless and you definitely need to put sunscreen on before your hike!

Joshua Tree National Park in Hidden valley

Light-colored clothing with long pants: Make sure you wear something that is light-colored and preferably, long, that covers your body from head to toe. Even though it is hot, you need to protect yourself from the sun and insects in the California desert.

Park map: I recommend downloading an offline map from Alltrails before taking to the hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. Better safe than sorry!

We hope that this guide to the best hikes in Joshua Tree entices you to spend a day or two there enjoying the nature, trails, and views over the park that you’ll find on some of the aforementioned hikes.

Make sure you pack lots of water and wear appropriate clothing!  You’re in for a fantastic Joshua Tree hiking trip!

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If you're looking for the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, this guide has you covered. These are the 9 best Joshua Tree trails for all levels of hikers! Visit California national parks | Places to visit in California | California hikes | Joshua Tree hiking | Joshua Tree Views | Things to do in Joshua Tree | Mojave Desert | Colorado Desert | Trails in Joshua Tree | Hiking in Joshua Tree | Joshua Tree hiking trails

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