Planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park and not sure what to do? Start here! I’ve got the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park lined up for you here to get the best taste of what the park has to offer.
During our 7 week trip around the western portion of the US, we spent a couple days in Joshua Tree National Park. In full transparency, this was our last stop of desert after 2 weeks of hot, dry, dusty land. Don’t read me wrong, it was AMAZING and beautiful and unique and incredible. But it was hot. We were there during record breaking heat waves of 100+ degrees every day. I hear you east coasters, it WAS a “dry” heat but 112 degrees still feels stifling with 10% humidity. We were desperately ready for some greenery and cooler days. But I digress. You didn’t come here to read about how hot the desert is in July.
You came here to learn more about Joshua Tree National Park, and I’m here to share it. Joshua Tree was certainly unique and amazing. While driving through the park, you quickly get a feel for the landscape: desert, dirt, rock formations, and you guessed it, Joshua Trees. However, the park is so much more than meets the eye. I love that you can see so many different things in a relatively small stretch of land! As always, I think the best way to get out and explore is through hiking, so today I’m sharing the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.
This list includes something for everyone. And if it’s your goal to hit all of these trails, you’ll have a variety of hikes to enjoy! As always with hiking, be prepared. Joshua Tree is the straight up ~desert~ y’all and that means the weather can be extreme.
the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
Ryan Mountain – moderate to hard – out & back – 3.0 miles
Ryan Mountain is a landmark trail in Joshua Tree. About a mile and a half of plenty of elevation gain will lead you to a beautiful panoramic view of the park and surrounding Twentynine Palms area. You’ll see rock formations and potentially some wildlife! The trail tends to be heavily trafficked, especially in peak seasons. Pack good shoes and plenty of water.
Cholla Cactus Garden – easy – loop – .2 miles
This nature trail is heavily trafficked, but for good reason! This area is the transition point between the Colorado and Mojave deserts, so it gets a little more water allowing for a high concentration of Cholla cactus. It’s good for all skill levels and ages. It’s also really unique because this type of cactus is considered more rare. Be careful–sometimes, pieces of the cacti will “jump” off and cling to your clothes or your pet’s fur.
Hall of Horrors – easy – loop – .6 miles
Many reviews on AllTrails say “this is an adventure, not a hike.” The hike itself is not overly exciting. There are huge rock formations that are neat to look at but climbing and exploring is where this trail really gets its fame! You can boulder and explore, find slot canyons and tunnels.
49 Palms Oasis Trail – moderate – out & back – 3.1 miles
Have you ever wanted to see a true oasis? This is your chance! In just about the middle of Joshua Tree National Park, there’s a channel of water that creates this oasis of palm trees in the desert. The hike will take you up along the ridge of the park, giving you a beautiful view of the valley before getting to the oasis. Of note, this trail is the reason for the most Search and Rescues in the park during the summer. Take lots of water and avoid hiking between 10 am and 4 pm.
This is just a starting point of the best hikes in Joshua Tree! If you’re looking for more, there are tons of amazing trails that take you near springs, Skull rock, and more. I recommend checking out All Trails to plan your trip. However, if you’re here for a short time like we were (2 days) these trails are doable and allow you to explore a good portion of the park.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these hikes or have any more suggestions of can’t miss hikes in Joshua Tree National Park!