I have traveled to over 50 countries on seven continents, more than half of which were visited solo. I love traveling, being outdoors, and hiking. I hope to inspire others to travel and explore further, even if that means going alone.
Hey, I'm Ashley!
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular National Parks in the United States. This is because the park is close to major cities like Los Angeles and Palm Springs. There are also a ton of very easy hikes in Joshua Tree. Let me make it easy for you with my favorite, easy hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.
The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is during the fall and spring months, from late September to early November and mid-February to late April. At these times, the daytime temperatures are more mild and comfortable, with cooler evenings.
Wildflowers also often bloom in spring, adding more color to the desert. The wildflowers bloom from January to mid-April at lower elevations on alluvial fans and foothills. From early March to early May, wildflowers bloom at the 3000 to 5000 feet elevations, upper desert slopes, canyons, and higher valleys. You can find information on the wildflowers at Joshua Tree National Park here.
I would not recommend visiting during the summer. The summer can be extremely hot and hiking in these conditions can be dangerous if not properly prepared.
Joshua Tree National Park is easily accessible by car and is located approximately 130 miles east of Los Angeles, 220 miles southwest of Las Vegas, and 220 miles west of Phoenix. If arriving by air, Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) is the closest major airport. Once you arrive at the airport, rent a car because Joshua Tree National Park has no public transportation.
Interstate 10 is the primary route for those driving from Los Angeles or Phoenix, with exits leading to the park’s entrances. If you’re not very comfortable with mountain driving, getting into and around Joshua Tree National Park is very flat.
The North and West entrances are the most popular entrances into the park and are accessible via Highway 62. These entrances provide access to some of the most popular trails. The West entrance is closer to the town of Joshua Tree. There isn’t the best hotels in this area. I would definitely recommend staying at one of the more trendy Airbnbs instead. You’ll be close to many great trails such as Barker Dam, Wall Street Mill, and Ryan Mountain.
The North entrance is closer to Twentynine Palms which has less charm than Joshua Tree, but more of your typical hotel chains like a Holiday Inn. The North entrance provides access to trails such as Cholla Cactus Garden, Arch Rock, and Skull Rock.
The Cottonwood Visitor Center is on the other side of the park and is accessible via Interstate 10. There aren’t any decent hotels in this area. I would stay near one of the other entrances mentioned or in Palm Springs if visiting this area.
Water, water, water! There is no place to purchase water in Joshua Tree National Park. You will need to ensure you bring gallons of water with you to stay hydrated.
Another essential item I would bring with you to Joshua Tree National Park is tweezers. Seems random, but if you get hit by a cholla cactus, you will need tweezers. You will not want to pull out this cactus with your hands because the cactus will just attach to your hands.
I would also download each trail on AllTrails and bring a GPS device. It is much easier to lose the trail in the desert.
Bring layers as well. The temperature will fluctuate quite a bit between the early mornings and early evenings to mid-day.
The Cholla Cactus Garden has a designated boardwalk on this short 0.2 mile loop and it is literally a walk in the park.
Make sure to squeeze this trail into your itinerary at either sunrise or sunset. At this time, the sun shining on the cholla cacti is especially beautiful.
Stay on the trail and be careful of these cholla cacti though, especially at the Cholla Cactus Garden. These cholla cacti can actually jump onto you! Trust me, I know, because this actually happened to me and wow it hurts!
I used my tripod to kick the cactus off my foot and then used tweezers to get the barbed spines out. As I indicated above, pack tweezers in your bag when visiting Joshua Tree.
Also keep in mind, that there are no nearby restrooms at any of the trails closer to the North entrance of the park.
Two of the most popular formations within the park are Arch Rock and Heart Rock. Both rocks are located just a short hike from the road, making them easy hikes for visitors of all ages and skill levels.
Arch Rock, as you could likely guess, is a natural arch that has been formed by wind and water erosion over many years. This beautiful rock is 30 feet tall and perfectly frames the desert landscape, making it a perfect spot for photos.
After getting your photo with the arch, explore the surrounding area before then continuing on the trail.
On the same trail, just a short distance away is Heart Rock. Heart Rock is a smaller but still unique rock shaped just like a heart.
I did prefer Arch Rock as it is more massive, but both rock formations are so close to each other and unique in their own way. I would definitely recommend making sure you visit both.
If you backtrack a bit on the trail towards the mountain, there is also a face-looking rock right off the trail. It’s not marked on AllTrails, but if you look around a bit near Heart Rock, you’ll find it!
The Skull Rock trail on AllTrails is noted as a 1.7 mile trail, but the main rock carved like a skull is actually just right off the road. You can easily park right along the road and walk right up to it.
Skull Rock is definitely a very popular spot for a photo as it is so easy to access. To get a better photo of the sun shining on the rock, make sure to visit Skull Rock right before sunset.
After getting the perfect photo, continue along the trail or have fun climbing up and over the nearby boulders.
Barker Dam is a small oasis in the desert, but it also takes you back in time. Here there are remnants of a once-functioning cattle and mining watering hole that showcases the park’s early ranching days.
The Barker Dam trail is a relatively easy 1.3 mile loop that takes you on a nice stroll through the desert landscape, showcasing Joshua Tree’s iconic Joshua Trees. The old dam now creates a small reservoir that occasionally mirrors the surrounding rock formations in its still waters.
Around the trail, a bit further, is this rock below that has petroglyphs markings. So much history to this trail!
The Wall Street Mill trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a hike that takes you through a historic gold mining site.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll come across many remains of the Wall Street Mill, which was once a hub of activity during the early 1900s. The mill was used to process gold ore, and you can still see the old machinery and equipment that was used to extract the precious metal.
Make sure you don’t miss any of these sights along the trail, as well as a water pump about 0.5 miles in on the trail.
The shootout marker also has an interesting story to it. Back in the 1940s, two men used to argue over the ownership and use of this land. The two men were named Worth Bagley and William F. Keys. In 1943, William shot Worth and was sentenced to prison for manslaughter.
When Worth got out, he decided to place a marker in this area. The one placed along the trail now is not actually the original. Unfortunately, the original was vandalized back in 2014 and is now in a museum. However, the marker read “Here is where Worth Bagly Bit the dust At the HAND OF W.F. KEYS May 11, 1943”.
This trail is an easy loop through the park, but it’s also the best spot to stop and have lunch. This is because of its central location among many great trails in the park, as well as there being a few picnic tables to enjoy a bite to eat.
Just make sure to remember to bring water in addition to your own lunch. There is no water available for purchase within the park.
The only thing I didn’t like about this trail was that it is pretty close to the road so you will hear more cars from time to time.
The Hall of Horrors trail takes you through a maze of massive boulders and narrow passages. It’s not so easy to find though. The trail on AllTrails takes you on a loop near the Hall of Horrors, but not actually to it.
To find the actual Hall of Horrors, take the loop on AllTrails to the left. I only really say this because I feel the left side has prettier views.
When you meet another trail that takes you on a longer loop, you’ll see a boulder field. It will be more straight-on if you’re coming from the left/clockwise direction. Head up the boulder field.
You’ll first come across a larger slot canyon. This is not the Hall of Horrors and is often mistaken as it.
If you are looking at this first slot canyon, head over just slightly more to your left. You will see the start of another, much narrower slot canyon (all the way to the back of the rocks in this picture and about in the middle of the picture). You’ve found it!
There’s really only one part of the Hall of Horrors that can be hard to squeeze through. A pregnant woman behind me wasn’t able to move forward on the trail past the narrowest point.
If you are able to squeeze through, keep going until the end of the canyon. Climb up on top of the rocks and you’ll be met with a wide open space with views from many angles.
These accessible trails showcase the park’s unique beauty, from iconic Joshua Trees and massive rock formations to historical sites. Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or a quick escape into the desert, Joshua Tree has the trail for it.
Before you leave, make sure to catch the sunset in the park. Joshua Tree National Park has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen and they’re best viewed from road from the West entrance.
October 8, 2023