Barker Dam Nature Trail
This sandy path leads to a small lake formed in a natural rock basin by an artificial dam. It's a relic of the ranchers who used such "tanks" to water their stock. Signs along the way describe some of the plant and animal life found here, including migratory wildfowl that use the lake as a watering hole on their journeys. After scrambling up the dam, you'll come to some petroglyph sites. 1.1 miles RT. Easy. Access: Barker Dam parking area.
Cap Rock Nature Trail
Climbers gather here, and they're as interesting as the short, informative trail leading from the parking lot. In between identifying different desert plants along the paved path, test your footing on some of the rocks to get a feel for the climbing experience. .4 mile RT. Easy. Access: Cap Rock parking area.
Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail
This trail winds through an unusually dense concentration of Bigelow cholla, one of the desert's more fascinating residents. Often called "teddy bear cactus" for its deceptively fluffy appearance, cholla is also nicknamed "jumping cactus" for the ease with which its barbed spines stick to the clothing and skin of anyone who passes too close. Any ranger can tell you horror stories of people who've tripped into a cholla bush and emerged looking like porcupines and in pain -- but please don't let that stop you from enjoying this pretty roadside diversion. .25 mile RT. Easy. Access: Middle of the park, about halfway btw. the north and south entrances.
Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail
The trail leads through rolling desert hills long inhabited by Cahuilla Indians. Signs along the way relate how they used native plants in their everyday lives; the trail culminates at lush Cottonwood Springs. The prolific underground water source supports thick groves of cottonwood and palm trees, plus the birds and animals that make them home. 1 mile RT. Easy. Access: Cottonwood Campground.
Desert Queen Mine
The "trail" meanders and forks through the ruins of a gold mine that yielded several million dollars' worth of ore between 1895 and 1961. Building ruins, steel machinery parts, and sealed mine shafts dot the hillsides and ravine; just up the trail, there's a signboard at the overlook with information about mine operations, and it's 1.6 miles to the mine itself. 1.4-32 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: Dirt road leading north from Park Blvd., opposite the Geology Tour Rd.
Fortynine Palms Oasis
This hike begins with a steep, harsh ascent 300 feet up to a ridge fringed with red-spined barrel cacti. Down the other side, a rocky canyon contains the spectacular oasis whose fan palm and cottonwood tree canopy shades clear pools of green water. Plants (especially spring wildflowers), birds, lizards, and other wildlife are abundant in this miniature ecosystem, and the scorched trunks of trees bear witness to past fires that have nourished rather than destroyed the life here. Beware of rattlesnakes in the shaded brush around the oasis. 3 miles RT. Strenuous. Access: End of Canyon Rd. in Twentynine Palms (outside the park, down Canyon Rd.).
Hidden Valley Nature Trail
This trail is fun for kids and adults who like rock climbing and intrigue. You can see sport climbers surrounding the small valley, which is reputed to have been a hideout for 19th-century cattle rustlers. Signs posted along the trail talk about the area's geology and history. The trail is relatively level, though there's some scrambling through rocky areas along the route. 1-mile loop RT. Easy. Access: Paved spur near Hidden Valley picnic area.
Hi-View Nature Trail
This well-maintained and popular trail involves a steady, moderately steep climb to one of Joshua Tree's many spectacular vistas. Alternately rocky and sandy, the trail matches up with numbered signposts keyed to a leaflet that is available at the Black Rock Ranger Station from October through May. Benches dot the trail at intervals and at the summit. 1.3 miles RT. Moderate. Access: Dirt-road turnoff immediately before entrance to Black Rock Campground at park's northwest edge.
Mastodon Peak Trail
Well worn and scenic, this is the longest loop trail in the park, offering great views of the Eagle Mountains and the nearby Salton Sea. For history buffs, it also passes a long-abandoned gold mine. There is a small amount of elevation gain, about 400 feet on the way to the 3,371-foot summit of Mastodon Peak. 3 miles RT. Moderate. Access: Cottonwood Spring or Cottonwood Campground.
Oasis of Mara Nature Trail
Leading into a miniature ecosystem of palm trees, small ponds, and abundant animal life (especially birds), this easy paved path is lined with interpretive signs. It's a great place to start your first visit to Joshua Tree and an excellent introduction to the centuries of human inhabitants who used the oasis to sustain life. .5 mile RT. Easy. Access: Behind the Oasis Visitor Center.
This path takes you to a cluster of boulder formations and sandy washes. Pinyon trees thrive in the moisture provided by these natural drainage courses; their pine nuts were a food source for early inhabitants. Birds now gather in the trees, and bighorn sheep occasionally appear among the rocks. 3 miles RT. Easy. Access: Dirt road leading from Park Blvd., opposite the Geology Tour Rd.
A steep climb (almost 1,000 ft.) leads to the best panoramic views in the park, encompassing snowcapped mountain peaks, tree-dotted valleys, and volcanic mounds. Ascending through a juniper and pinyon pine woodland, the trail is mostly rocky, well maintained, and easy to follow -- you'll likely spot rock climbers to the west of the mountain. 3 miles RT. Strenuous. Access: Marked parking area along Park Blvd.
Skull Rock Nature Trail
Leading to an unusually anthropomorphic rock formation, the trail meanders through boulders, desert washes, and a rocky alleyway. Watch for the "ducks" (small stacks of rocks) that mark the pathway. The official trail ends at the main road, but a primitive trail continues on a mile-long loop across the street. 1.7 miles RT. Easy. Access: Jumbo Rocks Campground (Loop E).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.