The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree
Pass through the dunes, gorges and granite rocks of the Mojave Desert.
Come on, you didn’t really think it’d just be relaxing by the pool, did you? Your family and/or friends (just be thankful you have one or the other) are pushing you to get going on some hikes. You can either moan and complain (and still go, dragging your heels) or you can become the most popular person in your party by coming to them with your hot tips, fresh off the Plum Guide journal. So, that’s why we’re providing you with our advice on the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s altruism at its finest.
Just outside Palm Springs (where we also have dozens of homes), the park is bordered by the Little San Bernardino Mountains, and made up of the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. Prepare for some expeditions with nothing but your pals, some cacti and stunning views of the mountains. Oh, and the famous Joshua trees after which the park is named.
The Barker Dam trail is one of the iconic paths meandering through the Joshua Tree National Park, and one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree if you like your hikes relatively easy. It'll take one hour to get around this loop, although it’ll take a little longer should you stop and rubberneck the great big water tank constructed by some of the early cattle ranchers here. Make sure you stop for a picnic and stare at the sheep. They’ll stare back. And you’ll become the people who stared at sheep.
This is more like it: a relaxing ten-minute walk through the fan palm oasis with cottonwood trees. Bring your binoculars, sit back and spy the range of birds flying above. Mockingbirds, phainopeplas, cactus wrens and the greater roadrunner are among the feathered wildlife here. Well, isn’t this peaceful. Hopefully the others won’t force you to go on any more difficult trails, and you can head back to one of our homes with hot tubs in Joshua Tree.
Lost Horse Mine
Things are getting a little more trying with this moderate trek, comprising 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) of trails encircling the park’s most successful and prominent gold mine. You’re supposed to stay behind the fence in order to protect the mill site and mine, so try to resist the urge to hop over and check if there’s any gold left to extract. Add the Lost Horse Loop (as ominous as it sounds) to your hike for a longer and more daunting climb.
We know what you’re thinking. Anything with ‘peak’ in the title isn’t going to make for a lazy Sunday morning stroll. But it’s really not so tough. It’ll take you around two hours to navigate 3 miles (4.8 kilometres) and rise 375 feet (115 metres). It’s a loop, so it can’t be all uphill… but you will at some point reach the summit of a craggy granite formation. You’ll pass a gold mine on your way around that peak, before heading post-haste home to your cushy Plum Guide home.
Fortynine Palms Oasis
This trail is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree if you like a challenge. The park’s official website warns not to attempt this one in extreme heat. We would be inclined to agree. However, if it’s not too hot and you think you’re up for it, bring a few gallons of water and some nuts, and get going. It has an elevation of 300 feet (91 metres), leading up to a ridge adorned with barrel cactus, which sounds like a bad guy from a Super Mario game. After reaching the top, drenched in sweat, descend into a fan palm oasis in the canyon. After all this work, you could really do with a prolonged stay in one of our air-conditioned homes in Joshua Tree National Park.
California Riding and Hiking Trail
This one is for the real experts, because it takes two or three days to complete. You’ll be covering 35 miles (56.3 kilometres) of harsh, desert ground, from the Black Rock Canyon through to the North Entrance of the park. Go with friends and stay at one of our four-bedroom homes. You’ll move through the Mojave Desert like the cartographers of old.