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The Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park – Short, Long, & Dog Friendly Trails!

Joshua Tree National Park is a really popular spot for rock climbers, hippies, and adventurers! It’s one of my favorite winter hiking destinations – I drive my van to wherever the sun is, so most of my winters are spent in this area. There are tons of fun hikes and unique scenery, so to help you choose where to explore, this guide has all the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, along with everything you need to know – entrance fees, the best time to hike in Joshua Tree, things to bring, and more!

There are different hikes all over the park, so this guide covers short, easy trails, longer day trips, and even dog friendly hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.

Head’s up: some of these links are affiliate links, so I get a commission if you make a purchase (at no cost to you). But that’s great, because I was going to share anyway, and this helps me keep making free guides for you!

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How to Get to Joshua Tree National Park

Before you check out the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll need to get there! If you’re flying, most people fly into Los Angeles or San Diego, but you can check out flights directly to Palm Springs too. Use Expedia to find the best deals on flights!

From there, you can rent a car through Discover Cars or Rental Cars. But, a great alternative to a rental car is a tiny home on wheels! With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans.

Joshua Tree is absolutely perfect for van life – all around the park, there are free campsites that are remote, quiet, and peaceful. The Dyrt is the best way to find free camping near Joshua Tree National Park, and you can get a free trial here!

The Best Time to Hike in Joshua Tree National Park

The desert climate means Joshua Tree is warm when most other parts of the US are cold, which is why it’s such a great destination for winter hikes! Before you plan your hiking trip, make sure you know what to expect throughout the year.

Hiking in Joshua Tree in Winter

Winter is (in my humble opinion), the best time to hike in Joshua Tree National Park! The weather is sunny and warm, but a little less hot than other times of the year, which I think is better for hiking. The desert does get pretty cold at night, however, so if you’re visiting Joshua Tree in the winter, make sure to bring some layers!

Snow is very rare in Joshua Tree, but it does happen sometimes, which would be a really unique way to experience the park.

Hiking in Joshua Tree in the spring

Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit Joshua Tree National Park, so you’ll see the most people out and about on the trails. It’s warm and sunny, but much more mild than summer time.

Hiking in Joshua Tree in the summer

I don’t recommend hiking in Joshua Tree in the summer – it’s hot, like, over 100 degrees hot, so for most people, this isn’t comfortable or safe. It is however the least popular time to visit, so if you brave the heat, you’ll likely have the trails all to yourself. If you go hiking in the morning or evening, the temperatures are a lot more mild.

Hiking in Joshua Tree in the fall

Along with spring, fall is really popular. The weather is perfect for hiking in Joshua Tree, but it is definitely crowded.

Joshua tree national park entrance fee

To hike at Joshua Tree National Park, you will need to pay the entrance fee.

The Joshua Tree National Park entrance fee is $30 per car, but if you visit national parks often, I definitely recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass. The annual pass is $80, and will get you into any national park in the country for an entire year! Definitely a much better deal if you travel a lot.

You can pay the entrance fee on your way in to the park, or get a pass online ahead of time.

Things to Bring & What to Wear for Hiking in Joshua Tree

When you’re hiking, it’s important to be prepared! The desert climate in Joshua Tree is pretty unique, so here are some tips for things to bring and what to wear for hiking in Joshua Tree National Park.

Hiking Shoes

For hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll need shoes! Most of the trails aren’t too steep, so I prefer to hike in sandals. My Chacos are my favorite hiking sandals, but I also love the Luna Barefoot Sandals, which offer a thinner sole – this can be helpful if you plan to climb any of the rocks! If you want more coverage (because Joshua Tree does have a lot of rocks and prickly cactuses), I recommend the Danner Mountain 600 hiking boots.

Bonus Tip: A lot of these links are for my favorite place to buy outdoor gear – Backcountry. If you install the free Lolli extension on your browser, you can earn free Bitcoin when you shop online at certain retailers, including Backcountry.

Layers

This might be surprising, but the desert can get pretty cold when the sun isn’t out! Especially if you’re hiking in the winter, if it gets windy or the sun is behind a cloud, it gets chilly. Nights are cold in the desert, so if you hike in the morning or evening, or you want to stargaze in the park, you’ll definitely need to add some layers!

You don’t need a big winter coat or anything, but some lightweight, packable layers are a must. The North Face Class V Windbreaker is a great lightweight, packable option for exploring, and it’s perfect for windy days that aren’t too cold. The RVCA Meyer Packable Anorack Jacket is another cute windbreaker , and folds up nice and small! For added warmth and layering, add a a Patagonia fleece.

A Hiking Backpack

If you plan to do some longer hikes at Joshua Tree National Park, bring a hiking backpack to ensure you have enough room for everything. When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite

For the shorter trails, you may opt for a lighter day bag instead. For short hikes in Joshua Tree, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack!

Hydration!

Water is important no matter where you’re hiking, but especially in the desert, the dry air, the beaming sun, and the heat make you dehydrate a lot faster! Single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!

For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!

The Best Short, easy Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Now it’s time to talk about the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park! If you want a shorter, easier trail, there are plenty of those. Of course “easy” is subjective, so for this travel guide, these short, easy hikes in Joshua Tree National Park are the ones that are a mile or shorter, with little to no elevation gain! They’re great for a quick pit stop, or if you want to explore more of the park and hike a few of these short trails.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail

This is one of the most popular trails, and for good reason! It offers some gorgeous views of the Joshua Trees, amazing boulder piles and rock formations, and tons to explore. As an added bonus, there are some hidden trails nearby that are less traveled!

Length: 1 mile (loop)
Elevation Gain: 114 feet
Difficulty: easy

Indian Cove Nature Trail

For a really short hike with great views, this is one of the best easy hikes in Joshua Tree National Park! You’ll see some really scenic views on the drive and on the trail itself.

Length: 0.6 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 52 feet
Difficulty: easy

Cholla Cactus Garden

As you head south in the park, there are fewer Joshua Trees and boulder piles around, but more mountain views – and soon, you’ll find yourself in a sea of funky yellow Cholla cacti. This trail is really short and easy, but it’s one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park!

Length: 0.2 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 9 feet
Difficulty: easy

The Best Day Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

If you want to explore a little longer, these are the best day hikes in Joshua Tree National Park – they’re over a mile, but because of the desert landscape a lot of them are pretty flat.

Ryan Mountain Trail

This is one of the most popular hikes in the park, and one of the few trails with significant elevation gain! If you want more of a challenge, this is the one for you. When you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the park!

Length: 3.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,069 feet
Difficulty: moderate

Barker Dam Nature Trail

The Barker Dam trail includes some rock scrambles, and this is actually one of the only places in the park where you can see water! Most days you won’t find any – but after it rains, there will be water in the dam, which attracts wildlife.

Length: 1.3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 62 feet
Difficulty: moderate

Lost Palms Oasis Trail

This trail is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, and because it’s on the south side of the park, you’ll see some amazing mountain views, but not a lot of trees. It’s a unique landscape, and a great trail!

Length: 7.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,026 feet
Difficulty: moderate

Dog Friendly Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

If you have a dog, you probably know that national parks aren’t exactly known for being dog friendly! While dogs aren’t allowed on the hiking trails in Joshua Tree, they are allowed in pinic areas and campgrounds, and they’re also welcome on the unpaved roads. Joshua Tree National Park has a few dirt roads that are fun to drive whether or not you have a dog, but they’re also gorgeous, with scenery very similar to what you would see on the official hikes.

Your dog can hike with you on these unpaved roads! Here are the best dog fiendly hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.

These roads are well maintained, and you can drive any vehicle on them (or hop out and hike with your dog):

  • Queen Valley Road—one-way traffic
    2.9 miles (4.7 km)
  • Stirrup Tank Road
    1.5 miles (2.4 km)
  • Odell Road
    1.5 miles (2.4 km)
  • Geology Tour Road to mile 5.4 (km 8.7)
    5.4 miles (8.7 km)
  • Desert Queen Mine Road
    1.2 miles (1.9 km)
  • Bighorn Pass Road
    3.2 miles (5.1 km)

These roads require a four wheel drive vehicle, or you can hike them with your dog!

  • Covington-area Roads
    9.9 miles (15.9 km)
  • Pinkham Canyon Road
    19.2 miles (30.9 km)
  • Old Dale Road
    12.6 miles (20.2 km)
  • Geology Tour Road past mile 5.4 (km 8.7)
    18 miles (29 km)
  • Black Eagle Mine Road
    9.6 miles (15.4 km)
  • Berdoo Canyon Road
    11.5 miles (18.5 km)

Joshua Tree National Park Hiking Trails Map

This Joshua Tree National Park hiking trails map will show you all of the best hikes I mentioned here!

The yellow icons are the more difficult day hikes, the blue ones are the short, easy hikes, and the dog icons represent dog friendly hikes in Joshua Tree National Park – red ones require a 4×4, and green ones are accessible by any car.

Where to Stay When You Hike at Joshua Tree

If you’re traveling to Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll need a place to stay!

Glamping, Cabins, & Yurts

For a unique place to stay during your trip, check out Hipcamp! It’s like Airbnb for campsites – and you can find yurts, cabins, glamping sites, and more. 

You can even get $10 off your first booking here!

A Camper van

With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans.

Find a Campsite

For camping, I recommend using The Dyrt – it’s the best way to find campsites in Joshua Tree National Park. I found my favorite campsite ever – where I can stay for an entire week without seeing another person! You can use the free version to find campsites, but with The Dyrt Pro you’ll also be able to see the boundaries of BLM (Bureau or Land Management) land all around the national park. On BLM land, you can camp anywhere for free! You can try The Dyrt before you commit, and click here for a free trial.

There are plenty of options for free camping near Joshua Tree – so check out this guide to learn how to find free campsites!

Cabins & Airbnbs

Joshua Tree also has some amazing, unique Airbnbs, tiny homes, glamping sites, and more – so for more places to stay, check out this guide!

More To explore Near Joshua Tree

Have you hiked any of the trails on this list of best hikes in Joshua Trail National Park, or have any other recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!

Here are some more adventures near Joshua Tree National Park:

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