Despite the name, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail at Joshua Tree National Park isn’t exactly hidden! It’s one of the most popular hikes in the park, showing up on all the “must see” lists.
Don’t get me wrong this is definitely for good reason – the short, easy trail is incredibly scenic, and it offers some of the most amazing views of the twisted, bristled Joshua Trees that cover the valley. While I think the trail is definitely worth hiking, if you want to find some off the beaten path adventures, there are some secret trails and lesser known hikes right next to the Hidden Valley Nature Trail – where you’ll see more of those incredible views, without all the crowds!
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the Hidden Valley Trail, along with how to get to those secret hikes and off the beaten path trails, to get a break from the crowds and have the wild, scenic view of Joshua Tree National Park all to yourself!
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About the Hidden Valley Nature Trail & the Secret Joshua Tree Hikes
Before we get into the details, here’s what you need to know about the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, and about the secret hikes nearby.
Hidden Valley Nature Trail: At a Glance
Length: 1 mile (loop)
Elevation Gain: 114 feet
The Best Time to hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
My favorite time to hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is winter – it’s warm and sunny, but not as hot in the desert. Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit Joshua Tree, so winter is also a little less crowded. I don’t recommend hiking in the summer (unless you go near sunrise or sunset), because it gets incredibly hot!
For more information about the best time to hike in Joshua Tree, check out this guide!
Leave No Trace on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Anytime you’re outdoors, but especially if you check out these secret trails that aren’t as well known, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to Joshua Tree’s desert landscape that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you explore around the Hidden Valley Nature Trail!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you have more water than you need, and download a map to ensure you know where you are.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail. The secret trails are a little harder to see, but if you pay attention you’ll be able to follow them – don’t trample plant life, and stick to established routes!
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash of any kind behind. Pack it out! There is a trash can at the trailhead.
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock, but leave these things where they belong!
- Minimize campfire impacts – campfires are not allowed anywhere along the Hidden Valley Nature Trail.
- Respect wildlife – sometimes you might catch a glimpse of the bighorn sheep and other wildlife, especially along the lesser known trails. Keep your distance, and remember – you’re in their home!
- Be considerate of other visitors – the trail is narrow in spots. Yield to other hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
Parking at the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Whether you hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail or you want to explore the secret trails, you’ll park at the Hidden Valley Nature Trail and Day Use Area. The parking lot is easy to find.
Coordinates: 34.01237, -116.1680
However, this trail is very popular, so it can be hard to find a spot to park! I had to circle around a couple times before I found someone who was leaving. Arriving early in the morning, or closer to the end of the day can help. To get into Joshua Tree National Park, you will need to pay the entrance fee – which you can learn more about in this Joshua Tree Travel Guide. You can pay at the entrance booth, or get a pass online ahead of time. This annual pass will get you into any national park in the country for an entire year!
What to Bring to Hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail & Secret Trails
When you’re hiking, it’s important to be prepared! Here’s what you need when you hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail and explore the nearby spots.
For short, easy trails like this one I prefer sandals over big hiking boots. 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.
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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 pretty chilly. Nights are cold in the desert, so if you hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in the morning or evening, or you want to stargaze in the park, you’ll definitely need to add some layers!
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 Day Bag
You won’t need a big hiking backpack for these short trails (unless you have a lot of stuff), but a day bag is great for carrying water and snacks! I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack. If you need a bigger bag (maybe for a picnic blanket), check out the 37L Mountain Backpack by Topo Designs! If you’re carrying camera gear, the best backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light.
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!
Hiking the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Once you’re ready to start hiking, you’ll find the trailhead for the Hidden Valley Nature Trail next to the bathroom. There’s a big sign that lets you know you’re in the right place, and a path that takes you up a little bit and through the boulder pile. After you emerge from this little gap in the rocks, you’ll be in the valley, surrounded by rocky formations! Pick a direction (there’s no wrong way to go), and explore the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Along the way, you’ll see signs with fun facts about the plants and animals found here, and incredible views of the Joshua Trees.
You can also climb the boulders – if you’re a rock climber, this is the perfect place for you! But even if you aren’t a climber, there are some spots where you can easily climb up just for fun.
Secret Hikes in the Joshua Tree Wilderness
If you want to get to the secret hikes and less crowded trails, go to the far end of the parking lot – as far from the road as you can go. There, you’ll see a sign that marks the Minerva Hoyt trailhead. This is a nice trail too, but if you start here and follow the paths, sticking to the right and staying close to the huge boulder piles and rocky formations on your right, you’ll soon find yourself away from everyone else! I went on a Saturday (the park was busy and the Hidden Valley Nature Trail was crowded), and I didn’t see a single other person on these secret trails.
These trails are there to give access for rock climbers, so they are official park trails and are definitely okay to walk on. Be careful here, because it’s easy to loose track of the narrow, sandy paths – pay attention, and look for signs that tell you you’re still on the trail, and don’t trample the plants! You can climb the rocks, or just wander around the valley, enjoying the sweeping views of the Joshua Trees. You’ll likely have the scenery all to yourself, which makes the views even more incredible :).
Where to Stay When You Hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
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
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 Hikes Near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Have you hiked the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, or explored the secret trails nearby? Let me know in the comments below!
Here are some more adventures near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail:
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