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Indian Cove Nature Trail at Joshua Tree National Park

The Indian Cove Nature Trail at Joshua Tree is one of the best short hikes if you want to see some of the amazing scenery the park has to offer!

It takes you through the rocky formations and boulder piles, and gorgeous views of the desert valley. You can hike, climb up onto the rocks (no gear or hardcore rock climbing experience required), and enjoy the scenery!

This guide will tell you all about the Indian Cove Nature Trail – what you need to know for the hike, what to bring, and some tips to keep in mind.

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About the Indian Cove NAture Trail

Before we get into the details, here’s what you need to know about the Indian Cove Nature Trail!

A vista from the Indian Cove Nature Trail. There are cactuses in the foreground, and piles of boulders in the background.

Indian Cove Nature Trail: At a Glance

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

A vista from the Indian Cove Nature Trail. There are cactuses in the foreground, and piles of boulders along the trail, with mountains in the background.

The Best Time to hike the Indian Cove Nature Trail

My favorite time to hike the Indian Cove 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!

A vista from the Indian Cove Nature Trail. There are cactuses in the foreground, and piles of boulders in the background, with two people standing on top of the formation.
A vista from the Indian Cove Nature Trail. There are cactuses in the foreground, surrounded by piles of boulders.

Leave No Trace on the Indian Cove Nature Trail

Anytime you’re outdoors, 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 hike the Indian Cove 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. You can climb and explore boulders, but don’t trample plant life or walk off the established paths!
  • 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 Indian Cove Nature Trail, but you can stay at the campground and use the fire pits.
  • 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 uphill hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
A vista from the Indian Cove Nature Trail. There are cactuses in the foreground, and piles of boulders in the background.

Getting to the Indian Cove Nature Trail

The Indian Cove Nature Trail is pretty easy to get to. You’ll enter from the Twentynine Palms Highway, and continue along the road. The road to the trailhead is so scenic – you’ll see boulder piles and amazing views all around! Soon, you’ll get to a dirt road, and you’ll be driving through the Indian Cove Campground, where there will likely be lots of families camping.

Indian Cove Nature Trail Trailhead Coordinates: 34.09477,-116.16852

The parking lot is small, but I was surprised to see that no one else was there – on a Saturday afternoon. A lot of people who hike the trail camp at the Indian Cove Campground, so you’ll likely be able to find parking.

To hike at the Indian Cove Nature Trail, you will need to pay the entrance fee for the national park – which you can learn more about in this Joshua Tree Travel Guide. There’s no ranger booth at this entrance, so you’ll need to either go inside the visitor’s center, go to one of the other entrances first, 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!

A white Promaster van is on the side of the road, with rocks from the Indian Cove Nature Trail behind it.

What to Bring to Hike the Indian Cove Nature Trail

When you’re hiking, it’s important to be prepared! Here’s what you need when you hike the Indian Cove Nature Trail.

Sturdy Shoes

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.

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 pretty chilly. Nights are cold in the desert, so if you hike the Indian Cove 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 this short trail (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.

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!

Hiking the Indian Cove Nature Trail

Once you’re ready to start hiking, you’ll find the trailhead across from the bathroom. Be careful here – there’s a trail that begins next to the bathroom, and I walked about half a mile before realizing I wasn’t on the right trail! There’s no official trail name for it that I can find, but if you have some extra time it was a nice detour with pretty views – but the Indian Cove Trailhead is across from the bathroom, and there’s a sign that will let you know you’re in the right place.

A girl in denim overalls is standing on the Indian Cove Nature Trail, facing backwards at the rock piles behind her.
A girl in denim overalls is standing on the Indian Cove Nature Trail, looking down at a cactus, with rock piles behind her.

From there, you can go left or right (there’s no wrong way!), and begin the Indian Cove Nature Trail Loop. There are cool views of the Joshua Trees and other cool plants and cactuses, and some fun boulder piles to climb up on! It’s easy to make a wrong turn along the trail, so make sure you have a map and are able to get back on track. There are signs along the way with fun facts, and these will let you know you’re going the right way. But there are some nice detours to overlooks and boulders, so definitely take those too! Be sure to follow established paths and not to trample any plants.

The trail is short, so it won’t be too long before you’re back at the parking lot!

A girl wearing denim overalls is standing on a boulder pile along the Indian Cove Nature Trail.

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 Hikes Near the Indian Cove Nature Trail

Have you hiked this trail, or explored any trails nearby? Let me know in the comments below!

Here are some more adventures near the Indian Cove Nature Trail:

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