The Ultimate Joshua Tree National Park Guide. The Best Things To Do, Where To Stay & Google Map!
Updated: Mar 19
This was our first visit to Joshua Tree and being born and raised in California I really can't help but ask myself, why had we not visited before! It was the perfect getaway and it was absolutely beautiful. Joshua Tree Park is very well taken care of and has so many beautiful and unique things to do and visit. From Skull Rock, to Hidden Valley to Hall of Horrors, it was all amazing. After two tries we even found Heart Rock! I want to share with you some of the things we feel are a must see when visiting Joshua Tree National Park and also added a google map you can access from your phone when in the park for your convenience. Happy Planning!
Hidden Valley Trail
This trail was our first stop since it was only 20 minutes from the entrance. It is a 1 mile loop trail with stunning views and lots of the beautiful large boulders this park is knows for. We arrived at around 5pm which allowed us to admire the color changes in the sky as the sun was starting to set...it was stunning, dare I saw life changing. There is something so magical about this park I can't put my finger on, but once you are there you will know exactly what I'm talking about. This hike was easy and took us about an hour with plenty of stops for pictures, admiring our surroundings, and reading. As you walk the trail there are sign giving you bits of information about the park and some of the plants and trees around the area. Definitely kid friendly and highly recommended. If you plan to visit later in the evening like we did, make sure you have a lantern or flashlight. We did end up doing part of the hike once the sun set and it was very dark but we were prepared with a flashlight. It was a very interesting and heart racing experience. Would we do it again? Absolutely! The trail is very well marked so even in the dark we knew where we were going.
This was a trail we heard a lot about and we are very happy it was the second one on our list. It was an out and back trail that was 1.2 miles and lots of fun to explore. It was an easy trail for all skill levels and had lots of fun little hidden treasures to explore. Parking lot is across the street from the start of the trail and is well marked, you cant miss it. Of course we took a picture with The Arch that is tucked away toward the right hand side, so make sure and keep your eyes peeled for it. Once you see it you will know. It is naturally formed by the erosion of the rock and very cool to see. There are tons of boulders to jump on, climb and even some awesome narrow tunnels to go through. It was so much fun for all of us.
After we took the pictures we decided to take a narrow path to the right and right around the corner we came across what we called the Indiana Jones rock. Do you see it? We were so excited to find this since my daughter is a huge Indiana Jones fan...the movies and the ride at Disneyland. We have marked it on the goggle map for your convenience. If you decide to look for this rock and take a picture make sure and tag me! We would love to see your version of our picture with the "Indiana Jones rock".
Heart rock is in the same area as Arch Rock but instead on following the trail to the right where Arch Rock is, you must make a left. It took us 2 tries to find it but when we finally did it was totally worth it. There isn't a marked trail and you do cross quite a few areas where you have to cross large boulders and some dry river beds. You can't see it until you are actually in front of it because of its positioning. It's about a 20 minute walk/hike to get to it but I would NOT say it is difficult. For your convenience, I have also marked this on goggle maps to make it easier to find. I will go over how to use goggle maps even when no phone service is available down below.
Skull Rock is a must when visiting Joshua Tree park. There is no hiking and I would not even call it a trail. You literally park and walk right to it. What do you think, do you see the skull? Personally in person I kind of see it but I also think maybe with time the rock has wasted away to look less and less like a skull. If anything, make sure you visit before it's completely gone.
After you take a picture with this very popular skull make sure you continue exploring the area. My daughter called it a rock playground for kids. There's tons of boulders for kiddos to climb and narrow paths to walk through.
Hall Of Horrors Trail
This was an easy 0.6 mile loop trail with so much to explore. As the name says it there are lots of fun crevices between the rocks people can walk to and explore. They are narrow and some have some massive rocks right above you, hence the name. From afar some of these definitely look like caves. We didn't get to explore all but we did see 2 that were super cool. This was one of our favorite finds!
It was also the perfect backdrop to get a family picture so of course we could not miss the opportunity to do so!
Wall Street Mill
We tried to explore different places while at Joshua Tree and this was definitely a very fun and interesting area to explore. This was an easy 2.4 mile out and back trail with so much to see and definitely kid friendly. As the name says it this was an old Mill and along the way you will see some old abandoned cars, ruined old buildings, an old well pump and the mill itself.
Alexia thought it was the coolest thing and kept her eye out the whole time in hopes of finding some gold lol. The trail can get a little confusing as it's not very well marked so the AllTrails app was definitely handy...more on that at the bottom of this post. Besides all the fun things we got to see along the way, there was a great area for bolder hoping and exploring toward the back. I Highly recommend this trail for a great adventurous time. It took us 3 hours to complete this trail, not because it was difficult but because we took our time exploring, learning all about the mill, searching for "gold", and had lots of fun exploring ruins of the pink house and bolder hoping. They say it's common to see big horn sheep in this area but unfortunately we didn't come across any, so keep your eyes peeled up toward the rocks to see if you spot any.
Cholla Cactus Garden
This was a little further out from the rest but very cool to see. Its a .2 quick stroll loop where you will see a garden of Cholla Cacti. They have some nice wooden bridges to cross and makes for amazing pictures. The backdrop to the cacti is amazing and totally different from the rest of the places we visited inside the park which is exactly what we were going for. Warning the cacti are everywhere (heavily thorns that are barbed and extremely painful to remove from your skin), so make sure little ones are kept safe and close by.
Mastodon Peak Loop
This is a 2.6 mile moderate loop trail. This was the furthers one out from Joshua Tree National Park entrance and probably the only one I would consider a real hike with some inclines and steps. Half of the trail consisted of sand and the other half gravel. The sandy part definitely made it a workout so come prepared.
The views are amazing and so worth it!
We even got to explore some natural formed holes in the rocks that looked like caves and was a perfect spot to cool off from the sun for a bit.
There are several sets of stone stairs to climb and eventually you get to an old abandoned mine which was pretty cool to see from the outside and the whole reason why we wanted to the this trail.
A little after passing the mine there is a sign that will take you to the peak of the mountain (Mastodon Peak)
The trail is unmarked and not maintained headed to the peak. We attempted to go up and got half way up but due to weather conditions and safety we decided to come back down. We still got some beautiful views all while staying safe. Personally, I would not recommend going all the way up to the peak, it just did not feel very safe specially since it was a windy day. We went back down and followed cottonwood springs trail back down the mountain with no problems. The whole trail took us a good 2 hours so come prepared for a little workout.
Here is the link to google maps where we have marked all the locations I mentioned above.
Here's how it works:
Click on the link
You will see a +Follow button. Make sure you click on the button to start following and save to your own list.
Swipe down to go to map view to see all flagged locations
You can click on each flag to see location name (heart rock and Indiana Jones rock you need to swipe up to see name)
Inside the park you will not have any reception so make sure you do all of this prior to getting inside the park.
Before entering the park choose what destination you will go to first. Even once you loose receptions the map will still be able to track you as a BLUE DOT to your next destination.
Most of the locations listed are very well marked and easy to find with the exceptions of Indiana Jones Rock and Heart Rock so pay close attention to these on the map. They don't have an exact address but as long as you get to Arch Rock, which is very well marked trail, you will be able to get to Indiana Jones and Heart Rock by following the blue dot on the map EVEN WITH NO RECEPTION. The blue dot will be your best friend.
Download the free alltrails app on your phone before entering the park https://www.alltrails.com/mobile
Save all trails you will be doing inside the park prior to entering the park.
Once you get to your destination and start the trail you can open your saved trail and view map. Once you view map you will be represented by the blue dot on the map. This will help you stay on track specially on trails that are not well marked.
You will find this helpful with any trails or hikes where service is non existent or great.
Things To Know Before You Visit
During winter time it gets very cold so bring layers, beenies, gloves
Most areas are full sun so wear sunblock and bring a hat and glasses
Bring good climbing shoes specially if you are planning to have fun boulder hoping
Pack a lunch, snacks, and lots of water
Restroom are available throughout the park. Bring sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer
Masks are required inside the park
Entrance to the park is $30 a car and is good for 7 days
Make sure you have a full tank of gas before entering the park
So there you have it! We had the best time visiting over the long weekend and hope you get to enjoy it as much as we did. Hope you find all this information helpful and get to build some beautiful family memories! Down below I have added some other useful post to complete your visit.
Where To Stay
Looking for a beautiful and affordable locations to stay at while visiting the area? Click on the picture down below for all the details of where we stayed!
Other Things To Do Outside Joshua Tree While In The Area
Wow that's a giant rock! During our visit we made a detour to see this rock. Why you ask? It is known as the largest single boulder in the WORLD! Pretty cool right?
The rock is said to weight 25,000 tons and is 7 stories high. You'll find it on public land in Landers, CA in the middle of nowhere. You have to drive through a bumpy dirt road to get to it but once there it's pretty neat to check out.
In the 1950's it was a gathering point for UFO believers so you'll see some interesting graffiti messages on the rock and around the area. In the year 2000 The Giant Rock mysteriously fractured in two...maybe they were on to something in the 1950's.
Here is a google map pin to this destination Giant Rock Pin
To learn more of the history of this rock you can go here
PioneerTown Mane Street
Located at 53626 Mane Street, Pioneertown, CA 92268
Blog post on PioneerTown coming soon!
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Talk to you later!