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!