You can start this trail from either Indian Cove or the main park. We recommend starting in the main park, as then there is a net elevation loss over the course of the hike. Firstly you’ll need to shuttle one vehicle to the trailhead near Indian Cove Campground. Enter the park from the Indian Cove Entrance near 29 Palms, and drive for a short ways until you see the Boy Scouts Trailhead on the right hand side. Park and leave one vehicle here, then switch vehicles to drive towards the other trailhead.
Drive out of the park and turn left onto the 29 Palms Highway (Route 62). Go all the way until you see signs for the Joshua Tree Visitors Centre on Park Boulevard and turn left. From the main West Entrance Station, head down Park Boulevard until you see the large signs for the Boy Scouts Trailhead. There are pit toilets in the moderately sized parking lot.
Total Gain: 162m
|Type of Hike||Point to Point (requires two vehicles to shuttle)|
|Toilets||At both trailheads|
|Backcountry Campgrounds||Dispersed camping|
|When to Do||Spring and Fall, avoid summer heat|
From the central park trailhead, begin along the wide flat trail that heads directly out into the plane. The topography of this area can be described as ‘plane and range,’ having expansive desert basins contained by small mountain ranges. This hike will take you from the Pinto Basin, over a ranch to the edge of the Mojave Basin.
The first part of this hike is completely flat, winding around an assortment of vegetation, including many Joshua Trees. You will approach the obvious range and slowly start to gain elevation. As you do so, you will be granted exquisite views of small rock formations. Though not quite comparable to the large formations you see on other popular hikes such as Split Rock or Hidden Valley, the smaller boulders and cliffs provide beautiful contrast to the plane you have just been hiking in.
You will climb a small amount and crest a number of ridges. From here you will get your first view down into the Indian Creek area. As the trail continues you will enter a wash – a dried up creek-bed that flows during the flash floods, which occur irregularly in the region. It is usually the most efficient way to cross this type of country. The only downside is that you will be hiking in (typically) loose sand, which is not only somewhat challenging to walk in, but also gets in your shoes.
As you hike down the wash you will weave in between a few large boulders, yielding a very pleasant atmosphere. On the other side of the range, in Indian Cove, you will find a plethora of large monzogranite formations. These are popular amongst climbers. Finally you will exit the wash and find yourself on the other side of the mountains. Continue hiking along the plane, passing by more notable boulders until you reach the Indian Cove trailhead. A stunning adventure!
- For a Grade 5 hike, complete this trail both ways. Be warned; it’s definitely a long day!
- For a shorter hike just continue along the flat part of the trail until it starts to climb. This is still a really enjoyable hike that is typically very secluded. Depending on how long you continue this could be a Grade 1 or 2 hike, which would also be appropriate for children.