Trio of Trails

Hike a classic circuit of short trails in Joshua Tree National Park

View from Keys View Joshua Tree

Get into Joshua Tree National Park early and hit the classic circuit of short trails before the crowds arrive. We recommend starting at the west entrance and driving to the Hidden Valley trailhead.

Hike the classic circuit of short trails at Joshua Tree National Park

This 1-mile loop is an amphitheater and playground of boulders. The trail winds through a bounty of cactus, pinyon, juniper, and—of course— Joshua trees, with their spiny tops and branches artfully molded by nature in whimsical contortions.

Hike the classic circuit of short trails at Joshua Tree National Park

Hike the loop, scamper up boulders for bird’s-eye views, and watch as rock climbers scramble to the tip-tops of narrow rocks.

Gallery image 1 of 2
Gallery image 2 of 2

Next stop: Barker Dam Loop, just 5 minutes away by car. The trail is 1.5 miles among smooth rock face, stacks of boulders, and fields of Joshua trees. If you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll see a bighorn sheep, though you’re more likely to see the ancient petroglyphs at the end of the trail.

Gallery image 1 of 1

Onward to the third stop: Keys View. This is a good spot for having a packed lunch. At first it feels like drive-in scenery, and it kind of is! As the main overlook in the park, Keys is just a short walk up from the (often crowded) parking lot. Do it anyhow, and snap your selfies overlooking the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, and Palm Springs’ impressive Mount San Jacinto.

Hike the classic circuit of short trails at Joshua Tree National Park

Make a stop at the visitor center just outside the west entrance to the park. Pick up a map and talk to a park ranger. No dogs.

WHERE TO EAT & STAY:The town of Joshua Tree maintains a high desert bohemian and arts vibe that feels uninfluenced by social influencers (for now). Grab a beer at the Joshua Tree Saloon, where the Old West welcome hikers, climbers, campers, and locals eating everything from jalapeño poppers to baskets of baby back ribs basted in a homemade Jack Daniels No. 7 BBQ.Wash everything down with one of the seasonal brews or a staple Guinness.

Where to eat and drink in Joshua Tree

We also really like Pie for the People—eat in or take out from this pizzeria that’s become a beloved locals’ favorite for its hand-forged pies. Try the David Bowie: mozzarella, bacon, roasted pineapple, jalapeños, Guinness caramelized onion, plum sauce—yum! Camping at Joshua Tree is very popular, with plenty of options depending on what you like (and what you can get!).

Unique airstream experience in Joshua Tree

WEEKEND SHERPA RECOMMENDS: More recently, LA’s influence is coming through among artists who have moved to the area or own properties and are setting up unique stays at or near their abodes. Like this Airstream, located a few minutes from town up a dirt road, on 1.5 acres overlooking the desert landscape, including Joshua Tree National Park. The artisan touches range from sweet patio lighting and firepit warmth to Pendleton wool blankets for a spirit of the west desert decor.

Unique airstream experience in Joshua Tree

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tam Slam!

    This 8-mile (round-trip) hike is a pure classic, with redwoods, water-flows, and soaring views of the coastline. Oh yeah, and that ladder!

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Easiest Best Hike in the World

    Choose the easiest and most view-rewarding hike in Yosemite. Okay, we’ll go first: the combination of hiking to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. Both of these lookouts are within a couple miles of each other on Glacier Point Road

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Nice Ring to It

    This tiny but mighty open space preserve on the Tiburon Peninsula can often exhibit a wide range of wildflowers late into the season, not to mention one of the most jaw-dropping views of the bay.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Road Trip Ahead: Oregon Outback

    Remote open spaces, camping under true Dark Skies, hiking and biking trails galore, wildlife refuges, and hot springs! Plan your road trip to the Oregon Outback this summer.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Bouquet of Waterfalls

    Like a good love letter, some of the best hiking trails are short and sweet. Cue the hike to Bouquet Falls in Santa Clarita Valley’s Bouquet Canyon.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Road Trip Ahead: Oregon Outback

    Remote open spaces, camping under true Dark Skies, hiking and biking trails galore, wildlife refuges, and hot springs! Plan your road trip to the Oregon Outback this summer.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Dripping History

    Historical hideout, hidden hollow, rustlers’ retreat. Whatever you want to call Dripping Cave in Laguna Nigel, it is truly a cool, compelling cavern. To reach the grandiose grotto, take a 5-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, a 4,50…

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    New Rules of the Trail

    As some parks around California begin to re-open, we came up with tips for being responsible on your outdoor adventures. Let’s do our part so we can all keep enjoying the parks.

    View