It’s obvious from the number of cars parked at Keys View that Joshua Tree’s premier overlook is not a secret. What’s not obvious is the 1.2-mile (round-trip) unmarked trail found on the vista’s west side, which leads to even better views—without the crowds! Set at 5,550 feet, Inspiration Peak is a private perch offering a grandiose panorama showcasing Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, a slice of the Salton Sea, and the highest summit in Southern California, Mount San Gorgonio. The dirt-and-rock trail to the point is faint in places, but the destination is obvious: a rocky outcropping with a sheer southern face, just a short distance up the ridge. You’ll climb 400 feet and pass over a crest decorated in yucca, juniper, and even the occasional Joshua tree. Traverse a saddle to reach the peak, where a 360-degree vantage gives a soaring view toward the park’s jumbled rocks and the Joshua tree forest surrounding Ryan Mountain. It’s likely to be just you up there as hundreds of others hover below. Instant inspiration!
TIP: Bag Inspiration Peak in the a.m., when the best lighting hits the high peaks to the west and illuminates veins of white snow.
From the park’s west or north entrance, take Park Blvd. to Keys View Rd. (10.3 miles west of Pinto Basin Rd.) and turn south. Go 7 miles to Keys View at the end of the road. Find the unmarked trail starting from the west side of the overlook (to the right of a panel about the San Andreas Fault). Angle right up a rise in the ridge following the cairn-lined path to Inspiration Peak. A ledge on the south side of the peak offers a daunting overlook.