Joshua Tree is a welcome respite from busy city life. Just northeast of the city of Palm Springs, this national park is surrounded by the Mojave Desert to the west, and the Colorado Desert to the east. Within the rocky landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll find a variety of incredible, family-friendly hiking trails. While the park can be rather hot during the day, at night, you and your family can retreat and relax at one of many cozy Joshua Tree vacation rentals. From easy, short trails and considerably rocky paths to old mines to explore, parents and kids alike will enjoy any of these Joshua Tree hikes.
1. Fortynine Palms Oasis
Tucked away on the north end of Joshua Tree National Park is a secluded palm tree oasis. Getting there is relatively easy with a three mile round trip and only 350 feet of elevation gain. This means that it’s a trail the whole family can enjoy. The trail is located away from Park Boulevard so the trail won’t be too crowded. Take all the time you need as you pass through desert scenery and take in the panoramic views. The oddly out of place palm trees were planted by miners to mark the spring that now irrigates the trees. Pack a picnic and relax beside small pools of water and listen to the birds chirp. Let the kids count all the palm trees and see how this oasis got its name!
2. Indian Cove
In addition to its campground, Indian Cove offers a 0.6-mile long interpretive trail, a picnic area, and plenty of rocks for climbing. The kids will have a blast on nature’s playground as they leap and hop between boulders. The trail starts at the picnic area, and like Fortynine Palms Oasis, is not accessible from Park Blvd. Indian Cove is also a great place to look for campsites when the other campgrounds and vacation rentals in Joshua Tree National Park are full.
3. Contact Mine
Contact Mine was actually an operating mind at the start of the 20th century. It extracted gold and silver from the mountains of Twentynine Palms, California. A hundred years later, the mine is rusty but still recognizable. This 3.95-mile round trip trek ascends 700 feet up a wash, a canyon, and an old road, but it’s worth it for the rare glimpse into the mining history of Joshua Tree National Park. There is no trail marker for Contact Mine.
To locate the trailhead, drive half a mile south of the north entrance on Route 12 (Utah Trail) and pull into the parking area on the southwest side of the road where a kiosk displays information about the park. Hike southwest past the kiosk for 0.15 miles across open desert toward a pile of distinct boulders. Just before you reach the rock formation, you’ll hit a wash. Turn right and head up the wash toward the canyon carved into the mountain to the west. The trail breaks up just below the mine, so make your own way while checking out the rusting remnants strewn across the slope. Then, either scramble up the rock pile that forms the base of Contact Mine or circle up to the mine, where old machinery, rail tracks, and covered mine shafts are still in place.
4. High View Nature Trail
To make the most of High View Nature Trail, stop by the Black Rock Visitor Center and pick up a trail guide with information on the area’s plants. You’ll find 21 corresponding numbered markers along the way. Stay to the left to follow the loop in a clockwise direction, and in about a hundred yards, you’ll come to an intersection with the West Loop Trail. Cross it and bear right past a path that heads towards Black Rock Campground, and you’ll find yourself at the bottom of High View Nature Trail. As you head up the ridge, be sure to look over your shoulder every once in a while to enjoy the views of Black Rock Canyon and Yucca Valley just outside Joshua Tree National Park.
5. Warren Peak
This trail is the perfect hike for adventure seeking families with older kids. The 5.5 mile round trip hike takes you to the 5,103 foot summit of Warren Peak on the western edge of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Joshua Tree National Park. The trail begins from Black Rock Campground, the only campground in the park where you can sleep beneath the Joshua Trees. There are also plenty of Joshua trees to spot along the start of the trail. Higher up, you’ll find Pinyon pines and amazing panoramic views. There are several junctions along the trail so follow the signs labeled WP for Warren Peak. It’s a somewhat steep and rugged climb to the top, but once you’re there you’ll enjoy a great view of the Mojave Desert to the north and the Coachella Valley to the south.
6. Desert Queen Mine
This short and easy hike will be fun for all ages, especially when the kids get to visit the gold mine at the end of the trail. Dawn Queen Mine was operational from 1895 until 1961, and the remains are still well preserved. The trail starts just to the right of the bathrooms at the trailhead for Desert Queen Mine and Pine City. Be sure to make a quick stop for any small bladders. Not far from the start, the trail passes an old stone foundation with a bed frame still inside. These ruins are a few hundred feet from the trail, easy to spot, and the kids will love exploring here too.
7. Lucky Boy Vista
Lucky Boy Vista is another great rail that brings you to the site of an old mine. The 2.5 mile round trip trail starts a half mile from the Pine City – Desert Queen Mine Trailhead and is fairly easy to find. Plus, there are no junctions on the trail so you don’t have to worry about losing your way. There are small rock formations bordering the trail, but for the most part, the desert surroundings are open and sprawling. Turn around for a view (and picture) of Mount San Gorgonio, the highest mountain in Southern California. After enjoying the lucky boy view, double back and take a look at the vertical mine shafts just off the trail to the east. These are the only obvious remnants of Elton Mine.
8. Wall Street Mill
The hike to Wall Street Mill is relatively level, making it easy for even the tiniest of tots. There are two trailheads. the first is the main Wonderland of Rocks trailhead that also provides access to Barker Dam. A second parking area, 0.3 miles up the trail, is located just off the unpaved Queen Valley Road where you’ll find the second trailhead. Be sure to stop at the National Park Service sign at the main trailhead to learn how the mill came to be. During the Depression, there was a second gold rush and Bill Keys bought the Wall Street Mill site to act as a gold processing mill. From the Wonderland of Rocks trailhead, take the track to the right of the bathrooms heading northeast toward Wall Street Mill.
9. Wonderland Wash
In between Barker Dam Trail and Wall Street Mill Trail is a great little trail called Wonderland Wash Trail. This less-traveled trail is a popular playground for walk climbers and bouldering enthusiasts. We’re sure your kids will love to join in on the fun. There’s no definite end to the trail, but a good resting point is the prominent rock formation known as the Astro Dome. The hike into Wonderland Wash begins on Wall Street Mill Trail, and there is a second trailhead off of Queen Valley Road. Don’t worry, there’s a bathroom at both trailheads!
10. Barker Dam
Here’s another one perfect for everyone in the family, old or young. The 1.5 mile hike within the Wonderland of Rocks takes you to a small foreign-looking reservoir and stays relatively level. The well-marked loop is easy to hike and easy to follow. From the parking lot, take the trail heading northwest toward Barker Dam where there are two-well marked trails. The other trail heads northeast toward Wall Street Mill. If you visit during the spring and winter, you’ll find yourself along the shore of a small blue lake. During the summer months, the water is often dried up. The site can definitely be a calm and relaxing break from trekking through the dessert!