The Van Life Guide to Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park
Just three hours west of Los Angeles, where you can conveniently pick up your fully-loaded campervan rental from Travellers Autobarn, is Joshua Tree National Park. Here you will encounter some epic views of the famous Mojave and Colorado Deserts, as well as the famous Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), as you hike any one of its many trails and loops. And regardless of whether you are an amateur or avid stamina hiker, Joshua Tree has something for you.
With trails scattered throughout the park- some thirty minutes to an hour away from others- you’ll be happy you have your Travellers Autobarn campervan so you can conveniently visit multiple sites during your stay and recuperate in between hikes.
In this article, we’re going to break down options for hikers in Joshua Tree based on your skill level and preferences. We’ll also review safety precautions and best practices to ensure you have a safe and memorable trip. So gather your gear, head over to Travellers Autobarn to book your decked out campervan, and let’s get going!
Be Prepared. A Safe Hike is a Happy Hike.
Before we begin, let’s review some tips for what to pack, what to do, and how to stay safe during your visit.
- Always be sure to check the official NPS site to stay up to date on any closures and safety advisories.
- Of course, you should call 911 in an emergency, but cell service isn’t great in certain areas of the park. There are emergency phones at the ranger station in Indian Cove and at the parking lot at Intersection Rock, near Hidden Valley Campground.
- Make sure to pack plenty of water, especially if you’re hiking Joshua Tree during the summer months. Be sure to have provisions for two gallons of water per person, per day.
- Pack salty snacks which will help you replace electrolytes lost through sweating.
- Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, a wide brim hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Wear good hiking sneakers or boots.
- Keep your distance from wildlife and don’t feed them. Always look before you place your hands and feet and avoid reaching or stepping into areas you can’t see.
- Carry a map and compass with you in case you lose cell service. You can also download a GPS app that doesn’t require cell service called, National Parks by Chimani.
- Carry a comprehensive first-aid kit that includes tweezers, pocket knife or multi-tool, safety pins, bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic, butterfly bandages, moleskin or duct tape for blisters, compression bandages, ibuprofen, aspirin, antihistamine, headlamp or flashlight, extra salty snacks, and an emergency blanket.
PRO TIP: Combs are helpful for removing cactus spines that get caught in your shoes and clothing.
Trails For Advanced Hikers
For more advanced hikers who like to feel more “George (or Jane) of the jungle” and want to get that deep wilderness feeling, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best longer, more challenging hikes.
You’re going to get some really magnificent views while on these trails, and because they are less traveled and quiet, you may get to sneak a peek at some of the amazing wildlife in Joshua Tree. These include bighorn sheep, lynx, and jackrabbits.
Warren Peak Trail – 5.5 Miles
This trail will give you a great “bird’s eye view” of the desert due to its elevation at the end. It is an “out and back” hike taking you out and up Warren Peak, for a great panoramic view of Yucca Valley, and back.
Panorama Loop – 6.6 Miles
This loop offers scenic views of the Mojave Desert where dense Joshua Trees and open valleys reveal mountainous Pinyon-Juniper woodlands. This species, which originated more than 10,000 years ago were widespread but now is considered to be a relic.
Lost Horse Mine Loop – 6.6 Miles
Take a trip back in time on this historic trail that was once used for wagons coming to and from the mine. Between 1894 and 1931, this mine produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver (worth approximately $5 million today). Don’t stop there! Just a bit further after the mine are considered to be the best views of the trail.