Trio of Trails

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

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.

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.

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 NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  2. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

    View
  3. Kirby Your Enthusiasm

    Just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin is one of the Bay's most-accessible secluded beaches. Kirby Cove is accessed by hiking or biking a 1-mile fire road down to the beach, where the reward is an all-time classic Golden Gate view.

    View
  4. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Adventure for your earbuds. What's new in the world of the outdoors? Listen to Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss local hikes, beaches, bike rides, camping spots and all kinds of travel and adventure in California and beyond!

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

    View
  4. Border Field State Park

    Border Field State Park is the southernmost point in California as well as one of the last beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the state. Visit this natural refuge for a 4.5-mile hike featuring important history and wildlife habitats, plus stunning SoCal beach scenery.

    View