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How To Hike The Hidden Valley Nature Trail In Joshua Tree (Epic!)

By Jessie Festa. This guide to hiking Joshua Tree’s Hidden Valley Trail contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Looking to hike the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park?

Then you’re in the right place!

If you’re looking for an easy hike that’s also wildly scenic, Hidden Valley is for you.

Known as one of the park’s quintessential trails, it introduces visitors to the iconic geology and flora that Joshua Tree is known for.

Bonus:

While many Joshua Tree hiking trails are completely uncovered and expose you to the hot sun, there is shade along the Hidden Valley hike.

Trust me when I say you won’t want to miss this gorgeous trail when visiting Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll see why below when you read more about the experience — and see the photos!

Quick tip: Need help planning your national park trip? Fellow blogger and outdoor adventure expert Alex on the Map offers custom national park trip itinerary planning. Click here to learn more about her services!

What Type Of Hiker Are You? [Free Quiz]

But first, before we dive into how to hike one of the best Joshua Tree trails, I want to share a free personality quiz I think you’ll love:

Discover your hiking personality in this fun and short hiker personality quiz, which also shares trail suggestions based on your results.

Once you’ve grabbed the quiz, let’s discuss how to hike the Hidden Valley Loop, one of my favorite California travel experiences!

Hidden Valley Nature Trail Map

Before hiking the Hidden Valley Trail, it’s recommended to print out a map of Joshua Tree National Park. You can click here to do that.

You can also get a Hidden Valley Trail map specifically here (Google Map version).

Note: You’ll get a paper map when entering the park and there are maps posted everywhere for you to easily take a photo of with your phone.

I’ve highlighted the Hidden Valley Nature Trail parking lot & trailhead in pink:

Hidden Valley Nature Trail map

Hidden Valley Trail Quick Facts

Difficulty Level: Easy

Trailhead: The trail begins at the Hidden Valley Picnic Area Joshua Tree. The address is Park Boulevard (Loop Road), Joshua Tree National Park, CA 92277.

Trail Length: 1 mile (1.6 km); ~1 hour

Elevation Gain: 100 feet (30.5 m)

Trail Type: Loop trail

Nearest Park Entrance: West Entrance

When To Hike Hidden Valley: Joshua Tree gets very hot in the summer, so if you can avoid this season that is best. That being said, the Hidden Valley Trail provides more shade than many of the other trails in the park.

Camping: The adjacent Hidden Valley Campground features 44 sites, pit toilets, and no water. These sites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Rock Climbing: Yes, it’s possible to rock climb in Hidden Valley.

Is the Hidden Valley Nature Trail dog friendly? Dogs are not allowed on any of the hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park.

Good for solo travelers? As this trail is well-populated, I think it’s a great option for those hiking alone who are worried about solo hiking safety.

Trail Highlights:

  • Hiking through a valley ringed with giant rock formations
  • Seeing desert plants like Joshua trees, yucca, and nolina
  • Incredible panoramic views, especially when you first enter the Hidden Valley

By the way, this is a safe and scenic hike for those traveling solo in California.

The Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is stunning
The Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is stunning. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail Joshua Tree: The Experience

After hiking the moderate Lost Horse Mine Trail in California’s summer heat, my husband Andy and I decide to opt for an easy Joshua Tree National Park trail that also promises stunning scenery.

The Hidden Valley Trail is what we land on — and after completing it, I can say it does not disappoint.

According to the signs along the path, there is an interesting history to this trail. In 1936, just months before President Franklin Roosevelt established the Joshua Tree National Monument, prospector and rancher Bill Keys blasted the opening that now leads hikers into the Hidden Valley.

The valley had been concealed for a long time, and the blast led to a new field of native grasses opening up for cattle to graze — though, of course, the use of the land by humans led to changes in its flora, which you can see on your hike.

This one-mile loop is known for showcasing all of the natural features that Joshua Tree National Park is known for, like Joshua Trees, giant rock formations, pinyon pines, beavertail cacti, California juniper, and yucca.

Interestingly, Hidden Valley is a transition zone, as it sits between the landscapes full of tall and twisting Joshua Trees and the pinyon-juniper woodlands.

The lovely desert trail starts off with a stone staircase, giant boulders towering above on both sides and reminding us just how small we are in this big world.

We walk up, down, up, and down — though soon stone turns to sand and we emerge through desert greenery into the Hidden Valley. The view includes everything mentioned above, immersing us in Mojave desert beauty.

Feeling small among the giant rock formations of the Hidden Valley Trail
Feeling small among the giant rock formations of the Hidden Valley Trail. Photo via Jessie Festa.
Mojave desert beauty along Joshua Tree's Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Mojave desert beauty along Joshua Tree’s Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Yucca and scrub brush sit before giant rock formations and mountains of boulders. Desert plants grow near these monstrous rocks, benefitting from the rainfall that runs down cracks and crevices.

Chuckwalla lizards and snakes also find shade in these crevices — and humans can enjoy the shade provided by their enormous size.

Yes, that’s right! This is one of the few Joshua Tree National Park hiking trails that offers some respite from the intense summer sun.

The loop trail continues on, the rock formations becoming more and more plentiful — and seemingly more humongous.

Hiking through stunning desert landscapes on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Hiking through stunning desert landscapes on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Photo via Jessie Festa.
A panoramic view of the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
A panoramic view of the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo via Jessie Festa.

We see climbers taking on the challenge of scaling them, and my palms sweat thinking about being that high off the ground. Still, the view from above must be spectacular.

That being said, even on the ground our cameras are out constantly, as we find endless opportunities for wide-angle and panoramic shots that help us to at least try to capture what we’re seeing in person.

But, we all know that nothing compares to being truly immersed in Mother Nature.

And after climbing up a final set of stone steps, she offers us one last incredible view before sending us back through a stone tunnel to the trailhead to finish our loop:

Stone steps along the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
Stone steps along the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo via Jessie Festa.
A final gorgeous view along the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park
A final gorgeous view along the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo via Jessie Festa.

In terms of effort for reward, this trail is one of the best I’ve ever done. We weren’t out of breath for a second on this trail and still saw some of the most spectacular scenery of our entire 10 day California road trip itinerary.

When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, you absolutely must add the Hidden Valley Nature Trail to your itinerary!

Hidden Valley Nature Trail Hiking Video

Want to explore the Hidden Valley Trail from a first-hand perspective? Check out my hiking video:

Tips For Hiking In Joshua Tree National Park

-Know that you’re on Indigenous land. The Serrano, the Cahuilla, the Mojave, and the Chemehuevi were the original inhabitants of the land that Joshua Tree National Park resides on. These Indigenous peoples were displaced and/or forced to relocate.

Along with educating yourself on the history and culture of these tribes, consider making a donation to causes and charities that directly support them. Moreover, where possible hire Indigenous guides and purchase from Indigenous-owned businesses.

-There is no cell service in Joshua Tree National Park, so make sure to have a park map on hand. You can also use the AllTrails app to stay on track. The paid version works offline — though you can also use the free version offline as long as you pull up your hike in the app when you actually have cell service.

From there, hit “Navigate” and then “Hiking” and get it on the page where you’ll hit “Start” when you’re ready to begin your hike.

-Many Joshua Tree trails have little to no cover. This means that it can get incredibly hot. If possible, hike outside of summer and/or mid-day when the sun is at its strongest.

Know what to wear hiking. Having extra water as well as the proper hiking attire like moisture-wicking clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat that covers your head and neck will help keep you temperate and safe.

-Don’t touch those fuzzy-looking cholla cacti! Known as the “jumping cactus,” it looks furry but is actually very prickly. If you get their thorns in you they can be incredibly painful and difficult to remove.

-When choosing your accommodation, consider your desired entrance. While Joshua Tree National Park isn’t nearly as large as other California national parks like Yosemite (where you can hike Sentinel Dome to Glacier Point, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and the Columbia Rock Trail) and Sequoia (where you can hike the Lakes Trail), the drive from one end of the park to the other can be quite long.

If you know what hikes you’d like to do, try to choose accommodation near to the entrance that makes the most sense.

-Keep wildlife wild. Do not feed or touch wildlife. This is for your protection as well as for the protection of the animal.

For instance, in Joshua Tree National Park feeding coyotes can lead to them becoming more aggressive toward humans. You’ll see signs about this put up by the National Park Service all over.

Natural beauty along Joshua Tree's Hidden Valley Nature Trail
Natural beauty along Joshua Tree’s Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Other Not-To-Miss Joshua Tree National Park Hikes

Joshua Tree is home to some of the best hikes in the world! If you’re looking to explore some of the other incredible hikes beyond Hidden Valley Joshua Tree, don’t miss:

Easy Joshua Tree Hikes

Barker Dam Nature Trail

Cholla Cactus Garden

Keys View

Skull Rock

Moderate Joshua Tree Hikes

Lost Horse Mine

Hi-View

Mastodon Peak

Pine City

Split Rock Loop

West Side Loop

Challenging Joshua Tree Hikes

Boy Scout Trail

California Riding and Hiking Trail

Lost Palms Oasis

Fortynine Palms Oasis

Ryan Mountain Trail

Warren Peak

Hotels Near Joshua Tree National Park

Click here for a full list of hotels near Joshua Tree!

Prefer self-contained stays?

Click here to view unique local rentals!

You can also peruse the map below:

Joshua Tree National Park Tours

Looking to explore Joshua Tree and its surroundings with a guide? Here are a few highly-rated experiences:

Click here for a full list of tours near Joshua Tree.

Renting A Car For Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is huge, and you’ll definitely want a car to explore the many trails and sites.

If you need to rent a car, I highly recommend using Discover Cars to quickly compare your rental options.

Their comparison tool does the homework for you, so there’s no need to have up 10+ tabs trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. Actually, you can save up to 70% using their tool!

Joshua Tree National Park Travel Insurance

When visiting Joshua Tree — or anywhere else in the world — it’s wise to get travel insurance.

One of the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

Other Top California Hikes

Looking to explore other California hiking trails? A few not-to-miss trails include:

1, 2, & 3 Day Itinerary For Yosemite National Park

Lost Horse Mine in Joshua Tree National Park

Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park

Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevadas

The Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park

James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Columbia Rock Trail in Yosemite National Park

Sentinel Dome to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

How To Hike Vernal And Nevada Falls In Yosemite National Park (Mist Trail)

Have you ever hiked the Hidden Valley Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park?

Enjoyed this Hidden Valley Trail guide? Pin it for later!

 

 

 

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is an New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

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