The 8.4-mile Eureka Peak Loop runs through Joshua Tree National Park’s northwest corner
Day hikers can enjoy fantastic views of the Coachella Valley’s upper end as well as the area’s two most prominent mountains on the Eureka Peak Loop.
The 8.4-mile round trip hike runs through Joshua Tree National Park’s northwest corner. It boasts a 1550-foot gain in elevation, much of it across the open desert, and should only be done September through May.
To reach the trailhead, from Calif. Hwy. 62 in Yucca Valley, go south on Joshua Lane. Turn right/west onto San Marino Drive, which upon curving south becomes Black Rock Canyon Road and enters the Black Rock Campground. Park at the Black Rock Canyon Trailhead.
From the lot’s south side, head southeast onto the California Riding and Hiking Trail. You’re at about 3970 feet above sea level. Once you reach the riding and hiking trail, go right/south into the high desert.
If hiking in the morning to take advantage of the more pleasant temps – during autumn the national park is about 5-10 degrees cooler on average than the Coachella Valley floor – expect the sun to be right in your eyes. Because of this and since the entire route is unshaded, be sure to don sunglasses, sunscreen, and sunhat as well as bring plenty of water.
At 0.2 miles, the riding and hiking trail splits with the Black Canyon Trail (marked on some maps as the Warren Peak Trail) heading right/south. Go left/east to stay on the riding and hiking trail.
The trail crests at about 0.85 miles, reaching 4185 feet in elevation, then descends into a bajada to wash.
At 1.3 miles, the Fault Trail heads right. Go right/south onto it.
As with many parts of the national park, you’ll spot large boulders at various spots along the route. The boulders are quartz monzonite, also known as adamellite, and were formed when underground magma cooled and solidified. Erosion has since exposed the hard rock.
You’ll reach a wash that is the Short Loop Trail at 1.6 miles; go left/east onto it. In a few yards, at the next trail junction, turn right/south into a larger wash; you’re now officially on the Eureka Peak Trail.
High desert flora of various cactus and scrub brush dominates the landscape. If hiking the route in spring after a wet winter, the trail will be green, especially the segments heading through narrow canyons.
At 2.4 miles, the Cliff Trail comes in from the left. Ignore it and continue straight/south.
The trail opens to slopes dominated by pinyon pine and California juniper. Some 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, the pinyon and juniper habitat covered much of what is now the national park.
The pinyon is the world’s only 1-needled pine. Its cones are about two inches in length but broader than long.
The California juniper’s fragrant needles are bluish-gray and scaly with their cones looking like small bluish berries. It can reach up to 26 feet high when next to water.
You’re also likely to spot wildlife on this section on the trail, particularly mule deer and coyotes. Watch the sand for bobcat and mountain lion tracks.
Ignore the Canyon View Trail coming in from the right at 2.6 miles and the Bigfoot Spur from the left at 2.7 miles, continuing straight/south.
At 3 miles, the route reaches the Burnt Hill Trail. Continue straight-left/south.
The trail next gains elevation quickly, as it ascends Eureka Peak. Once on the thin saddle, the elevation is 5310 feet.
At 3.8 miles, a very short spur heads to a vista on the left/north. Good views of the Mojave Desert and Mount San Gorgonio can be had there. It’s a nice spot for a rest and adds a mere 0.15 miles total to the hike.
If skipping the spur, descend to the Bigfoot Trail, which is at 3.9 miles and 5265 feet elevation. Go straight-right/southeast
At 4 miles, you’ll reach the loop that heads around Eureka Peak’s top. Go left/southeast to the summit.
You’ll arrive at the summit at 4.1 miles. Eureka Peak tops out at 5518 feet and is the highest point in the Eagle Range and the fifth highest in the national park. You’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the Mojave to the north and east, the upper Coachella Valley and Mount San Jacinto to the southwest, and Mount San Gorgonio to the west.
After taking in the sights, continue south on the trail to do the loop about the peak. At 4.2 miles, the Eureka Peak Trail heads left/south; continue right/west.
At 4.4 miles, you’ll reach the beginning of the loop. Go left/north and retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
A compass and topo map for navigation is recommended, and thanks to deep sand along part of the route, sturdy hiking boots and a walking stick also are a good idea.
- The flora on the Eureka Peak Trail: Rob Bignell
- A great view: Rob Bignell
- Eureka Park Trail: Rob Bignell