Discover the best trails to explore the granite monoliths in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree trails explore granite monoliths

Jumbo Rocks is one of the most visited set of the park’s granite monoliths.

Clusters of monzogranite boulders form fascinating sights and mazes all throughout Joshua Tree National Park. Besides being fun to clamber over and around, some of them appear in unique shapes that fire the imagination.

These granite monoliths formed below the earth’s surface as tectonic movement heated the rock. While melting, the rock rose upward until cooling just below the surface. Wind and rain eventually exposed them and further cracked their joints while shaping and rounding them.

Among the best trails to explore the park’s granite monoliths are:

  • Boy Scout Trail – You can hike deep into the Wonderland of Rocks on this 8-mile one-way trail. Always stay within sight of the trail so you do not lost among the boulders. If doing only part of the trail, the south trailhead off of Park Boulevard is preferred to the north trailhead at Indian Cove. Should you do the entire length, park rangers strongly advise using a vehicle shuttle.
  • Cap Rock Trail – The 0.4-mile loop circles the fascinating Cap Rock formation, which is surrounded by Joshua trees and desert fauna. The Cap Rock parking area is at the junction of Park Boulevard and Keys View Road.
  • Discovery Trail – A new trail made for kids, the flat 0.7-mile loop heads through gigantic rocks over desert washes while linking to Skull Rock and Split Rock Loop trails at Face Rock. Use the Skull Rock parking area east of Jumbo Rocks Campground on Park Boulevard.
  • Hidden Valley Nature Trail – The 1-mile loop heads to rock-enclosed valley at the park’s “center” off of Park Boulevard. Cattle rustlers allegedly used the valley. Park at the Hidden Valley picnic area; 1 mile loop.
  • Indian Cove Nature Trail – A great trail for climbing boulders, the 0.6 miles kid-friendly loop passes yucca and various small wildflowers. Pick up the trail at the Indian Cove Campground at the end of Indian Cove Road.
  • Skull Rock Trail – The most famous of the Jumbo Rocks – Skull Rock – bears an uncanny resemblance to the one of “Peter Pan” fame. The trail runs 1.75-miles round trip to it with the trailhead starting at the Jumbo Rocks Campground.
  • Split Rock Loop – Face Rock, the Jumbo Rocks, and even wildflowers await on this 2.5-mile loop. It starts at the Split Rock picnic area near Park Boulevard.
  • Willow Hole Trail – The 6.8-mile round trip trail, which starts on the Boy Scout Trail’s southern end, heads along and then enters the Wonderland of Rocks. It ends at a group of willow trees.
  • Wonderland Wash Trail – Explore the impressive Wonderland of Rocks on your way to a the ruins of Wonderland Ranch ruins on this 2.1-mile trail. It ends at the prominent Astro Dome rock formation. The trailhead is the same as that for the Wall Street Mill Trail off of Park Boulevard.

All of these hikes are in the open sun, so be sure to lather on the sunscreen, wear a sunhat, and to carry extra water. If scrambling over the rocks, be sure to keep your balance (the fall is a hard one) and never place your hands or feet into a crevice where you can’t see them, as there could be poisonous snakes resting there.




Image Sources

  • Jumbo Rocks: Rob Bignell
  • Joshua Tree’s granite monoliths: Rob Bignell