Joshua Tree National Park Kid Hikes

In truth, almost all the hikes in Joshua Tree National Park are appropriate for kids. There are a few back country permit hikes, but we found more than a dozen short walks that are just right for children. We’ve written about each hike in detail, and here is a short round-up of each family-friendly hike on our list.

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    South Entrance

    If you are coming in to Joshua Tree from the south entrance, there are two very short walks that you can try near the Cottonwood Visitor Center. We don’t think they are worth the long drive to the bottom if you aren’t coming from that way.

    Bajada Nature Trail

    This tiny nature trail has interpretive signs that teach you a bit about the desert. The trail has no shade, but only runs about a quarter mile in a loop.

    Bajada Nature Trail

    Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail

    This 0.1 mile walk is considered a trail on park literature, but it barely qualifies as more than a short stop. The huge trees and pretty green oasis in the middle of the desert make it worth the very short trip if you are in the area.

    Cottonwood Nature Trail

    Central Area

    Most hikes are located in the central area of Joshua Tree. You can minimize your driving by sticking to these hikes. They are listed here from West to East if you were entering from the town of Joshua Tree.

    Hidden Valley Trail

    Cattle rustlers once used this bowl to hide their pilfered cows and horses. The trail walks 1.0 mile around the edge of the bowl along the massive boulders.

    Hidden Valley

    Barker Dam

    This was our favorite hike due to the wide variety of wildlife we saw. There were plenty of birds and small mammals. It was also a bit different from other hikes in the park, and you can see the old Barker Dam.

    Barker Dam

    Cap Rock Nature Trail

    This one is just 0.4, and we really liked the interpretive signs. It is flat and easy so anyone could handle this simple trail.

    Cap Rock Trail

    Key’s View

    The view is spectacular. It is a short 0.1 mile climb to the lookout. You can see all the way south across Palm Springs to Mexico on a clear day.

    Keys View

    Ryan Ranch

    It’s one mile across very flat open terrain to some ruins of an old ranch. The ruins aren’t amazing, but there are some great views of the Joshua trees and a chance to see bighorn sheep.

    Ryan Ranch

    Hall of Horrors

    The most unique hike in the park is the Hall of Horrors. It allows you to explore as you wish, and if you follow our instructions, you can easily find two VERY narrow slot canyons.

    Hall of Horrors

    Skull Rock Trail

    This one runs 1.7 miles from the famous Skull Rock up to Jumbo Rocks Campground and back to Skull Rock. The trail is easy and has beautiful terrain of rocks and Joshua Trees.

    Skull Rock Trail

    Split Rock Trail

    The longest hike on our list at 2.0 miles, Split Rock winds through several different terrains, giving you a nice taste of the massive boulders, small rubble, and open views of the Joshua Trees. This one has a little up and down, but nothing too stressful.

    Split Rock Trail

    Pinto Basin Road

    These two trails lie along the Pinto Basin Road that heads from the main park road down to the Cottonwood Visitor Center. They are both worth doing and not too far from the main area of the park.

    Arch Rock Trail

    Located at the very beginning of the Pinto Basin Road, Arch Rock Trail boasts the best feature in the park. It is 1.4 miles to see a picturesque arch, and though it’s busy, it is flat and easy.

    Arch Trail

    Cholla Cactus Garden

    This amazing stand of “teddybear cactus” is technically on the south road, but it is worth traveling down to walk through. The trail is flat, easy, and you can adjust the distance to your liking.

    Cholla Cactus Trail


    Oasis of Mara

    This trail is located outside the park at the old Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms now known as the administrative offices. It walks along a paved path, which is wheel-accessible for half a mile to an amazing oasis visible from the road.

    Oasis of Mara

    Indian Cove Nature Trail

    Most people don’t bother to enter the north end of the park at Indian Cove, but we enjoyed the short drive. This nature trail is unique with amazing rock features. The park bills it at 0.6, but it seemed more like three quarters of a mile to us. Though the trail is a little difficult to follow, we found it to be very flat and easy.

    Indian Cove

    We hope this list of Joshua Tree Kid hikes will help you plan your trip to Joshua Tree National Park. For more details and info, check out our family guide with information on lodging and other stops worth taking.

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