Hikes in the California Desert

Below is a list of over fifty trails in the California desert. These hikes are listed from north to south, but the table may also be sorted alphabetically or by distance to help you pick your next trek. Each trail links to its own report complete with photos, maps, directions, and all the other information needed to locate and enjoy these trails. An interactive map is also provided.

Highlights of the California Desert

  • Take a short walk on the salt flats at the lowest place in North America - a required stop for first time visitors to Death Valley National Park.
  • This towering overlook above Badwater Basin offers panoramic views of Death Valley National Park.
  • This 2.5-mile loop offers a great immersion into the terrain beneath Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park.
  • This 2-mile hike visits a refreshing year-round waterfall on the west side of Death Valley National Park.
  • This 1 to 3-mile hike explores the most visible sand dunes in Death Valley National Park.
  • This 3-mile hike climbs to the highest point in the 45 square mile dune field within Mojave National Preserve.
  • This 0.6-mile hike in Mojave National Preserve drops underground into an old lava tube lit by holes in the surface.
  • This 3.4 to 4-mile hike  in Mojave National Preserve crosses the world's densest Joshua tree forest, passing an abandoned silver mine to reach a rocky summit with views of Cima Dome.
  • This 3-mile hike offers summit views from the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • The 3-mile hike visits a palm tree oasis in the desert on the north side of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • This 2.1-mile hike travels past the ruins of Wonderland Ranch up a use trail into the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.
  • This 1.5-mile loop visits a small foreign-looking reservoir within the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.
  • This 7.2-mile hike visits an oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • This 0.3-mile loop visits a natural arch in the granite formations around White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park.
  • This 5.5-mile hike visits a 20-foot waterfall in a canyon near Borrego Springs, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day in the California Desert.
  • This 4.25-mile figure-eight loop visits enthralling narrows and a mine site important to the history of the Anza-Borrego Desert.
  • This 1.5-mile hike follows a footpath across Tubb Canyon to Big Spring in a desert canyon below Pinyon Ridge in the San Ysidro Mountains.
  • This 1.15-mile loop sets out from Yaqui Pass to reach an incredible viewpoint across Mescal Bajada.
  • This 1.3-mile hike ascends to the ruins of an adobe cabin on Ghost Mountain (Yaquitepec) with great views above Blair Valley.
  • This 1.25-mile hike climbs to a sandstone formation overlooking the Carrizo Badlands that begs to be explored.

Hiking the California Desert

Death Valley National Park, Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park combine to protect 8,500 square miles of California desert. Within these parks lie volcanic craters, sand dunes, oases, and some of the most fascinating geology in the United States. The best way to see may of these features is on foot. Choose a trail from the list below and begin exploring the California desert.

Trail
Description
Distance
Location
Death Valley Ubehebe Crater110Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley
You can get a great view of Ubehebe Crater from an overlook near the parking lot, and there are also three trails to choose from.
0 - 2 miles
0 - 275 feet

37.012327,
-117.455034
Mosaic Canyon Death Valley120Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley
This out and back hike starts up a smooth marble slot canyon and exposes visitors to unique Death Valley geology.
1 - 4 miles
100 - 750 feet
36.570411,
-117.143455
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Death Valley130Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley
This hike explores the most visible sand dunes in Death Valley
1 - 3 miles
100 feet
36.618876,
-117.1136
Grotto Canyon Death Valley140Grotto Canyon in Death Valley
This out and back hike requires a bit of climbing and is a lesser-visited trail in Death Valley.
2 - 4 miles
625 feet
36.583024,
-117.104058
Death Valley Salt Creek150Salt Creek in Death Valley
This easy out and back hike crosses a short boardwalk bordering a rare desert stream.
1 mile
25 feet
36.590628,
-116.990106
Death Valley Harmony Borax160Harmony Borax in Death Valley
This short walk around the Harmony Borax plant offers a window into the mining past of Death Valley.
0.25 miles
25 feet
36.479987,
-116.873517
Death Valley Golden Canyon Gower Gulch170Golden Canyon - Gower Gulch Loop in Death Valley
This loop visits some of the most stunning terrain in Death Valley.
4 miles
675 feet
36.420695,
-116.846715
Death Valley Badlands180Badlands Loop in Death Valley
This loop offers a great immersion into the terrain beneath Zabriskie Point.
2.5 miles
300 feet
36.419884,
-116.812431
Death Valley Zabriskie Point190Zabriskie Point in Death Valley
Zabriskie Point offers a stunning panorama of the badlands near Furnace Creek.
0.25 miles36.419884,
-116.812431
Death Valley Scenic Drive200Twenty Mule Team Canyon in Death Valley
This 2.8-mile one way road lets visitors experience a fine canyon right from the driver’s seat.
0 miles36.406155,
-116.793594
Artists Drive Death Valley210Artist’s Drive in Death Valley
This 9-mile drive crosses a sloping mountainside composed of vibrant soil colored by rich metals.
0 - 0.5 miles36.368588,
-116.802878
Death Valley Darwin Falls220Darwin Falls in Death Valley
This out and back hike visits a refreshing year-round waterfall on the western edge of Death Valley.
2 miles
275 feet
36.327763,
-117.51466
Death Valley Wildrose Peak230Wildrose Peak in Death Valley
This out and back hike summits a 9,064-foot peak in the Panamint Mountain Range on the west side of Death Valley.
8.4 miles
2,200 feet
36.276135,
-117.079504
Death Valley Charcoal Kilns240Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley
These conical constructions converted lumber to charcoal for area miners from 1879 to 1882.
0 - 0.5 miles36.246617,
-117.075984
Death Valley Natural Bridge250Natural Bridge Canyon in Death Valley
This is a great out and back hike for those interested in learning about the geological history of Death Valley.
2 miles
400 feet
36.281005,
-116.769982
Death Valley Badwater Basin260Badwater Basin in Death Valley
This is the lowest place in North America -- a required stop for first time visitors to Death Valley.
0 - 1 miles
10 feet
36.230242,
-116.767634
Death Valley Dantes View270Dante’s View in Death Valley
This towering overlook above Badwater Basin offers panoramic views of Death Valley.
0 - 1 miles
0 - 200 feet
36.221239,
-116.726232
Sidewinder Death Valley280Sidewinder Canyon in Death Valley
This out and back hike visits narrow slot canyons full of pour-overs, carve outs, and dark passages that beg to be explored.
4 - 7 miles
500 - 750 feet
36.065292,
-116.745064
Ashford Mill Death Valley290Ashford Mill in Death Valley
These ruins, where gold was once processed for the Ashford Mine, provide an example of how tough life can be in this harsh desert.
0.1 miles35.918925,
-116.683303
Teutonia Peak Mojave380Teutonia Peak in Mojave National Preserve
This out and back hike crosses the world's densest Joshua tree forest, passing an abandoned silver mine to reach a rocky summit with views of Cima Dome.
3.4 - 4 miles
700 feet
35.300458,
-115.563498
Mojave New York Peak390New York Peak in Mojave National Preserve
This out and back hike summits the highest point of the New York Range in the northeast corner of the preserve.
7 - 9 miles
2400 feet
35.258600,
-115.306377
Lava Tube Mojave400Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve
This short out and back hike drops underground into an old lava tube lit by holes in the surface.
0.6 miles
150 feet
35.216347,
-115.751525
Mojave Petroglyphs410Petroglyphs in Mojave National Preserve
This faint path visits ancient engravings in the volcanic rock at the western rim of the cinder fields just off Kelbaker Road.
0.25 miles
25 feet
35.205572,
-115.872077
Rock Spring Loop Trail417Rock Spring in Mojave National Preserve
This loop visits a rare desert spring, a Rock House built in the 1920s, a miners' mill site, and an old U.S. Army post on a short and scenic circuit.
1.33 miles
100 feet
35.155017,
-115.334768
Mojave Rings Trail420Hole-in-the-Wall in Mojave National Preserve
This loop takes visitors through a landscape of pocketed rocks. Ringbolts allow fun passage through narrow canyons.
0.5 - 1.5 miles
150 feet
35.043746,
-115.398252
Mojave Fountain Peak430Fountain Peak in Mojave National Preserve
This off trail trek summits a peak with commanding views over the Providence Mountains.
5 miles
2700 feet
34.945976,
-115.537555
Mojave Kelso Dunes440Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve
This out and back hike climbs the highest point in this 45 square mile dune field.
3 miles
470 feet
34.886424,
-115.715783
Silver Peak Mojave450Silver Peak in Mojave National Preserve
This out and back hike summits a 6,365-foot peak in the Granite Mountains.
8.5 miles
2,500 feet
34.812283,
-115.695982
Amboy Crater500Amboy Crater
This out and back hike travels up and into a volcanic crater near Mojave National Preserve.
3 miles
275 feet
34.556892,
-115.780772
49 Palms Oasis560Fortynine Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree
The out and back hike visits a palm tree oasis in the desert on the north side of Joshua Tree.
3 miles
350 feet
34.119319,
-116.111982
Indian Cove Joshua Tree570Indian Cove in Joshua Tree
The 101-site campground is home to a 0.6-mile interpretive trail and endless bouldering and rock climbing opportunities.
0.6 - 2 miles (or more)
25 feet
34.094833,
-116.15747
Contact Mine Joshua Tree580Contact Mine in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike travels up a wash, a canyon, and an old road to a mountainside mine site.
3.9 miles
700 feet
34.072315,
-116.032695
high view nature trail587High View Nature Trail in Joshua Tree
This loop climbs a ridge on the west side of the park that offers views of San Gorgonio Mountain and Yucca Valley, along with an introduction to desert plants.
1.35 miles
325 feet
34.076169,
-116.399369
Warren Peak Joshua Tree590Warren Peak in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike summits a peak with impressive views over the west side of Joshua Tree.
5.5 miles
1,000 feet
34.071547,
-116.390911
Desert Queen Mine Joshua Tree600Desert Queen Mine in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike follows a level desert trail to an overlook before crossing a canyon to visits the ruins of an old gold mine.
1.6 miles
150 feet
34.023516,
-116.077661
Lucky Boy Vista Joshua Tree610Lucky Boy Vista in Joshua Tree
This level out and back hike visits a modest overlook at the site of an old mine.
2.5 miles
125 feet
34.017818,
-116.082237
Wall Street Mill Joshua Tree620Wall Street Mill in Joshua Tree
This level out and back hike visits a well-reserved gold mill, exploring the mining history of Joshua Tree National Park.
1.55 - 2.15
115 feet
34.024896,
-116.142061
Wonderland Wash Joshua Tree630Wonderland Wash in Joshua Tree
This level out and back hike travels past the ruins of Wonderland Ranch up a use trail into the Wonderland of Rocks.
2.1 miles (or more)
75 feet
34.024896,
-116.142061
Barker Dam Joshua Tree640Barker Dam in Joshua Tree
This level loop visits a small foreign-looking reservoir within the Wonderland of Rocks.
1.5 miles
100 feet
34.024896,
-116.142061
Hidden Valley Joshua Tree650Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree
This loop circles the interior of a small valley surrounded by tall rocks that serves as an excellent bouldering arena.
1 mile (or more)
25 feet
34.012743,
-116.168729
Ryan Mountain Joshua Tree660Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike offers summit views from the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
3 miles
1,075 feet
34.002572,
-116.135939
Ryan Ranch Joshua Tree670Ryan Ranch in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike from Ryan Campground or Park Boulevard visits the ruins of an old adobe homestead beneath Ryan Mountain.
0.8 - 1.2 miles (or more)
25 feet
33.988821,
-116.153846
Lost Horse Mine Joshua Tree680Lost Horse Mine in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike visits a well-preserved mine and mill.
4 miles
400 feet
33.950685,
-116.159805
Inspiration Peak Joshua Tree690Inspiration Peak in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike leaves the crowds at Keys View for even grander views from a 5,550-foot summit.
1.2 miles
425 feet
33.927151,
-116.187438
Crown Prince Lookout Joshua Tree700Crown Prince Lookout in Joshua Tree
This easy out and back hike crosses a desert plateau to a pair of overlook near the site of an World War II era observation post.
3.25 miles
50 feet
33.991885,
-116.067908
Arch Rock Joshua Tree710Arch Rock in Joshua Tree
This easy loop visits a natural arch in the granite formations around White Tank Campground.
0.3 miles
30 feet
33.985241,
-116.016487
Cholla Cactus Garden Joshua Tree720Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree
This loop offers a stroll through an intense concentration of cholla cacti.
0.25 miles
5 feet
33.925302,
-115.928777
Mastodon Peak Joshua Tree730Mastodon Peak in Joshua Tree
This loop visits a 3,400-foot summit with panoramic views of southeastern Joshua Tree.
2.6 miles
440 feet
33.735165,
-115.799682
Joshua Tree Lost Palms Oasis740Lost Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree
This out and back hike visits an oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of the park.
7.2 miles
400 feet
33.736992,
-115.810888
Bajada Trail Joshua Tree750Bajada Trail in Joshua Tree
This level nature trail loop explores the plants living on a desert bajada.
0.3 miles
5 feet
33.681238,
-115.801784
Anza-Borrego Desert Calcite Mine810Calcite Mine Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This figure-eight shaped lollipop loop visits enthralling narrows and a mine site important to the history of the park.
4 - 4.25 miles
600 feet
33.281126,
-116.096372
Anza-Borrego Desert Borrego Palm Canyon820Borrego Palm Canyon Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This loop visits a popular palm tree oasis in a canyon west of Borrego Springs.
3.25 miles
450 feet
33.269838,
-116.418042
Anza-Borrego Desert Panoramic Overlook Trail822Panoramic Overlook Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
The out and back hike ascends a ridge on the south side of Borrego Palm Canyon to sweeping views of the San Ysidro Mountains and Borrego Valley.
1 mile
300 feet
33.267663,
-116.409476
Anza-Borrego Desert Hellhole Canyon Waterfall830Maidenhair Falls in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This out and back hike visits a 20-foot waterfall in a canyon near Borrego Springs, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day in the California Desert.
5.5 miles
1,000 feet
33.248037,
-116.40594
Culp Valley Loop833Culp Valley Loop in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This loop visits Culp Valley Overlook and Pena Springs, delivering views of the San Ysidro Mountains and Borrego Valley along the way.
2.2 miles
200 feet
33.2241,
-116.454725
Tubb Canyon Trail836Tubb Canyon Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This out and back hike follows a footpath across Tubb Canyon to Big Spring in a desert canyon below Pinyon Ridge in the San Ysidro Mountains.
1.5 miles
200 feet
33.211274,
-116.438534
Anza-Borrego Desert Slot Canyon840The Slot in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This out and back hike crosses a narrow canyon beneath a natural rock span that is among the most photographed landmarks in the park.
0.8 miles
100 feet
33.182132,
-116.214176
Kenyon Overlook Trail843Kenyon Overlook Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This loop sets out from Yaqui Pass to reach an incredible viewpoint across Mescal Bajada.
1.15 miles
125 feet
33.148143,
-116.348653
Anza-Borrego Desert Cactus Loop Trail845Cactus Loop Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This loop on a self-guided nature trail explores cacti and other plants that have adapted to survive in the Anza-Borrego Desert.
0.75 miles
250 feet
33.138755,
-116.37494
Yaqui Well Trail Anza-Borrego Desert846Yaqui Well Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This out and back hike on a self-guided nature trail explores area botany and history on the way to a rare desert water source.
1.6 miles
100 feet
33.138333,
-116.37649
Kumeyaay Indian Village Site850Village Site in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
No hiking required to visit this Kumeyaay Indian Village Site on Mine Wash Road where you can find morteros in a collection of boulders.
0.1 miles33.113076,
-116.34512
Anza-Borrego Desert  Narrows Earth Trail855Narrows Earth Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This short self-guided loop explores the geology of the park.
0.5 miles
50 feet
33.13072,
-116.301549
Anza-Borrego Desert Elephant Trees Trail860Elephant Trees Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This easy loop offers a lesson in desert botany including the rare elephant tree.
1 mile
50 feet
33.068153,
-116.1168
Anza-Borrego Desert Pictograph Trail870Pictograph Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This out and back hike visits rock paintings drawn by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago.
1.8 miles
150 feet
33.019574,
-116.359625
Anza-Borrego Desert Morteros Trail880Morteros Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This brief hike visits a village of boulders once occupied by Kumeyaay Indians who left behind Morteros, grinding bowls carved into the rock.
0.6 miles
40 feet
33.008959,
-116.378478
Marshal South Cabin Trail890Marshal South Home Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This out and back hike ascends to the ruins of an adobe cabin on Ghost Mountain (Yaquitepec) with great views above Blair Valley.
1.3 miles
450 feet
33.003382,
-116.389789
Rainbow Canyon900Rainbow Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert SP
This out and back hike follows an undeveloped trail up a colorful canyon full of vibrant rock formations and desert plants.
2.2 miles
250 feet
32.997806,
-116.447558
Anza-Borrego Desert Wind Caves930Wind Caves Trail
This short hike climbs to a sandstone formation that begs to be explored.
1.25 miles
250 feet
32.991103,
-116.112556
hikespeak
High View Nature Trail Joshua Tree National Park Hike Black Rock Canyon Hi-View Trail
While many national park nature trails are short, level, and informative, High View Nature Trail offers a bit more for hikers, 325 feet of elevation gain on a 1 1/3-mile loop. The trail ascends a desert ridge with views over Yucca Valley and toward Southern California's tallest peak, San Gorgonio Mountain, in the mountains to the west. The loop starts near Black Rock... Read more.
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Distance: 1.35 miles – Elevation change: 325 feet
By: hikespeak Last updated: October 1, 2014
Rock Spring Mojave National Park Rock Spring Loop Trail Rock House Hike
Water is something you don't see much of in Mojave National Preserve, certainly not just pooling on the ground as it does at Rock Spring. The constant source at Rock Spring helped inhabitants survive in the Mojave Desert for thousands of years and was even the site of a small U.S. Army post in the 1860s. Today you can reach the spring easily, along with a Rock House... Read more.
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Distance: 1.33 miles – Elevation change: 100 feet
By: hikespeak Last updated: July 22, 2014
Kumeyaay Indian Village Site Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Native American morteros location to visit
Labeled simply as the "Village Site" on park maps, the Kumeyaay Village in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is an easy to visit location where Native Americans lived for thousands of years. Take a short stroll around a pile of boulders along Mine Wash Road and spot grinding holes amongst the rocks. A sign at the Kumeyaay Village reads:Native desert people have been... Read more.
By: hikespeak Last updated: July 23, 2014
Tamarisk Grove Campground in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park camping
Tamarisk Grove campground is one of four developed campgrounds in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with 27 sites, plenty of shade, amenities, and nearby hiking trails. Tamarisk Grove has interesting history too, originally serving as a San Diego County prison camp. Thanks to numerous park improvements, it won't feel like you are doing hard time to spend a little time at... Read more.
By: hikespeak Last updated: July 24, 2014
Cactus Loop Trail Anza-Borrego Desert State Park self-guided cactus hike Tamarisk Grove Campground cacti nature trail cactus flowers hike
Broadly speaking, the desert is where you go to find cacti. Speaking specifically, Cactus Loop Trail is where you go in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to see lots of cacti. True you can spot these prickly plants throughout the park, but this self-guided nature trail explores a rocky ridge that is utterly blanketed with a variety of cacti. A state park provided trail... Read more.
By: hikespeak Last updated: July 19, 2014