In between Barker Dam Trail and Wall Street Mill Trail is Wonderland Wash Trail, an unmaintained single track through the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park. This less-traveled trail passes monzogranite mounds that are a popular playground for rock climbers and bouldering enthusiasts. There is no defined end to the trail, but a hike to the prominent rock formation known as the Astro Dome creates a rewarding 2.1-miles round trip hike with 75 feet of elevation gain.
The journey through Wonderland Wash begins from the trailhead(s) for Wall Street Mill. There are two sequential starting points for the hike to Wall Street Mill and Wonderland Wash. The trailhead off Desert Queen Road is closest, but there is a second trailhead 0.3 miles away for those looking to add a little distance or avoid driving on dirt roads. The far trailhead is the main Wonderland or Rocks trailhead, which is also the starting point for the short popular hike to Barker Dam.
Less than a tenth of a mile up the trail to Wall Street Mill (from the closest trailhead) there is a junction with an unmarked track departing to the left. Follow this trail for a tenth of a mile to the ruins of Wonderland Ranch. The pink-painted crumbling walls are unmistakable, and an interesting relic of the ranching days of Joshua Tree. Take the time to tour this popular side attraction for Wall Street Mill hikers, before continuing into Wonderland Wash.
The ruins of Wonderland Ranch
To the left of the ruins, pick up the path heading east through a low boulder pile into the wash. On the other side, a use trail heads northeast up the center of Wonderland Wash. The nearly level desert floor is filled with thriving vegetation including tall brush and cactuses. All around, rise distinctive rock formations unique to the Wonderland of Rocks.
The unofficial trail is thin and overgrown in places, but with a few exceptions, it is not hard to follow. Stick to the bottom of the wash to remain on course. After a third of a mile, cross the remnants of an old stone wall that was used by cattle ranchers to dam the wash. Continue through the wild landscape for another quarter mile to a point where the trail passes below an eye-catching rock that resembles a whale.
A whale-shaped rock along the trail
After another third of mile, and 0.9 miles from the Wonderland Ranch ruins, a larger formation of White Tank Granite appears to the left. This bulbous rock is the Astro Dome. If you are here to climb, summitpost.org has an extensive write-up of the ascent. Otherwise, hikers may continue up the dwindling trail, or head back down the wash. On the return, the rock formations will look completely different, making this a very enjoyable out and back hike. The rock that looked so much like a whale on the hike in transforms into a panther’s head from the other direction.
The Astro Dome
To get to the trailhead: The hike into Wonderland Wash begins on Wall Street Mill Trail. The turnoff for the Wall Street Mill trailheads is located on Park Boulevard 12 miles west of the intersection with Pinto Basin Road (and 1.6 miles north of the intersection with Keys View Road). From the well-marked turnoff, drive north for 1.5 miles to the large parking area for the Wonderland of Rocks. To reach the second trailhead, turn right on Queen Valley Road just before the parking area. Make the next left off the dirt road and drive a quarter-mile to a smaller parking lot. There is a bathroom at both trailheads.
Trailhead address: Park Boulevard (Loop Road), Joshua Tree National Park, CA 92277
Trailhead coordinates: 34.024896, -116.142061 (34° 01′ 29.62″N 116° 08′ 31.41″W)
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This level 1.5-mile loop visits a small foreign-looking reservoir within the Wonderland of Rocks.
|Wall Street Mill|
This level 1.55 to 2.15-mile hike visits a well-reserved gold mill, exploring the mining history of Joshua Tree National Park.
|Desert Queen Mine|
This 1.6-mile hike follows a level trail to an overlook before crossing a canyon to visits the ruins of one the most profitable gold mines in the California desert.
|Lucky Boy Vista|
This level 2.5-mile hike visits a modest overlook at the site of an old mine.
This 3.9-mile hike ascends 700 feet up a wash, a canyon, and an old road to a mountainside mine site that offers a glimpse into the mining history of Joshua Tree.
|Fortynine Palms Oasis|
The 3-mile round trip hike visits a cool desert oasis.
The 101-site campground is home to a 0.6-mile interpretive trail and endless bouldering and rock climbing opportunities.
This one mile loop circles the interior of a small valley surrounded by tall rocks that serves as an excellent bouldering arena.
|Lost Horse Mine|
This 4-mile hike visits a well-preserved mine and mill.
This 1.2-mile hike leaves the crowds at Keys View for even grander views at a 5,550-foot summit that looks out on the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, Mount San Jacinto, and much of Joshua Tree National Park.
This 0.3-mile loop visits a natural arch in the granite formations around White Tank Campground.
|Cholla Cactus Garden|
This quarter-mile loop allows visitors to stroll through an intense concentration of cholla cacti.
This 2.6-mile loop visits a 3,400-foot summit with panoramic views of southeastern Joshua Tree.
|Lost Palms Oasis|
This 7.2-mile hike visits a desert oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of the park.
This 5.5-mile hike summits a peak with impressive views over the west side of Joshua Tree.
|High View Nature Trail|
This 1 1/3-mile 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.
|Hikes in the California Desert|
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
|Joshua Tree Campgrounds|
There are nine campgrounds with 500 total sites spread throughout the park to facilitate your visit.
|Joshua Tree Wildflowers|
The desert in bloom is something any outdoor enthusiast in California should see.