Hikes in the California Desert
The California desert contains volcanic craters, sand dunes, oases, and some of the most fascinating geology in the United States. The best way to see many of these features is on foot. Choose a trail from the list below and begin exploring the California desert.
Four excellent parks combine to protect 8,500 square miles of California desert:
- Death Valley National Park
- Mojave National Preserve
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
California Desert Hiking
This collection of trails in the California desert lists the hikes from north to south. 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.
|110||Ubehebe 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
|120||Mosaic 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
|130||Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley|
This hike explores the most visible sand dunes in Death Valley
|1 - 3 miles|
|140||Grotto 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|
|150||Salt Creek in Death Valley|
This easy out and back hike crosses a short boardwalk bordering a rare desert stream.
|160||Harmony Borax in Death Valley|
This short walk around the Harmony Borax plant offers a window into the mining past of Death Valley.
|170||Golden Canyon - Gower Gulch Loop in Death Valley|
This loop visits some of the most stunning terrain in Death Valley.
|180||Badlands Loop in Death Valley|
This loop offers a great immersion into the terrain beneath Zabriskie Point.
|190||Zabriskie Point in Death Valley|
Zabriskie Point offers a stunning panorama of the badlands near Furnace Creek.
|200||Twenty 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.
|210||Artist’s Drive in Death Valley|
This 9-mile drive crosses a sloping mountainside composed of vibrant soil colored by rich metals.
|0 - 0.5 miles||36.32995,|
|220||Darwin Falls in Death Valley|
This out and back hike visits a refreshing year-round waterfall on the western edge of Death Valley.
|230||Wildrose 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.
|240||Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley|
These conical constructions converted lumber to charcoal for area miners from 1879 to 1882.
|0 - 0.5 miles||36.2467,|
|250||Natural 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.
|260||Badwater 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|
|270||Dante’s View in Death Valley|
This towering overlook above Badwater Basin offers panoramic views of Death Valley.
|0 - 1 miles|
0 - 200 feet
|280||Sidewinder 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
|290||Ashford 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.
|380||Teutonia 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|
|390||New 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|
|400||Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve|
This short out and back hike drops underground into an old lava tube lit by holes in the surface.
|410||Petroglyphs 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.
|417||Rock 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.
|420||Hole-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|
|430||Fountain Peak in Mojave National Preserve|
This off trail trek summits a peak with commanding views over the Providence Mountains.
|440||Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve|
This out and back hike climbs the highest point in this 45 square mile dune field.
|450||Silver Peak in Mojave National Preserve|
This out and back hike summits a 6,365-foot peak in the Granite Mountains.
This out and back hike travels up and into a volcanic crater near Mojave National Preserve.
|560||Fortynine 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.
|570||Indian 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)|
|580||Contact Mine in Joshua Tree|
This out and back hike travels up a wash, a canyon, and an old road to a mountainside mine site.
|587||High 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.
|590||Warren Peak in Joshua Tree|
This out and back hike summits a peak with impressive views over the west side of Joshua Tree.
|600||Desert 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.
|610||Lucky Boy Vista in Joshua Tree|
This level out and back hike visits a modest overlook at the site of an old mine.
|620||Wall 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|
|630||Wonderland 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)|
|640||Barker Dam in Joshua Tree|
This level loop visits a small foreign-looking reservoir within the Wonderland of Rocks.
|650||Hidden 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)|
|660||Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree|
This out and back hike offers summit views from the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
|670||Ryan 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)|
|680||Lost Horse Mine in Joshua Tree|
This out and back hike visits a well-preserved mine and mill.
|690||Inspiration 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.
|700||Crown 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.
|710||Arch Rock in Joshua Tree|
This easy loop visits a natural arch in the granite formations around White Tank Campground.
|720||Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree|
This loop offers a stroll through an intense concentration of cholla cacti.
|730||Mastodon Peak in Joshua Tree|
This loop visits a 3,400-foot summit with panoramic views of southeastern Joshua Tree.
|740||Lost Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree|
This out and back hike visits an oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of the park.
|750||Bajada Trail in Joshua Tree|
This level nature trail loop explores the plants living on a desert bajada.
|810||Calcite 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|
|820||Borrego Palm Canyon Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP|
This loop visits a popular palm tree oasis in a canyon west of Borrego Springs.
|822||Panoramic 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.
|830||Maidenhair 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.
|833||Culp 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.
|836||Tubb 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.
|840||The 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.
|843||Kenyon Overlook Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP|
This loop sets out from Yaqui Pass to reach an incredible viewpoint across Mescal Bajada.
|845||Cactus 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.
|846||Yaqui 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.
|850||Village 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.
|855||Narrows Earth Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP|
This short self-guided loop explores the geology of the park.
|860||Elephant Trees Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert SP|
This easy loop offers a lesson in desert botany including the rare elephant tree.
|870||Pictograph 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.
|880||Morteros 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.
|890||Marshal 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.
|900||Rainbow 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.
|930||Wind Caves Trail|
This short hike climbs to a sandstone formation that begs to be explored.