Barker Dam Loop visits a small foreign-looking reservoir within the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park. Hikers of all abilities will enjoy this level 1.5-mile hike. The water can all but disappear during the dry season, so make a point to visit this trail in the winter and spring.
The well-marked loop is easy to follow and easy to hike. From the parking lot, take the trail heading northwest toward Barker Dam. There are two well-marked trails leaving from this trailhead, so be sure do not take the other trail heading northeast toward Wall Street Mill.
Tall mounds of boulders rise on either side, and then suddenly, the trail emerges along the shore of a small blue lake. The stagnant waters look out of place in this desert landscape, but the site is quite calm and worthy of a relaxing break from trekking in the desert.
Turn left and follow the shoreline toward the dam itself. Barker Dam was build over a century ago by ranchers eager to save up some of the desert’s most vital resource, water. The trail turns west, leaves the lake and enters a flat piece of desert that is home to several tall Joshua trees. Follow the sandy track as it loops back toward the start. A marked turnoff visits a rock covered in vivid petroglyphs. These Native America drawings had their colors enhanced by a film crew working on an old Hollywood movie, which explains why they look too colorful to be real. Beyond the petroglyphs, continue along the trail. When it comes to a T, make a right to return to the parking lot. This 1.5-hike only has 50 feet of elevation change, making it a suitable excursion for anyone visiting Joshua Tree National Park.
To get to the trailhead: The turnoff for Barker Dam is located on Park Boulevard 12 miles west of the intersection with Pinto Basin Road (in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park near many other park attractions). From the well-marked turnoff, drive north for 1.5 miles to the large parking area for Barker Dam. This trailhead is located near the west end of an unpaved road that crosses through Joshua Tree from Desert Queen Mine (a fun drive for anyone not adverse to getting their vehicle a little dusty).
Trailhead address: Park Boulevard (Loop Road), Joshua Tree National Park, CA 92277
Trailhead coordinates: 34.0251, -116.1420 (34° 01′ 30.4″N 116° 08′ 31.2″W)
|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.
|Wonderland Wash |
This level 2.1-mile hike travels past the ruins of Wonderland Ranch up a use trail into the Wonderland of Rocks.
|Hidden Valley |
This one mile loop circles the interior of a small valley surrounded by tall rocks that serves as an excellent bouldering arena.
|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.
|Ryan Mountain |
This 3-mile hike offers summit views from the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
|Ryan Ranch |
This 0.8 or 1.2-mile round trip hike visits the ruins of an old adobe homestead beneath Ryan Mountain.
|Lucky Boy Vista |
This level 2.5-mile hike visits a modest overlook at the site of an old mine.
|Arch Rock |
This 0.3-mile loop visits a natural arch in the granite formations around White Tank Campground.
|Inspiration Peak |
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.
|Lost Horse Mine |
This 4-mile hike visits a well-preserved mine and mill.
|Fortynine Palms Oasis |
The 3-mile round trip hike visits a cool desert oasis.
|Indian Cove |
The 101-site campground is home to a 0.6-mile interpretive trail and endless bouldering and rock climbing opportunities.
|Lost Palms Oasis |
This 7.2-mile hike visits a desert oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of the park.
|Mastodon Peak |
This 2.6-mile loop visits a 3,400-foot summit with panoramic views of southeastern Joshua Tree.
|Cholla Cactus Garden |
This quarter-mile loop allows visitors to stroll through an intense concentration of cholla cacti.
|Warren Peak |
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 |
Nine campgrounds with 500 total sites are spread throughout the park to facilitate your visit.
|Joshua Tree Wildflowers |
The desert in bloom is something any outdoor enthusiast in California should see.