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 Campground on the west side of Joshua Tree National Park, making it one of the easiest trails to reach for travelers coming from Los Angeles.
To make the most of High View Nature Trail, stop by the Black Rock Visitor Center and pick up a trail guide with information on the area’s plants, corresponding with twenty-one numbered markers along the trail. Drive to a dirt parking area at the end of South Park Road and set out up the trail to the left through the wooden fence.
After about fifty feet, High View Nature Trail will split at the start of the loop. Stay to the left to follow the loop in a clockwise direction. In another hundred yards, you will come to an intersection with West Side Loop Trail. Cross it and bear right past a path that breaks off toward Black Rock Campground. High View Nature Trail will begin ascending a desert ridge. Stone steps are built into the sandy track to help you zig-zag uphill through cactus, yucca, and Joshua trees. As you make your way up the ridge, gaze east over Black Rock Canyon and north over the city of Yucca Valley just outside Joshua Tree National Park.
At 0.45 miles from the start, you will round the north end of the ridge and come to the first of five benches along the loop. Have a seat to take in the views to the northeast along with new views toward San Gorgonio Mountain, rising above the rest of the San Bernardino Mountains to the west. This bald 11,500-foot summit is capped with snow for much of the year.
The trail proceeds south up the ridge, climbing to the high point of the loop, 0.6 miles from the start, where a trail register allows you to sign in after bagging the ridge crest. A path ventures off to the left out to the top of the rocky crest where the views look east over Black Rock Canyon and west toward the San Bernardino Mountains.
Beyond the register, the trail drops to a saddle in the ridgeline below a taller mountain to the south. A bench on the left looks east over Black Rock Campground as the trail turns right and descends into the canyon to the west.
High View Nature Trail drops off the ridge to the top of a slope framed by ridges. Continue down the trail, which will loop back parallel to the ridge you hiked up. The trail passes through Joshua trees, alongside several numbered markers and a pair of benches where you can relax and take in the desert surroundings.
The trail will reach the bottom of the canyon and curve to the right to head back toward the parking lot. Over your left shoulder, you’ll get your final views of San Gorgonio Mountain beyond the desert ridges to the west. Cross through an intersection with West Side Loop Trail and hike another tenth of a mile to finish the loop.
High View Nature Trail is an informative nature trail with some elevation gain and panoramic view. The five benches along the loop allow you to linger as you learn about desert plants. Dogs, bikes, and horses are not allowed on High View Nature Trail. While located within Joshua Tree National Park, you won’t actually need to pay a park entrance fee to reach the trailhead. No permit is required to hike High View Nature Trail, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Route 62 in the city of Yucca Valley, turn south on Joshua Lane (5.8 miles west of the intersection with Park Boulevard). Drive 4.6 miles to the end of the road and turn right onto San Marino Drive, which curves to the left and becomes Black Rock Road. Go up this pothole-filled road for half a mile and turn right up a dirt road just before the sign for Black Rock Campground on the median in the center of the road (or drive a bit farther to get the interpretive guide from the Black Rock Visitor Center). The turn onto South Park Road has a sign with arrows for the horse camp and the interagency fire station. Drive 0.7 miles to the South Park Parking Area at the end of the dirt road where the trail begins to the south.
Trailhead address: South Park Road, Joshua Tree National Park, Yucca Valley, CA 92284
Trailhead coordinates: 34.076169, -116.399369 (34° 04′ 34.20″N 116° 23′ 57.72″W)
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