in Joshua Tree National Park
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 trailheads for Wall Street Mill. Two sequential starting points can be used for hikes to Wall Street Mill and Wonderland Wash.
A trailhead off Desert Queen Road is closest to the attractions. A second trailhead, 0.3 miles away, adds a little distance and does not require driving on dirt roads. The more distant trailhead is the main Wonderland or Rocks trailhead and 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) 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.
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.
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.
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. Both trailheads have bathrooms.
Trailhead address: Park Boulevard (Loop Road), Joshua Tree National Park, CA 92277
Trailhead coordinates: 34.0251, -116.1419 (34° 01′ 30.4″N 116° 08′ 30.8″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding California Desert trails and campgrounds.
|Barker Dam |
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.
|Contact 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.
|Indian Cove |
The 101-site campground is home to a 0.6-mile interpretive trail and endless bouldering and rock climbing opportunities.
|Hidden Valley |
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.
|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.
|Arch Rock |
This short hike leads to a natural arch in the granite formations by White Tank Campground.
|Cholla Cactus Garden |
This quarter-mile loop allows visitors to stroll through an intense concentration of cholla cacti.
|Mastodon Peak |
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.
|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.
[…] hiked back into Wonderland for a bit and scoped out some routes while we were there. Wonderland is a maze of rock canyons. […]
are dogs allowed in any of the trails in Joshua Tree?
[…] touch the cactus.” The woman’s cautious tone bounced off the granite walls of Wonderland of Rocks. “Don’t touch the cactus!” she said, this time louder for she was quickly drowned out by the […]
Cant understand anyone rating this low. This is one of the greatest trails i have been on anywhere, and I’ve been in 48 states (not alaska or N Dakota) and all over the California deserts.
The trail is not very hard, but has some challenging sections where you have to rock scramble or walk in mud or navigate logs and rocks, etc. But my four year old has done it with no problem.
It is breathtaking scenery. There are many places to explore – crevices, caves, canyons – just dont get lost! It’s easy to if you leave the trail!
The challenges once you leave the trail are a great adventure, and my kids really learn and grow and develop patience, problem solving, and courage in Wonderland.
Epic trail. Do it!
[…] desert usually doesn’t offer such a quirky piece of history, so if you have the time, head over to the ranch ruins to check it […]
[…] boundary of the Wonderland of Rocks. Another option is by hiking along the unofficial 2-mile Wonderland Wash to the Astro Dome rock formation. I haven’t tried this hike, but I’ve heard that […]