Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Last Updated on March 29, 2021

Joshua Tree’s stunning rock-strewn landscape and distinctive high desert ecosystem should be on everyone’s bucket list. There are so many amazing things to see in Joshua Tree National Park, however, that it can be hard to know where to begin. If you are short on time during your visit to the park, then be sure to prioritize the Hidden Valley Trail (also called the Hidden Valley Nature Trail). This hike is an easy 1-mile interpretive trail that is appropriate for hikers of all skill levels and a great introduction to Joshua Tree National Park.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail loops through a gentle valley surrounded by tall granite boulders. These natural walls create a unique ecosystem inside where both Joshua Trees and pinyon-juniper woodlands co-exist together. The boulders act as giant water collectors which enables Pinyon Pines and California Junipers to thrive. These rocky walls can also protect the valley from prying eyes – a feature which has contributed to the area’s colorful history. A group of cattle rustlers called the McHaney Gang supposedly used this valley to hide their stolen cattle in the 1870s.

This loop trail is one of the park’s most popular attractions…so plan accordingly. I recommend visiting on a weekday or in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds (or very early in the morning if you are a morning person).

Please note: the trail has a lot of steps and is not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. Dogs are not allowed on this trail.

Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Trailhead for Hidden Valley Trail

The trailhead for Hidden Valley Trail is located right off of Park Boulevard, which is the main road that runs through Joshua Tree National Park. The parking area is quite large as this is one of the most popular areas of the entire park. Parking can fill up quickly, in which case you can park across the street at the Intersection Rock parking area. Vault restrooms and picnic tables are also available at the parking lot.

Driving directions from Highway 62: turn south onto Park Boulevard in the town of Joshua Tree. The Joshua Tree Visitor Center is located one block ahead on the right if you’d like to stop and get a map or additional information. From there continue straight, past the West Entrance, and into the park for 13 miles. Turn right to enter the parking area for Hidden Valley Trail.

A view of the trailhead from the trail. Additional parking is available along the loop drive to the right and left of the trailhead.
My husband Daniel stands at the trailhead for Hidden Valley Trail. This photo is from our visit to Joshua Tree in 2019.

Hiking the Hidden Valley Trail

Note: before starting out on this or any desert hike, be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection, wear sturdy footwear, pack the 10 essentials, and leave no trace of your visit behind. Avoid hiking in summer or in the hottest part of the day. I also recommend a broad sun hat.

Part 1: Entrance into Hidden Valley

The trail begins with a short .1-mile climb up and over some boulders through a passageway to the valley hidden inside. Steps are carved into the rocks to make the climb easier. At the top of the ascent, be sure to turn around and catch the view southward towards the parking area before entering the valley.

At the beginning of the Hidden Valley Trail
Hiking up the rocky steps into Hidden Valley. This photo was taken a week later after a snow storm.
The rocky entrance to Hidden Valley provide great views of Joshua Tree before the trail heads down into the valley.

Part 2: Beginning the Loop

Once inside the valley, the loop trail begins. Hikers should take a left at the junction and hike in a clockwise direction to stay with the flow of traffic. The path heads north as it encircles the valley, staying close to the tall granite boulders which are popular with rock climbers.

Daniel stands at the loop junction. Hikers are directed to stay left to ensure everyone goes the same direction.
Hiking clockwise along the Hidden Valley Trail
The path passes through an area with tall boulders on both sides
A rock climber in action at Hidden Valley

Part 3: The North End of Hidden Valley

After about .4 miles, the path heads west and skirts the north end of Hidden Valley. Here you are treated to an up close view of the towering granite rocks that form the valley walls.

The photographer at work
A view from the north end of the valley looking south
Another view of Hidden Valley
I love Hidden Valley! Photo by Daniel.

Part 4: Ending the Loop

After another .2 miles, the trail heads south again on its way back to the entrance. The path climbs in elevation up some stairs to a great viewpoint of the valley near the end of the loop.

Climbing up some stairs on the Hidden Valley Trail.
Admiring the vista of Hidden Valley from the viewpoint
The same viewpoint a few weeks later after some snowfall
Another photo of Hidden Valley in the snow
Hello from Hidden Valley! This photo was taken by the parking area.

Hidden Valley Trail Information and Map

  • Distance – 1 mile roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain – 114 feet
  • Starting Elevation – 4233 feet
  • Highest Elevation Point – 4277 feet

Joshua Tree National Park Fee Information

The fee to enter Joshua Tree National Park is $30 per vehicle which is good for seven days. I recommend buying the America the Beautiful Interagency Pass, however, which costs $80. This allows entry to all National Parks for an entire year, as well as most federal lands (including National Forests, Bureau of Land Management and more).

More Resources

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this trail guide, be sure to check out my other articles about Joshua Tree National Park!

You may also enjoy these other Joshua Tree trail guides:

Have you hiked the Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park? I’d love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments below.

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