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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
- Joshua Tree National Park – Official web site
- Best Easy Day Hikes Joshua Tree National Park by Bill and Polly Cunningham
- On Foot in Joshua Tree National Park: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide by Patty Furbush
If you enjoyed this trail guide, be sure to check out my other articles about Joshua Tree National Park!
- Joshua Tree Day Trip: The Ultimate One-Day Itinerary
- Backpacking in Joshua Tree: Tips for Successful Wilderness Camping
You may also enjoy these other Joshua Tree trail guides:
- 49 Palms Oasis Trail
- Barker Dam Nature Trail
- Boy Scout Trail (backpacking trip)
- Lost Horse Mine Trail
- Panorama Loop Trail
- South Park Peak and High View Nature Trails
- West Side Loop Trail
- Willow Hole Trail
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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