Panorama Loop Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Last updated May 19, 2021 | Published on Feb 22, 2021

Breathtaking views, unique geological formations and a picturesque desert landscape – all these and more await the adventurer who hikes the Black Rock Canyon to Panorama Loop Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. Tucked away in the park’s remote northwest corner, this 6.4-mile trail tends to get ignored in favor of other more popular trails in the main part of the park.

I have no idea why. The Panorama Loop Trail is a spectacular hiking experience and a contender for one of my favorite hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.

View from the top of the Panorama View Trail with a Joshua Tree in the foreground

Breathtaking views abound on the Panorama Loop Trail

Black Rock Canyon Trailhead and Parking

The trailhead for the Black Rock Canyon to Panorama Loop Trail is located at the Black Rock Canyon Campground in the northwestern corner of the park. Nestled among one of the area’s thicker stands of Joshua Trees, the campground is a short drive away from the town of Yucca Valley. The Black Rock Nature Center is worth a visit before starting the hike and provides natural exhibits as well as park information and maps.

While there are many options for starting the trail, the hike described in this post begins just to the left of the campground entrance at the Black Rock Canyon backcountry registration board. If you’ve already driven into the campground, you can park at the Nature Center and start along the path next to campsite #30.

Driving directions from Highway 62: turn south onto Joshua Lane in the town of Yucca Valley (this is about 5 miles west of the park’s west entrance). Drive about 5 miles and take a right onto San Marino Drive which turns into Black Rock Road. This leads directly to Black Rock Canyon Campground.

If the parking lot is full, take a right on the dirt road just before the entrance and park in the group horse camp overflow area.

Black Rock Canyon backcountry registration board

Preparing for a Hike in Joshua Tree

When planning your hike, remember that you are entering a desert environment and pack accordingly. There are no stores or restaurants once you enter the park, so you should come prepared with everything you need for your visit. Daytime temperatures can get really hot in Joshua Tree, especially in the summer months, so be prepared with adequate sun protection and plenty of water. Avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day if you can help it (or hike during the winter months when it is cooler). Be sure to leave no trace of your visit behind.

Hiking Gear

This list includes some of my favorite gear for day hiking. Refer to my Best Hikes in Joshua Tree: The Ultimate Hiking Guide for a more comprehensive list.

  • Hiking Shoes – Sturdy hiking or walking shoes are a must. Personally, I’m a big fan of Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoes. I pair them with Dirty Girl Gaiters to keep sand and rocks from getting into my shoes.
  • Socks – Good thick socks are also important. I usually wear a pair of double-walled Wrightsock Coomesh II socks with my Altras. For longer hikes, I switch to Injinji Midweight socks to prevent toe blisters.
  • Backpack – A backpack is essential so you can carry water, layers, and snacks. I love Ospreys and use the Osprey Manta pack which is technically a men’s pack (because I have a longer torso than most women). The women’s equivalent is the Osprey Mira pack.
  • Hiking Poles – Hiking poles reduce pressure on your joints and help maintain your balance if you trip. My current favorites are the LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles because they are super lightweight and fold down to easily fit into my suitcase.
  • Electronics – if you are using your phone for navigation, bring a portable battery such as the Anker portable battery charger. For longer hikes or backpacking trips, consider bringing a Garmin InReach Explorer. This is a Personal Locator Device (PLB) that enables you to trigger a SOS call to search and rescue and 2-way texting over satellite.

Hiking the Panorama Loop Trail

The Sandy Beginning

The hike begins on the Black Rock Canyon Trail along a sandy wash in a forest of Joshua Trees and Pinyon pines. The sand is very thick here and can be challenging to walk through (although I find heavy sand to be easier on my joints). You will pass the junctions for the California Riding & Hiking Trail and the Burnt Hill Trail in the first mile – stay straight to continue hiking up Black Rock Canyon.

At the beginning of the Black Rock Canyon Trail

Junction for the California Riding & Hiking Trail is to the left

Hiking through Black Rock Canyon

Around 1.8 miles, look for the Panorama Loop Trail marker and take a left. Note that some of the markers are wooden posts that simply read “PL”. This is where things start to get really interesting. Here, the trail goes through Black Rock Canyon where you can see some intriguing canyon rock formations.

Hiking through Black Rock Canyon

Another view of Black Rock Canyon

A plant with dried flowers lines the trail

Trail views

Mojave Mound Cactus growing out of striated rocks along the canyon

More striated rocks in Black Rock Canyon

The Final Push to the Top

After about half a mile, the trail climbs out of the canyon. This is where things start to get really steep as the trail makes a final climb up to its highest elevation point of 5168 feet.

Joshua Trees and Pinyon Pines line the trail

Climbing up switchbacks to reach the panoramic views

A look behind me reveals some fire-ravaged trees along the side of the trail

A cluster of young Joshua Trees line the side of the hill

The Panorama Loop

After around 3 miles, the trail finally stops climbing and follows a ridgeline. The views are incredible and on a good day you can see the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south, the San Jacinto Mountains to the southwest and the San Bernadino Mountains to the west. A spur to the right of the trail leads to Panorama Peak which is the 11th highest named peak in Joshua Tree National Park.

Panorama Loop Trail views

Panorama Loop Trail views

More views from Panorama Loop Trail

More views from Panorama Loop Trail

Panorama Loop Trail views facing south

Panorama Peak, the 11th highest named summit in Joshua Tree National Park

The Return Trip

After following the ridge for a bit, the trail turns west and heads downhill. I saw some really interesting Joshua Trees in this area (I mean, all Joshua Trees are interesting but these were *really* cool). At the 4.2 mile point, the Panorama Loop Trail reaches the junction with the Warren Peak Trail. You can extend your trip an additional 1.6 miles by hiking to the top of Warren Peak and back if you choose.

Take a right here and hike another .4 miles to reconnect with the Black Rock Canyon Trail. From here, it’s just a matter of retracing your steps to the trailhead or finding another route back to the parking area. I decided to follow the route in the All Trails app which starts along Black Rock Canyon Trail and then takes the Burnt Hill Trail back to the campground area.

Follow the PL markers!

Some big Joshua Trees line the Panorama Loop Trail

Some big Joshua Trees line the Panorama Loop Trail

Heading back to the Black Rock Canyon Campground

The trail ends here next to site #30 in the campground. From here, you can walk through the campground back to the parking area.

Panorama Loop Trail Information and Map

  • Distance – 6.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 1,194 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).

Be sure to check the Joshua Tree National Park web site for current conditions before heading to the park.

While you’re in the area, don’t forget to explore outside of the national park as well. There are lots of fun fun and quirky Things to Do Near Joshua Tree besides hiking and camping.

Entrance to Black Rock Canyon Campground. The trailhead is just ahead on the left where the cars are parked.

Further Reading

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


Have you hiked the Panorama Loop Trail? I’d love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments below.

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!

12 Comments

  1. Jennifer Connarn

    Joshua Tree looks awesome. I had to cancel my trip last year but really hoping to reschedule for this year. These are helpful tips for this trail

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Too bad about having to cancel your trip. Hopefully we can all travel again soon and you can reschedule!

      Reply
  2. skigrl985

    I’ve never been to Joshua Tree, but I find it fascinating how unique these trees are! And it’s cool how they seem to almost form a tunnel/wall along that first trail.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Joshua Trees are truly incredible! I feel lucky to have seen them.

      Reply
  3. Emma

    Joshua tree looks so good and the view at the end of the hike is amazing. I am always surprised at the diversity of landscape in the US! I would love to visit 🙂

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Joshua Tree is amazing! I hope you make it to the park someday.

      Reply
  4. Katy

    Looks like Joshua Tree has some amazing hiking and beautiful views! I’d love to visit some day, the scenery is very different to what we have here in Scotland

    Reply
  5. Alanna

    Great post! I was just working on a Joshua Tree post myself! Love to see your experience

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Alana! I look forward to reading your post.

      Reply
  6. Natalie

    So gorgeous! I absolutely love trees so I don’t know why I haven’t visited this park yet! I’ll definitely want to try this hike when I do visit 🙂

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Natalie!

      Reply
  7. Rachael

    I visited Joshua tree a few years back it was beautiful but we didn’t have much time for hikes. Would love to go back and do this!

    Reply

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