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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Best Hikes in Joshua Tree: The Ultimate Hiking Guide
- Backpacking in Joshua Tree: Tips for Successful Wilderness Camping
- California Riding and Hiking Trail: An Epic Joshua Tree Backpacking Adventure
- 10 Fun and Quirky Things to Do Near Joshua Tree
Have you hiked the Panorama Loop Trail? I’d love to hear from you! Share your experience in the comments below.
Like this article? Pin it!
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. While clicking these links won’t cost you anything, they will help me to keep this site up and running!