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Hike the Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park!

The Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a spectacular and easy nature trail, perfect for anyone that wishes to experience Joshua Tree’s signature rocks and trees in a not-too-long walk.

Hiking the Hidden Valley Trail is one of my favorite things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, and so far, we’ve done this hike on each of our three visits!

Rock face Hidden Valley Joshua Tree NP California
An up-close look at a rock formation in Hidden Valley

Because it’s easy, short, and scenic, the Hidden Valley Trail is also one of the most popular hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park. From families with kids to older visitors to rock climbing enthusiasts, you’ll meet hikers of all ages and skill levels on this trail.

If you plan to hike the Hidden Valley Trail on your visit to Joshua Tree National Park (and you should!), here’s what to expect, plus a few things to know before you go!

What Can You Expect on the Hidden Valley Trail at Joshua Tree National Park?
Essential Facts About the Hidden Valley Trail at Joshua Tree
How to Get to the Trailhead for the Hidden Valley Trail
How Long Does It Take to Hike the Hidden Valley Trail?
What to Bring on the Hidden Valley Hike
Tips for Hiking the Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

What Can You Expect on the Hidden Valley Trail at Joshua Tree National Park?

The most unique features of Joshua Tree National Park are its enormous boulders and its Joshua trees, and in Hidden Valley you’ll find plenty of both!

Rocks and Plants in Hidden Valley Joshua Tree NP
Beautiful rock formations along the Hidden Valley Trail

Hidden Valley sits ensconced within a circle of huge boulder formations, and it was apparently used as a hideout by cattle rustlers in the late 19th and earlier part of the 20th century. So the trail comes up with a colorful history as well!

During those days, the valley contained grass for cattle to graze: Bill Keys of Keys Ranch, a prominent area rancher, reportedly blasted an opening in the rocks to give his cattle access to the grass in Hidden Valley. That’s the opening you’ll use to hike the trail!

Hidden Valley Joshua Tree Desert Landscape
Hard to imagine that there was grass here once!

There are masses of rocks everywhere, both on the periphery and in places inside the valley. It will be only so long before you will want to scramble up some of the rock formations, so wear shoes with good grip!

Hidden Valley does feature some steep rock walls favored by climbers, and you may climbers in action when you visit. But most of the rock masses are flatter and ideal for bouldering and looking down into the valley from the top. Take photos from the top, and then resume your walk!

Rocks made for scrambling in Hidden Valley Joshua Tree National Park California
A rock pile made for scrambling!

There are many information plaques along the trail that make for interesting reading if you wish to learn more about Hidden Valley and its history, geology, flora, and fauna.

Information Plaque Hidden Valley Trail Joshua Tree
Read the information plaques to learn more about the valley!

Plants, Trees, and Wildlife

You’ll see a wider variety of plants and trees at Hidden Valley than you’ll see elsewhere in the park, because of the valley’s unique enclosed location and microclimate. Look for beautiful pinyon pines, junipers, oaks, and many varieties of cactus and other spiky plants, and of course, Joshua trees.

Pinyon Pine Hidden Valley Joshua Tree NP
The rocks and plants in Hidden Valley look so stunning together!

The Joshua tree isn’t really a tree: it’s actually a type of yucca. If you visit in the spring, you’ll see large sprays of creamy white blooms at the tips of the spiky arms. Other succulents bloom in late spring as well, so it’s a great time to do this walk.

In the spring, you may find wildflowers along the trail, and year round you should keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and birds. You are more likely to see smaller creatures such as lizards and squirrels during the day, but early or late in the day you may be lucky enough to see a fox, or bighorn sheep!

Essential Facts About the Hidden Valley Trail at Joshua Tree

The Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree NP is a one-mile loop, and you can walk it clockwise or anticlockwise. Most of the way, the trail is hard-packed sand.

The trail is relatively flat, with an elevation gain of only around 100 feet. In places, it does go through some of the boulder masses in the valley, and you’ll do some stepping up or down along the way, but mostly it’s a flat easy walk.

There are a few steps to climb at the start, to get to the opening in the boulders and into the valley.

Tips-for-Hiking-the-Hidden-Valley-Trail-in-Joshua-Tree-National-Park
Climb the few steps to get into the valley!

Classified as easy, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is suitable for most visitors to the park, and can be hiked year round.

No bikes are permitted on the Hidden Valley Trail, and dogs are not allowed. It’s not suitable for strollers, so young children may need to be carried.

How to Get to the Trailhead for the Hidden Valley Trail

The trailhead for the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is located at the Hidden Valley Campground and Picnic Area on Park Boulevard, in the northern part of the park. You’ll see signs for Hidden Valley on Park Boulevard, whichever direction you are driving.

From the parking area, proceed to the roped pathway leading to the opening in the boulders. There are just a few easy steps to get to the opening. Once inside the valley, you can start walking in either direction to do the loop trail.

Tips-for-Hiking-the-Hidden-Valley-Trail-in-Joshua-Tree-National-Park
A roped pathway leads to the start of the Hidden Valley Trail

How Long Does It Take to Hike the Hidden Valley Trail?

You could walk the Hidden Valley Trail in 30-40 minutes, even at a somewhat leisurely pace. But why would you want to race through such a beautiful walk?

Rock formation Hidden Valley Joshua Tree
Rock formations and plants in Hidden Valley

We recommend allowing at least one hour, more if you can spare the time. You’ll want to read the many information plaques along the way, take in the scenery, scramble up some of the rock formations, and take lots of photos.

We’ve hiked the Hidden Valley Trail three times so far, and the shortest amount of time we’ve spent is about 90 minutes.

What to Bring on the Hidden Valley Hike

Water

Even on short hiking trails in the desert, you need to carry plenty of drinking water. That’s true no matter what time of year you visit, but even more so if the weather is warm.

There isn’t any access to food or water within the park, so stock up on supplies before you arrive.

Snacks And/or A Picnic Lunch

There is a picnic area at the Hidden Valley Campground, with some picnic tables strategically placed in the shade of large boulders. It’s perfect for relaxing with snacks (or a meal) after your walk.

We always bring protein bars, fruit, and trail mix on hikes. They are a relatively healthy way to refuel and taste great!

Digital camera with Zoom Lens

Your smartphone may do a great job of recording the scenery, but if you like photographing birds and animals, consider investing in a small camera with a powerful zoom lens.

We use the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70 and love it. It has a 30X zoom and Leica lens, and takes pretty good shots of birds and small animals. And it’s small enough to go into a pocket, so we don’t have to lug around the heavy gear when we hike.

Binoculars

Enjoy birding? Bring your binoculars along on the Hidden Valley hike. I love my Celestron Trailseeker compact binoculars: not too heavy, and they perform great in low light.

Sun Hat

You won’t find much shade on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail (or pretty much any trail at Joshua Tree National Park), so bring a wide-brimmed sun hat for protection.

Sun Protective Clothing

We wear sun protective shirts and pants (or shorts) on hikes and outings where we know we are going to be in the sun for much of the day. They are lightweight and comfortable even in the heat of the desert.

Sunscreen, SPF Lip Balm and Sunglasses

Double down on sun protection when hiking in the desert: wear sunglasses, slather on sunscreen and don’t forget lip balm with SPF.

Good Walking Shoes

We wore our sneakers for this trail, but comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots would also work. Just make sure your shoes have a good grip, because the sandy surface can be slippery in places. Plus if you want to do rock scrambling, sturdy shoes with good grip are a must.

Bug Spray

We’ve hiked the Hidden Valley Trail without bug spray during the day and we didn’t get any bites. When we hiked it early in the day, we did use bug spray. If you want to be safe, use bug spray.

Tips for Hiking the Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

hike This Trail early or late in the day

The Hidden Valley Trail is one of the most popular trails in Joshua Tree National Park. It gets busy during the day, especially if you visit in season.

Consider doing this hike early in the day, or late. First, you’ll have a more pleasant walk, with more solitude. Second, sunrise and sunset in Hidden Valley can be spectacularly colorful. And finally, you are more likely to see wildlife early or late.

You’ll also find a parking spot with much greater ease in the early morning or late evening.

If you visit in the summer, you’ll want to restrict any Joshua Tree hiking to the early morning and late evening. Don’t underestimate the desert heat and check the park website for heat advisories.

Allow Plenty of Time

Hidden Valley is one of the prettiest places in Joshua Tree National Park, so you will definitely want to linger. Even on a limited itinerary, allow for at least one hour.

Rock formations Hidden Valley Joshua Tree NP California
Allow for time to appreciate the beauty of Hidden Valley!

If you can spare the time, enjoy the trail at a leisurely pace over two to three hours, stopping to scramble up rocks, watch rock climbers as they scale vertical rock faces, and observe the many plants and rocks, and possibly wildlife and birds.

Walk Around the Hidden Valley Picnic Area

There are more stunning rock formations scattered about the Hidden Valley picnic area. So if you have the time before or after you walk the trail, spend a few minutes walking around and admiring the boulders outside!

https://roadtrippingcalifornia.com/things-to-do-in-joshua-tree/
More photo-worthy rocks at Joshua Tree!

Dress for the season

Layers are a good idea, especially if you plan to do the walk early or late in the day. The desert can get cool at those times of day in spring or fall. During the winter, the desert can be cold even during the day.

Hiking Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree NP
Hidden Valley was cold but super sunny in the winter when we visited!

In the summer, light and loose clothing will keep you comfortable as you hike. Dress for sun protection: thin long-sleeved shirts and pants offer protection while allowing you to stay comfortable.

*****

Looking for another short and scenic hike for your Joshua Tree National Park trip? Check out the Barker Dam Nature Trail, a little over one mile long with the chance to see the historic water reservoir in the park! Also check out our list of the most amazing hikes to Joshua Tree National Park!

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Planning to hike the popular Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park? Discover what to expect on this trail, plus tips for hiking it!

Dhara

Dhara loves to explore her home state of California. With her husband Kishore, she has done numerous road trips in the state in every season. She hopes to share her love of the Golden State with you, and help you find your own exciting experiences here.

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