There are many, many trails at Joshua Tree National Park to choose from! However you may only have a day or two and want to know what is best to do with young kids. Well, this is for you!
Shorter, bite-size trails — 3 miles and under — is typically what people with young kids go for. After all, this is when the hangry starts to surface, your shoulders start to feel it from the weight of carrying the little ones, and you are ready to take a little break.
Plus, when you are at a place like Joshua Tree, there’s so much to see! If you are like us, you don’t really want to spend all of your time on one hike!
First, if you’ve never been to Joshua Tree, let me set an expectation: Higher does not equal better. I heard a park ranger telling others “We aren’t known for our difficult hikes, we are known for the views & vibes." I’d have to agree. While you can certainly find some more challenging hikes at JTNP if that is what you’re into, that’s not really what the park is about. Joshua Tree is all about taking in the unique textures and vibes!
Hidden Valley Trail
Distance: 1 mile loop
You and your kids will love this one. Super short, but tons of cool boulders and a few famous large Joshua Trees. Wide flat trail, easy to navigate. We did this one at sunset which turned out to be a good idea as the low sun in the sky was playing hide and seek behind the large rock formations — made for some interesting photos. There’s something to appreciate for hikers at any level on this hike!
Distance: 1.5 mile loop
Why, yes, there is water in the desert — and this trail is proof! A personal favorite for us, I think because along this short hike you come across a variety of landscapes. Depending on which time of the year you go, you and the kids will love seeing the water (in dry season, the water dries up!). Lots of history on this hike as well. The dam was constructed by early cattlemen in the year 1900. Because of the water, you’re likely to see more wildlife on this hike. We didn’t see many animals, but we’ve heard bighorn sheep frequent this watering hole!
Oh and also there are native american petroglyphs on this trail. Seriously be sure and hit up this hike. You won’t regret it!
Split Rock Trail:
1.9 Mile Loop
We showed up and popped out! We had planned to take our time hiking along this one but with a newborn baby blow out, wardrobe malfunctions and a cranky toddler we decided to take it easy, take in the views and move on to other trails. The parts we saw were beautiful, but it seemed to us that if you want the JT feel you could hit other trails and be just as happy!
Skull Rock Nature Trail: 1.7 Mile Loop Easy
You can do the hike or you can just climb around the rocks. We opted for the latter. Skull Rock is a rock formation that looks like, you guessed it, a skull! It is located right at the beginning of the hike and is actually visible from the road.
Where are the Joshua Trees? Pro tip: most of Joshua Tree National Park doesn’t have Joshua Trees! JTNP is split in elevation. The northern parts of the park are higher in elevation and include parts of the Mojave desert where you’ll see Joshua Trees. The southern parts of the park are lower in elevation and unable to grow Joshua Trees.
We had no idea the first time we went and wasted a lot of time trying to figure this out! Since Joshua Tree is about 60 miles from the south entrance to the north, it took us about an hour and a half to get to our destination after we thought we had already arrived! We recommend when planning your trip, if you are wanting to see the Joshua Trees, enter in from the north.