Rating:
Area: Southern California
Distance: 1 mile
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation gain: 140ft (from 4,180 to 4,270ft)

Sample the best of Joshua Tree National Park on this short 1 mile nature trail loop in the heart of the park. If time or the fierce sun means you only have the chance for one short hike at Joshua Tree National Park, then Hidden Valley is a great choice.

Encircled on all sides by the familiar golden rock outcroppings of the Joshua Tree park, Hidden Valley certainly lives up to is name. In addition to being a great sheltered location, this place is also rumored to have been well known to 19th century cattle rustlers who would hide their bovine hoards in here.

The nature trail takes you on a circuitous route around some of the most prominent features of the park, including interpretive guides to the area’s diversity, plantlife and geology.

Begin the hike at the Hidden Valley trailhead located just south of the main park road, near Intersection rock, where you’ll commonly find rock climbers doing what comes naturally to them. This short guide begins at the parking lot, marked out by a roped entrance. Follow the trail into the valley with a brief gentle climb up across rocks and down onto the level valley floor.

Though the signs don’t recommend a direction at this point, everybody we observed on this popular trail took a clockwise route, and we’re happy to believe in the wisdom of crowds. The majority of this hike is along the sandy valley floor, making for an easy and comfortable experience.

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Joshua Tree on Flickr
- Official Site: Joshua Tree National Park

California Hiking by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown