Skull Rock Nature Trail, Joshua Tree CA

• 4-star hike
• 1.7 mile loop
• Easy difficulty | Gain 140 feet
• Twentynine Palms, CA | Joshua Tree National Park
• Driving Directions: Trailhead

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park teeming with visitors
Skull Rock, teeming with visitors.

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Located next to the main highway and situated in the middle of the park, this sandstone rock carved out by the elements is usually teeming with visitors. If you can find a space to park along the road you could join them by hopping out and then back in your car, or alternatively you could park closer to the Jumbo Rocks campground and embark on this short hike that takes in the surrounding scenery on the way to Skull Rock.

We advise a clockwise route on the Skull Rock Nature Trail that begins by the campground crosswalk and leads along mostly flat paths through sandstone outcroppings adorned with a variety of vegetation and scurrying lizards. Though mostly flat, there is a brief incline that rewards the hiker with a scenic overlook across the park to the wind-worn smooth features of Jumbo Rocks.

red icon Skull Rock Nature Trail Expand Map

red icon Skull Rock Nature Trail 4★
1.7 mi, Loop, Easy, Gain 140 ft
Trailspotting Map: AllTrails, GPX File

After crossing the road and satisfying your curiosities at Skull Rock, the loop trail continues South. Though early sections of the return trail are ill defined, follow a route parallel to the highway and you'll have no problems with wayfinding. Eventually the trail takes a left turn and drops you off at a marked trailhead in Jumbo Rocks Campground. From here you'll need to walk 0.4 miles along the camp road back to your starting position.

This nature trail offers a pleasant desert stroll away from the throngs of sightseers that head directly to Skull Rock. Ourselves, we prefer the nearby Split Rock Loop Trail that offers a dramatic and varied terrain with views in all directions and surreal stone formations that you can anthropomorphize to your heart's content.

Two hikers on a dusty stepped trail, heading for Jumbo Rocks. A highway intersects the photograph.
Hikers heading towards Jumbo Rocks.

Skull rock from a distance, among a large collection of windswept and rounded boulders
Does it look more like a skull from a distance?

• Trail Links: Official, Public Map at AllTrails
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