Joshua Tree National Park, West Side Loop

West Side Loop (Joshua Tree National Park)

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  • Location: High desert near Yucca Valley.  From I-10, take Highway 62 northeast for 21.8 miles.  Turn right on Joshua Lane (opposite highway 247).  Go 4.6 miles to a T-junction at San Marino Drive.  Turn right and follow San Marino Drive to Black Rock Canyon Road.  Drive 0.3 miles to the campground entrance. Just before the campground, turn right on a dirt road and follow it 0.8 mile to its ending at a small clearing.
  • Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: November – April
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to none in some spots
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: At the visitor center by the campground
  • Camping/backpacking: The trail is a short distance from Black Rock Canyon Campground ($20 per night). Tent, RV and equestrian camping are available there.
  • Recommended gear: Hiking poles, sun hat, sunblock
  • More information: Trip description (opposite direction) here and here; All Trails report here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 7

Updated March 2019

This enjoyable hike is basically a longer version of the High View Nature Trail. It showcases the expansive desert and mountain views of Joshua Tree’s northwestern corner. Its high elevation makes it a prime climate not only for Joshua trees but also juniper, pinyon pines and, following wet winters, wildflowers and even bunch grass.

Begin by taking the right fork of the High View Nature Trail and following it 0.1 mile to a signed junction with the West Side Loop. (There are several junctions to keep track of, but they are all obvious and well signed). Head right (west) and follow the West Side Loop briefly uphill before making a descent. San Gorgonio’s eastern slope dominates the view in the distance.

One mile from the start, turn left at a junction (the Boundary Trail continues half a mile to the park border) to stay on the West Side Loop. You gradually ascend, reaching a Y-junction in 0.4 mile. The right fork is the Little Long Canyon Connector Trail. Stay left and follow the West Side Loop another 0.3 mile, where it begins a steep climb out of the wash, picking up about 150 feet in 0.2 mile to gain a rolling ridge.

For the next half mile, the trail climbs up and down several bumps on the ridge, passing by mesquite, cholla and a few pinyons. At about 2.5 miles, you begin a steady descent, first continuing southeast and then bending north, heading back toward the campground through the largest grove of Joshua trees on the hike. At about 3.2 miles from the start, a short spur leads to a view point with vistas of the high desert to the north and Warren Point to the south.

At 3.5 miles, you reach a junction with the trail to Warren Point. Bear left and follow the trail a short distance to a dirt service road. Continue a short distance on the service road before branching off onto another single-track that heads back 0.7 mile back to the trail head.

West Side Loop Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
Junction with the West Side Loop, 0.1 mile from the start
Joshua Tree National Park
Yucca in bloom on the West Side Loop
West Side Loop, Joshua Tree National Park
Junction with the Boundary Trail, one mile from the start
Joshua Tree National Park
Steep ascent out of the wash
West Side Loop, Joshua Tree National Park
Ascending toward the ridge
West Side Loop, Joshua Tree National Park
Pinyon pines on the ridge
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua trees on the West Side Loop
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Heading back down toward the campground

Text and photography copyright 2019 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.


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