Pine City (Joshua Tree National Park)
- Location: Joshua Tree National Park. From Highway 62, about six miles past the junction with Highway 247 and 26 miles northeast of I-10, take Park Boulevard (signed for the park) south (turn right if you’re coming from the west, left if from the east). Follow the road for a total of 20 miles to Desert Queen Mine Road. Turn left and follow this dirt road (high clearance vehicles not necessary) 1.3 miles north, passing a merge with Queen Valley Road, to its ending at the Pine City Back Country Board. Alternately, from the northeast, take Highway 62 to Utah Trail. Head south into the park, past the admission booth, for a total of 13.6 miles (during which Utah Trail becomes Park Blvd.) Stay right at the fork with Pinto Basin Rd. Shortly past the Skull Rock Nature Trail, turn right onto Desert Queen Mine Road and follow it 1.3 miles to its ending. Admission to Joshua Tree National Park is $20 per vehicle for a week. The inter-agency America the Beautiful pass ($80 per year) is also accepted here.
- Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
- Distance: 4 miles
- Elevation gain: 200 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: October – April
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: None for most of the hike; fair at the overlook
- Water: None
- Restrooms: Vault toilets at trail head
- Camping: The nearest campgrounds are Jumbo Rocks and Sheep Pass. Campsites at Joshua Tree National Park tend to fill up well in advance during weekends in the cooler months, so plan accordingly.
- Recommended gear: sun hat
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here
- Rating: 6
It’s easy to forget how high up much of Joshua Tree National Park is. While Joshua trees and cacti are the dominant form of vegetation, the higher altitudes also support scrub oaks and pinyon pines, the latter of which gives this destination its name. A straightforward walk across the desert, with options for rock scrambling and additional exploring, brings you to Pine City.
From the trail head, walk north across an open plain, dominated by views of Negro Hill to the west and Queen Mountain (the park’s second highest peak) northwest. Besides the ubiquitous Joshua trees, look for creosote bushes, junipers and cholla cacti. Soon, the “outskirts” of Pine City, marked by a wall of granite boulders, comes into view. At 1.3 miles, the official trail bends to the left, but it is easy to turn right and make your way into Pine City with some easy rock scrambling (and avoidance of a few sharp yuccas).
This peaceful spot is sheltered by the pines on one side and the granite wall on the other. After enjoying the serenity of Pine City, rejoin the main trail and continue north. In 0.6 mile, you reach the “official” end of the trail. Bear left and follow the trail a short distance to an overlook with great views down the canyon toward Twentynine Palms.
After enjoying the vista, retrace your steps. If you are still hungry for exploration, keep in mind that Pine City shares a trail head with the Lucky Boy Vista Loop and Desert Queen Mine.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.