Cosmic American's Top Joshua Tree Trails for Families
When we moved to Joshua Tree, we had no idea what a wonderful community we would find here. Though as times passes, to have ever thought otherwise seems crazy. It's an awe-inspiring place that in turn magnetizes those in search of a creative and unconventional life. We feel grateful to be a part of this small community, and are excited to introduce you to one of our favorite JT families!
While there are many ways to enjoy Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding area, our friends Geneva and Andy prefer to explore as a family. They're a stylish and multi-talented bohemian bunch who live full-time in Joshua Tree, and have the sweetest daughter named Prairie who adores being outside. You may also recognize them as the ones behind the beautiful Instagram account, and Cosmic American blog. They're always taking advantage of the beautiful landscape around us, and have been kind enough to share their favorite trails to explore as a family. I'll let Geneva take it from here!
"Andy & I have been taking Prairie along on hikes since she was a newborn, and it's one of our favorite family pastimes... "
- Geneva (Cosmic American)
Andy & I have been taking Prairie along on hikes since she was a newborn and it's one of favorite family pastimes, truly an activity we all can enjoy! Of course you could bring your baby or toddler on really any hike, but we prefer hikes that aren't too long (in case we need to leave quickly due to a fall, diaper emergency, pissed off baby... you name it!)
It's also important that the trails aren't too difficult (so she can take turns walking, and also because with her riding in the carrier it's extra important that our footing is secure). It's a bonus if there's a bathroom (all of of my recommendations do have bathrooms at the trailhead). And of course, it must be someplace beautiful that the whole family can have fun exploring! With those guidelines in mind, here's a few of our favorite Joshua Tree area trails for the whole family:
Boy Scout Trail
This is an 8 mile long trail in the backcountry of Joshua Tree National Park. We like to hike the section that is on the left hand side of the road not too long after you enter from the Joshua Tree Entrance. It's not very popular so there's always plenty of parking, and we often have the trail to ourselves. The trail here is nice and flat with beautiful views of both boulders and Joshua Trees. It's a lovely place to watch the sunset; we walk until it starts getting dark and then turn around.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
This preserve is in Morongo Valley, which is between Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. Its location makes it a nice place to stop and stretch your legs if you are driving from PS, San Diego, or LA. It's a boardwalk and series of trails through a grove of deciduous trees. We really love to go in the fall to watch the leaves change color! And while you are in Morongo, don't forget to stop by Cactus Mart for fry bread, kitty petting, and to dig your own cactus.
Indian Cove Nature Trail
Indian Cove is a campground that's officially part of the National Park, but the entrance is separate (and free!). It's located off of Highway 62 between Joshua Tree and 29 Palms. Our favorite trail there is located past all of the campgrounds, where you will veer right and find a little parking area. The trail is only half a mile but there is a longer side trail you can take, or just walk the loop two or three times. It's through a dry river bed and there's lots of interesting vegetation with interpretive signage so you can learn what you're looking at!
Barker Dam Trail
Barker Dam is one of the most popular trails in the park, but trust us - it's worth braving the crowds to visit this historic dam. It's an easy 1.3 mile trail, and you can add an extra half a mile diversion to go see petroglyphs. The historic dam is located halfway through the trail, and if there's been rain and the dam is full, it is truly spectacular to see the reflection of the boulder stacks in the water. A herd of bighorn sheep frequent the area, so if you go at sunrise you just may get to see them!
49 Palms Canyon Oasis
This is another area of the National Park that has a separate free entrance off of Highway 62 between Joshua Tree and 29 Palms. It's a little longer; 3 miles roundtrip and takes 2-3 hours to complete as it is moderately strenuous. When you reach the top of this uphill trail there's a beautiful reward - a natural fan palm oasis. I'd recommend this hike for babies in a carrier or older kids, as it may be a little too tricky for toddlers to hike.
With the influx of visitors and newfound popularity of Joshua Tree, it's especially important to practice the principles of leave no trace: take only photographs, leave only footprints, pack out what you pack in, and stay on designated trails to help preserve the fragile ecosystem. Also-remember to bring lots of water, snacks, a flashlight, and layers (the desert can get surprisingly cool when the sun goes down).