As I’ve read, Joshua Tree is not one for bountiful trails and hikes say for like Yosemite NP. However, it’s filled with what I would call points of interest (such as Arch Rock and Skull Rock), that are easily accessible and less than 1 mile off the paved road.
Originally I wanted to do The Lost Palms Oasis hike, one of the longer hikes in the park (around 7 miles). However, once we arrived we realized this located near Cottonwood Campground, roughly 30 miles away from us. So instead, we decided to do 2 shorter hikes — the first one classified as a “challenging hike,” and the second as a “short walk/nature trail.”
Both of these hikes were easy to find from the road, clearly indicated by wayfinding signage. The hikes themselves were well maintained and straight-forward. For example, we thought finding the petroglyphs would be more challenging, but even they had signs pointing towards them.
Ryan Mountain — “challenging hike,” 3 miles out-and-back with 1,000 feet elevation gain. The total elevation ends up being a little over 5,000 feet, with sweeping 360 views of the entire park, Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio.
Barker Dam — “short walk/nature trail,” 1.5 mile loop, with the only body of water in the park and Indian Petroglyphs.
I’m glad we did Ryan Mountain first. Although it is deemed a strenuous hike, we had no problem going up and down this within an hour and 30 minutes, with a prolonged break at the top. If we had only “hiked” Barker Dam, I think we both would have been fairly disappointed, although the Indian Petroglyphs definitely made up for this (we were so stoked and intrigued!!!).