A short and well-trodden nature trail in the center of the park. An easy way to get a glimpse at one of the most accessible areas of the Wonderland of Rocks, as well as seeing evidence of Native American petroglyphs. There is also a small, man-made reservoir here that will provide the rare chance to see water in the desert.
The Barker Dam loop is a small, short nature trail that winds through an impressive series of boulders at the southern end of the Wonderland of Rocks. This is a very popular area for both hikers, strollers, and rock climbers alike — and for good reason. The path is easy, the elevation gain is negligible, and the scenery is outstanding. This was the last trail I did on the way out of Joshua Tree — and getting there as the sun sets adds an extra highlight to the layers of giant boulders along the way.
If you stick to the west entrance, soon you’ll find yourself walking down a narrow canyon, closed in by high boulder walls on all sides. The effect is striking, but not at all claustrophobic. These aren’t slot canyons, by any means. But if you look up on either side, you may find some of the more adventurous hikers trying their hand at scrambling up the monzonite.
From here, the nature trail opens up into a wide, flat valley, surrounded by the trademark rock formations of Joshua Tree on all sides. The trail makes a wide circle through the valley, passing several interpretive plaques along the way. There are also some well-marked petroglyphs which, unfortunately, were painted over to make them more visible.
If you’re doing this trail on your way out of the park, like I did, enjoy the solitude you’ve probably got in this central valley. It’s a great place to watch the first stars start to appear during sunset.
He has also been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, and the Associated Press, as well as in documentaries for Columbia Sportswear and the OTIS College of Art and Design.
Casey is currently writing a book on day hikes in Los Angeles for Mountaineers Books.
This post was written by Casey Schreiner on January 29, 2008