Barker Dam Trail

Joshua Tree National Park

Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, California

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Barker Dam Trail


  • Desert cottontail hiding in the brush.- Barker Dam Trail
  • View of the trailhead.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Looking back toward the trailhead.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Barker Dam Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Barker Dam Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Water behind the dam.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Barker Dam.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Cattle trough. - Barker Dam Trail
  • Large teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) on the right side of the trail.- Barker Dam Trail
  • San Gorgonio Mountain (11,503 ft) off in the distance.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Barker Dam Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Petroglyphs carved into a boulder. - Barker Dam Trail
  • Barker Dam Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.- Barker Dam Trail
  • Bloom of a Joshua Tree.- Barker Dam Trail
  • - Barker Dam Trail
Overview + Weather
Family friendly. Educational. Close to campgrounds.
Heavy foot traffic. Sun exposure.
Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.10 mi (1.77 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,267.00 ft (1,300.58 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


The Barker Dam Trail is a 1.1-mile self-guided educational loop with signs posted describing the flora and fauna of the area. Taking this trail counterclockwise is the fastest way to the dam. Climbers will find plenty of boulders to climb on both sides of the trail. The trail ends at the dam, and open desert extends beyond.

Because water is so scarce in Joshua Tree National Park, this a great place to spot wildlife like the big horn sheep, kangaroo rats, black-tailed jack rabbits, and some of the parks 250 bird species.

One of the main features of this hike is the dam that was constructed by C.O. Barker in 1900 to supply water for cattle. Bill Keys raised the dam by 6 feet in 1949 and commemorated the event with an inscription at the top that reads: "Big Horn Dam Built by Willis Keys, W.F. Keyes, Phyllis M. Keys, 1949-1950." Visitors can also find an old water trough built by Keys at this location.

There are signs of earlier inhabitants here, as well. On the southwest edge of the trail there are a dozen or more pictographs and petroglyphs in a wind carved cave. Unfortunately, a film company painted over some of the pictographs sometime between 1950 and 1970 to make them show up better on film, leaving them forever vandalized.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

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Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(11 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(32 within a 30 mile radius)

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