The Hidden Valley Nature Trail is an ideal hike for those looking for a quick and easy walk through some of Joshua Tree National Park's most iconic scenery, and its proximity to Hidden Valley Campground makes it a must for those staying overnight there. This route leads through a tight passageway that was blasted out by Bill Keys to access grazing land in 1936 just prior the area's designation as a national park. While the trail is just a mile long, give yourself plenty of time to explore the flora and rockpiles. These formations are monzogranite that intruded upward and away from the earth's crust while still molten, but cooled while still below miles of earth and rock. Joints in these monolithic formations developed from the weight of the strata above, and groundwater seepage eroded along these joints to create broader cracks and, in many cases, completely detached boulders that remain in place. As the wind and water elements erode the surface, these formations are exposed as fully formed rockpiles. You'll likely see climbers enjoying the fruits of this incredible process as you walk the loop.
Joshua trees, creosote bushes, paperbag bushes, beavertail cacti, pinyon pines, California juniper, the ubiquitous yucca ... the list of plants that make this walk something like a tour through a desert garden is long and varied, and this variety is yet another reason to budget a good amount of time to complete this short loop. Interpretive signs do an excellent job identifying these plants and discussing their role in the larger ecosystem. You'll also see countless lizards along the way.
Touring the loop in a clockwise direction means you will be climbing stairs as you reach the end of the trial; while these stairs aren't overly taxing, if you'd rather descend them, make sure you head right when you reach the loop and continue in a counterclockwise direction. There is a large picnic area adjacent to the Hidden Valley Nature Trail parking lot, and this makes for a great spot to enjoy lunch after a morning walk on the trail.