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Skull Rock Nature Trail

Joshua Tree National Park

Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, California

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Skull Rock Nature Trail

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  • The Skull Rock Nature Trail leaves from Jumbo Rocks Campground near site 93.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The creosote bush flowers in April or May.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • A cotton thorn bush along the Skull Rock Nature Trail.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The pencil cholla only propogates from sections of stem.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • Rockpiles along the Skull Rock Nature Trail.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • Jojoba produces berries that can be roasted and brewed.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • California juniper.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • After the yellow blooms, the creosote bush produces these seed balls.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The paperbag bush.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • Skull rock is also accessible by a roadside path.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • Skull Rock.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The roadside parking to access Skull Rock.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The Skull Rock Nature Trail continues across the road.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The trail enters a gully between rock piles.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • Skull Rock Nature Trail. - Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • An iconic Joshua tree along the Skull Rock Nature Trail.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • This nature trail is a great fit for families.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • Plenty of life and vegitation along this desert trail.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • Rockpiles along the Skull Rock Nature Trail.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The Skull Rock Nature Trail closer to Jumbo Rocks Campground.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
  • The entrance to Jumbo Rocks Campground and the end of the Skull Rock Nature Trail.- Skull Rock Nature Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Family friendly. Unique rock formations. Interpretive signs. Desert flora.
Cons: 
Some crowds. Heat and sun exposure.
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Region:
Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.70 mi (2.74 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
4,367.00 ft (1,331.06 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

The Skull Rock Nature Trail is a 1.7-mile loop in Joshua Tree National Park that is bisected by Park Boulevard; at the southwest end of the loop sits the main entrance to Jumbo Rocks Campground, and Skull Rock sits at the northeast end. There are parking places in either spot, so there are several places to access the trail. One of the best ways to break into this loop, however, is in Jumbo Rocks Campground at the trailhead just across from site 93. You won't face the traffic issues that come with parking off of Park Boulevard, and you'll be able to walk away from the crowds that stop in to see Skull Rock and skip off without enjoying the surrounding scenery.

However you decide to enter the loop, you won't be sorry you opted to take this scenic walk. While you could get through the loop in 40 minutes or so, there is so much to see and do along this hike that more time is very well spent. Plenty of interpretive signs along the trail are excellent at identifying the local fauna and describing its role in the desert ecosystem, and the steep gullies and towering rockpiles beg for exploration. With its bizarre sockets that formed as rain collected in tiny depressions, Skull Rock is definitely a highlight of the trail, but it would be a mistake to think of it as the main event. Really, this trail shines for the incredible biodiversity and geologic variation along the path. You'll also move from the tight corners and gullies into higher rises that provide excellent, broad views of Joshua Tree National Park's interior.

Generally the trail stays wide, though sections north of Park Boulevard may require a bit of maneuvering. There is some modest undulation to this trail, but this is a great choice for hikers of all abilities, and the distance won't overly stress young legs.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(11 within a 30 mile radius)

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(31 within a 30 mile radius)

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