Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Trail type
1.10 mi (1.77 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass


Family friendly. Educational. Close to campgrounds.


Heavy foot traffic. Sun exposure.

Trailhead Elevation

4,267.00 ft (1,300.58 m)


Historically significant
Rock climbing
Bird watching

Typically multi-day



Nearby Lodging + Camping


Best time to visit is for sunrise when the surrounding rocks create a mirror like reflection on the reservoir.
Definitely a must-do hike while in Joshua Tree National Park. Rich flora (in the spring), expansive vistas, Native American artifacts (blemished by visitors unfortunately), craggy sandstone, and rich historical remains.
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