Explore the most popular trails near Desert Center with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.


no dogs

nature trips




wild flowers


trail running

kid friendly

off road driving

scenic driving



Desert Center, California Map

First off road adventure - novice four wheeler. Entered from Geology Tour Trail. plenty of time to get u sedan to the feel of 4 wheel drive before encountering the "moderate section"

We were in a jeep Wrangler Rubicon. high clearance is definitely recommended. Needed to spot the road ahead twice - mostly because of inexperience. Narrow areas, some rock hopping through the narrow wash down to Dillon Road.
Had a great time

A short and easy hike through some interesting rock formations and vegetation. The informational signs in the area are pretty neat. There’s fun to be had scrambling around the rocks.

The trail isn’t really labeled until you get up close, but it’s in the White Tank campground.

Definitely more “touristy” due to the short length and ease of the hike, but still fun to see. Would recommend doing this either earlier or later in the day to beat or follow the crowds as there is sometimes some congestion around Arch Rock.

I did this as part of the Lost Palms Oasis hike and would definitely recommend doing the two of these together, as they offer some great views of the southern side of the park and the environment beyond. The path up to the very top of the peak is just a bunch of boulders that need to be scrambled over, but it isn’t very challenging and is very much worth it. The view from the top is absolutely amazing.

1 day ago

One of my favorite hikes in Joshua Tree. Lots of cool vegetation and rock formations, and the oasis is a great place to break for a lunch below the palms. The view between the mountains approaching the oasis is great, as are the views on almost the entire return hike, where the San Jacinto mountains and Salton Sea can be seen.

Either on the way there or the way back make sure to stop by Mastodon Peak for some amazing views. The path up to the very top is just a bunch of boulders that need to be scrambled over, but it isn’t very challenging and is very much worth it.

Amazing hike! The 5 mile dirt road to get here isn’t too bad. Was pretty easy in our Ford Focus. The hike itself is great, but can be difficult to follow at times due to the lack of signs. Keep an eye out for the rock arrows showing the path. We missed the Ladder Canyon portion on the way up, but took it down on the way back.

The great thing about this hike is the diverse scenery. We spent time in a deep and wide canyon, then came out on a ridge line overlooking the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea, then went through the narrow slot canyon with the ladders. It kept the hike fresh and exciting.

1 day ago

short trail but hike around the arch for more views

nice views

We did this Yesterday. Be sure to check your map and plan. We were almost all the way back down and there was a group up on the top asking how to get down. They were way out on a “finger” high above us!

4 days ago

Awesome hike! 5.0 miles and change. Somehow I lost the recording but nevertheless completed the loop with my dog.

Not recommended if your dog cant climb ladders or is afraid of going down. I have scratches to prove my point but worth it.

Follow the trail clockwise for the normal route. We did counter clockwise and ended in the sark narrow canyons with high ladders. Totally worth it. Like a grand finale!

A hidden gem for socal non-forest/non-preserve or NP hikes

off road driving
5 days ago

We enjoyed driving this easy trail up to Joshua Tree. most of the drive can be accomplished by a novice driver, but there are a few mildly technical spots which require clearance, attention and some care.

6 days ago

The oasis is NOT anticlimactic. It’s absolutely beautiful seeing and (surprisingly) smelling a hidden grove of giant palms in the middle of the montane desert. Fed by an underground spring, the trees have an incredibly sweet, woody smell.

Nice hike for getting a feel for the environment of Joshua Tree - spiky plants, rolling desert hills and rocky features, maybe a few critters. The oasis itself is neat but not spectacular, fun to climb down to. The climb into the oasis is really the only tricky part terrain-wise, all the rest is slightly hilly trail but not too steep.
Did in Feb. 2018 and the weather was in the high 70's the whole morning. Took 3-4 hours, a feasible way to spend a morning or an afternoon.

Amazing!!! So worth it!!

Really great hike. Mostly dog friendly. Depending on what trail you take you will have to climb ladders. We were took Painted Canyon because it was tagged dog-friendly but the turn off of the main trail started with what looked like 15-20 ft ladder. We continues along Ladder Canyon (counter-clockwise). We climbed down the big ladders towards the end (beginning) of Ladder Canyon and it wasn’t THAT bad, I have a small pug and I climb ladders at work.

If the dog wasn’t with us it would be a GREAT day in Mecca Hills. Gorgeous scenery. Not too strenuous.

Great views. It was super sunny and we all got sunburnt on our hike. Easy to do with kids.

10 days ago

Great trail, definitely take the route up the hill with the rope climbing, well worth it and fun. Then descend using the ladders.
Narrow canyon walkways and rope climbs allow for Great pictures.

We seemed to have taken the route opposite to most of the other hikers and there were a few times we weren’t sure if we had lost the trail but all roads lead back to the parking. Neat to see all the weathered cars and old mill out in the desert.

Great kid friendly trail but easy to get lost if you get off the trail. There is an old building and rusted out car towards the beginning of the trail but you have to go off trail to see it. Just make sure you get back on the main trail after you go see it. Two other rusted out cars near the mill. Super cool and fun for kids.

Fun trip, the mine structure is a fun place to have lunch...

Short hike but cool photo opportunity with the arch. If you feel adventurous there are rocks to scramble around. It’s a good hike to end the day.

15 days ago

Awesome trail to go exploring! I had a blast hiking through the narrow slot canyon, climbing the many ladders, and experiencing the gorgeous mountain views above the canyon. There are several trails that break off of this one, so be mindful to follow the correct trail, usually marked by rocks arranged into arrows on the ground.

Best trail. In mecca

This is a highly underrated hike, and one of my favorites. Parking was crowded but the trail was nearly empty. I recommend climbing the lost horse mountain peak as it provides one of the best views in the park. The entire hike took us around 4 hours with several stops and a lunch break. Don't skip this one!

Short easy hike with some opportunity for some cool easy rock climbing.

We took the first half of this loop on our way to Lost Palms Oasis. I thought this section was the best views as it's a nice climb up and down.

18 days ago

This was a moderate hike for me, we took the mastodon rock loop to start so it ended up over 8 miles total. Was nice and scenic though the oasis at the end a little anticlimactic.

Nice diverse hike. Great views. Mine is really cool. Loved the Joshua trees

22 days ago

Lots and lots of water is recommended and sun screen

Short and sweet hike to a nice arch Rock! be early since parking is very limited

I added the Mastodon Peak Loop as Part of the hike to lost Palm Oasis. The Vista from the peak is spectacular.

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