Joshua Tree National Park: In Hidden Valley

Hidden valley lies near the heart of the Mohave Desert section of Joshua Tree National Park. If a visitor had only a couple hours to spend in the park, the mile-long nature trail here would be a great choice.

The small “valley” is actually an area virtually surrounded by the park’s famous granite formations. It had been used in the previous century as a natural holding pen for rustled cattle, but in the months before Joshua Tree National Monument was established in 1936, longtime area resident, Bill Keys, dynamited an access path into the valley.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail is accessed by a short road off of Park Boulevard, which leads to a large parking lot with picnic areas and toilet facilities. The trail itself boasts an easy grade and plenty of interpretive signs.

A view at the windswept desert just outside the shelter of Hidden Valley.
Sean on the path leading down into Hidden Valley.

The valley’s micro-climate, created by the protective walls, was apparent immediately through the diversity of plants and the jackrabbit that scampered away into some dense shrubs. In addition to the jackrabbit, we saw Piñon Jays and several other, smaller birds.

Piñon pine cone.
Image: Sean M. Santos
A scrub oak’s acorns are ripening. Its leaves are tiny to conserve moisture.

We heard disembodied voices and were confused until we realized that they were rock climbers far above us. Because of the echoing in the valley, we could make out some of what they were saying to each other. And that they apparently had Scottish accents. After all, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the world’s rock-climbing Meccas.

Climbers above Hidden Valley.
Another view of the climbers better capturing a sense of scale.
Image: Sean M. Santos

At the far end of the valley, despite the other walkers we’d seen on the trail, we felt secluded in silence…until we heard more disembodied voices, which sounded like they were right around the corner, but turned out to be more climbers.

Image: Sean M. Santos
Image: Sean M. Santos
More climbers.
Trojan Rock near the entrance to Hidden Valley.

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