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Joshua Tree NP – Barker Dam Nature Trail
What? : Barker Dam
Nature Trail (easy 1.1 mile loop) covers many of the highlights of the Mojave
Desert, large boulders piles of all shapes and sizes, desert plant ecosystems
and Joshua trees. The dam itself is part of the park recent ranching history
and after rainy season provide a unique oasis in the desert. If you are short
on time you can hike to the dam and back in less than 30 min, I spend here more
than 2 hours.
Where? : From the West
Entrance Station, drive 9 miles south until you see turn to the left into "Hidden
Valley Campground, Key's Ranch, Barker Dam, Ranch Tours." Follow this road
for 1.5-mile until its conclusion at the Barker Dam large parking lot.
Palms Park entrance, drive for 16.4 miles on Park Blvd Road, turn right at "Hidden
Valley Campground, Key's Ranch, Barker Dam, Ranch Tours." And drive 1.5
mile to the parking lot.
When ? : Late fall, winter
and spring is the preferred time to visit the Mojave desert, summer is hot.
Due note 1: Water - Always take
more than what you think you need, this is desert and temperature can be hot,
in summer this is extremely hot environment. There is no water available in the
Due note 2: Pets are not
permitted on any trails in the park, except for the paved Oasis of Mara Trail.
Due note 3: There is limited
cell service in Joshua Tree National Park, so make sure to have a park map on
Due note 4: No gas service
in the park, there are many options near the north and west entrance to the
park, make sure you have enough gas when driving into the park especially if
you are driving down to Highway I-10.
Due note 5: Most of Joshua
Tree trails have little to no cover from the sun, make sure you are coming prepared
especially at the hot summer.
Due note 6: Please read
the Safety Tips section in my
main park and visit planning blog.
Due note 7: This is very
popular hike, and it was impossible to find a parking spot here at mid-day and at
early afternoon, I decided to visit here at night or early morning…
Due note 8: Joshua Tree
National Park has 24 access; you can travel in the park at night or before
Due note 9: At winter evenings
and nights it can be windy and cold, come with the right clothing.
My thoughts: I visit this
trail twice; the first time was at a full moon night … because I could not hike
here during the day, no car entrance to the road due to overcrowded, I decide
to hike at night. I saw this is a short, less than half a mile, hike from the
parking lot to the dam.
With the full moon light and a clear trail, it was easy
to hike to the dam. I took few long-exposures rock reflection pictures and went
back to the car, I decided to come back the following morning as early as I can,
after my sunrise Cholla Cactus Garden visit, and enjoy this area. As expected, the
day hike was fun.
rocky desert landscape of Joshua Tree on the Barker Dam Trail, wander through the
park iconic boulders, Joshua trees, and visit the historic Barker Dam and small
This is an easy
1.1 flat loop trail that start in a bolder section and after the dam it wind through
the open Mojave Desert landscape with Joshua trees, creosote, Mojave yucca,
pinon pines, and more.
Although it is
a short and easy trail I hiked here for 2 hours, I took many pictures and enjoy
the open desert and bolder off-trail exploration. If you do not have a lot of
time hike to the dam and back can take you only 30 min.
The dam itself is
from the area early ranching efforts, a century ago, collecting winter rain to
support the livestock.
The amount of
water behind Barker Dam depends on the amount of winter precipitation. When I
visit here, January 2022, the lake water level was low, not completely dry but most
of the larger lake section was muddy or completely dry.
parking lot, take the trail heading northwest toward Barker Dam, be sure you’re
following the main path, marked with low wooden fence, that heads toward the
large boulders from the restroom area.
find yourself walking down a narrow section with high boulder walls on both
Keep to your
right and then suddenly, the trail emerges to a small open valley.
Turn left and
follow the lake toward the dam itself.
After the dam the
trail turns west, leaves the lake, and enters a flat desert.
The sandy trail
winds through Joshua trees, follow the sandy track as it loops back toward the
start. At the point where the trail turns to the left there is a large a rock
covered in vivid petroglyphs. Unfortunately, these Native American drawings had
their colors enhanced by a film crew working on an old Hollywood movie.
the trail and when it comes to a T, make a right to return to the parking lot.
I came here
early morning (around 8am) with only few cars parked at the parking lot so it
was not crowded but when I came back to my car after 2 hours it was already half
full and with many people at the hike.
surprise this is one of the park most popular trails, the 1.1-mile hike cover
all the classical park elements as well as the uniqueness of a lake in the
middle of the desert.
From here I decided
to drive the unpaved Queen Valley Road and Bighorn Pass Road to the est. this
is fun easy drive that can be done by any car. You will drive through open
desert landscape with many large Joshua Trees.
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