Joshua Tree dog friendly hikes are a great choice for any adventurous pet owner (or any pooch with their own Instagram account).
This national park’s unique landscape is world-renowned. It attracted over 2.4 million visitors in 2020 alone!
Is Joshua Tree Dog Friendly?
Joshua Tree is dog-friendly …. to a degree.
Only small sections of the park are accessible to dogs
This is to protect its complex ecosystem. Your dog is permitted on all paths that vehicles can access. This includes paved and unpaved roads.
Dogs are permitted near, not in campgrounds, picnic areas, and roads
While this might sound limiting, it’s still worth ticking Joshua Tree off your bucket list!
You’ll find it just as easy to navigate as any other national park. There are plenty of ways to keep both you and your dog busy.
Does Joshua Tree have Off Leash Dog Trails?
If you’re looking for off-leash dog hikes, this park is not going to be suitable.
When is the Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree with a Dog?
Because of its location in the High Desert of California, a trip to Joshua Tree is best planned for the colder months.
Winter Trips are Best
Your dog will find a trip between December – March to be the most pleasant. Temperatures average at around 60 degrees during the day and skies are sunny. You’ll be able to take full advantage of the daytime hours and won’t be limited to early morning or late afternoon hikes. Autumn and spring are also great times to visit.
Why you should Avoid Going in Summer
With July temperatures averaging 99 degrees, I would avoid a summer holiday visit with pets. While it is possible, it’s hard to keep dogs cool in the heat.
If a summer visit is a must, be sure to take precautions. Pack plenty of water and familiarize yourself with the signs of heatstroke in dogs.
Tip: One benefit of visiting in spring is that you’ll be able to see the wildflowers bloom. They make for a pretty amazing pop of color against the sparse landscape!
Rules for Dogs Visiting Joshua Tree
Like any national park, Joshua Tree has strict rules for dogs:
- Owners are required to collect and properly dispose of any waste.
- Pets are only allowed within 100 feet of roads, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
- Pets must be accompanied at all times.
- All pets must remain leashed.
- Leashes must be either 6 feet long or less.
Dog Hiking Safety
Keeping your dog leashed in the park is also an important safety step. While the local flora and fauna are beautiful and need to be respected, they can also pose a threat to your dog.
I highly suggest carrying a dog-friendly first aid kit and keeping your dog on the trail as much as possible. Coyotes, rattlesnakes, and scorpions all call Joshua Tree home.
While the animals are less likely to venture onto the busy vehicle paths, you’ll likely still encounter them from time to time, so it’s best to be prepared.
Plant life can also pose a problem. Apart from the sharp spikes of the native cacti, some plants are also poisonous when ingested. Research local plant life and monitor your pet closely to make sure they don’t make a meal of any shrubbery.
Plan your walks ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the park layout. You can find a great map through the NPS.
Dog-Friendly Hikes – Joshua Tree
The Best Hiking Trails for Dogs in Joshua Tree
Oasis of Mara Trail
The Oasis of Mara Trail is a simple paved loop through a true desert oasis. It’s located just behind the Oasis of Mara Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms.
The trail itself is flat and comes in at 0.5 miles long. A full loop will take the average hiker and dog somewhere between 30 to 45 minutes.
The interpretive informational signs are a great asset to this walk. Through them, you can uncover the location’s history and local stories. You’ll also spot plants such as the Beavertail Cactus and Desert Mistletoe.
Keys View Trail
Keys View Trail is a small walk with a big reward. This walk is only 0.25 miles long and will bring you to Keys View.
This breathtaking lookout delivers unrivaled views of the surrounding valley. You’ll be able to spot the Salton Sea, the San Andreas Fault, Mount San Jacinto, and Mount San Gorgonio. It’s a fantastic spot to snap some memories of your trip.
This trail is quite steep and may pose a problem for dogs with limited mobility.
Queen Valley Road (One Way Traffic)
Jump off of the beaten track and take a stroll along Queen Valley Road. It’s a relatively quiet road, so while you will come across other travelers from time to time, you won’t be overwhelmed by the crowds.
We found that the stillness of this road drew out many animals. If you’re hoping to spot some local wildlife up close and personal, then keep your eyes peeled! This is a great opportunity to do so.
This road does have a number of unsigned turns. If you are unfamiliar with the park then it may be best to stick to the main road. It’s also fairly open and unshaded, so be sure to pack as much water as necessary for both you and your dog.
Geology Tour Road
Geology Tour Road is known to be one of the easiest 4×4 tracks in Joshua Tree. You can also explore it on foot! It’s 11.7 miles long, so you get a fabulous taste of the desert and surrounding wilderness.
It was one of our favorite tracks to explore as we found it to be relatively quiet. The fact that the second half of the trail requires a 4WD prevents a lot of visitors from accessing its full length. If you’re searching for serenity, head straight to this unpaved part of the track.
Pinkham Canyon Road
Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Pinkham Canyon Road is a great way to combine hiking and 4WDing with your dog.
If your vehicle is capable then why not try tackling part of the drive by car, before exploring your favorite parts on foot? At 19.2 miles long, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to mix up your method of transport.
This road begins at the visitor center. If you’re planning a trip, it’s always a good idea to pop in and chat with the staff first. They’ll be able to update you on the condition of the road and if there are any hazards you should be aware of. This is considered a challenging track, so be prepared and take care.
Other Dog-Friendly Walks
Stirrup Tank Road
Stirrup Tank Road is another quick, dog-friendly option. At a total length of 1.5 miles, it’s popular amongst both walkers and mountain bikers.
Look out over rocky granite outcrops and enjoy the serenity. If you like rock climbing, then this is a great track for you! Stirrup Tank itself is an interesting formation to take a closer look at.
A mid-length, one-way trail that gives you a great look at the surrounding desert. While beautiful, there is nothing really stand-out about this track.
Covington Flat Road
This road has both an upper and lower section. How long this hike takes you will depend on how much you decide to complete. It is 4×4 access only, so if possible, I would recommend driving the track and then exploring your favorite parts on foot.
This is the best way to get the full experience as there is an extremely steep section towards the end of the track at Eureka Peak. From the top, you’ll be able to spot everything from Palm Springs to the Morongo Basin.
Bighorn Pass Road
A short and simple trail that connects Park Boulevard and Queen Valley Road. You’ll see lots of Joshua Trees and be able to spot the distant Transverse Ranges.
The road itself is pretty sandy and not as closely packed as some other trails. If it’s a windy day, I would definitely recommend bringing along some glasses to protect your eyes.
Dog-Friendly Hikes Near Joshua Tree and Palm Springs
If you’re looking for off-leash hikes or properly established hiking trails that allow dogs, then you’ll have to head outside of the park. Don’t worry though! You’ll still get to explore some beautiful landscapes and see some unique sights.
Homestead Trail/The Cross Hike
The Cross Hike is a pretty spectacular experience. You’ll be able to explore the desert landscape with your pup in tow, before arriving at the 30-foot high cross erected at the top of the hill. Behind it is the sprawling cityscape. At night, both the cross and the city light up, making for a breathtaking view.
The trail is located in Palm Desert, about 40 minutes from Joshua Tree. It spans over 2.4 miles and is quite steep, finishing at the Cross atop the hill. It is an on-leash hike, but still, a far less restricted experience than you’ll have in Joshua Tree.
Araby Trail/Bob Hope’s House
This short walk is pup-friendly for 1.5 miles. It’s located in the downtown area of Palm Springs, so it’s a great choice if you’re staying locally and want to tackle something quickly before you head home.
It’s a relatively steep hike with some great views – including Bob Hope’s futuristic home! The trail runs so closely along the property that you can see into the yard. If you prefer a more natural view, you’ll find plenty of interesting fauna and flora as well as great valley views.
Located only 15 miles from Palm Springs, Whitewater Preserve is a dog-friendly paradise. You can look out over the valley from the top of the ridge or enjoy a quick dip in the river, depending on your pup’s preferences.
The preserve has several hikes within it. These range from a small section of the Pacific Crest Trail to a quick 2.9-mile trail. Our favorite loops were the Red Dome via Pacific Crest Trail and the longer Rainbow Rock Canyon walk.
While planning a trip to a National Park with your pup can be tough, they provide such unique experiences that they aren’t worth skipping out on.
The elaborate trail of roads through Joshua Tree allows you to work around the regulations and have a great time with your dog close by your side.
Enjoy your trip, and let us know your thoughts on these Joshua Tree dog-friendly hikes!