Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail, in Joshua Tree National Park, is a moderately difficult 3.1-mile out-and-back hike that weaves through rocks and ridges toward a hidden palm tree oasis.
Along the route, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the rocky desert landscape and the surrounding valley. This trail is one of the most easily accessible hikes in Joshua Tree, offering free access via the north side of the park.
- Trail type: Out-and-back
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Length: 3.1 mile round trip
- Elevation gain and loss: 617 feet, -617 feet
- Trailhead Coordinates: 34.11934, -116.11207
- Location: Joshua Tree National Park
- Season: October-April; possibly May – September during the cooler hours of the day, if temperatures permit
Getting to Fortynine Palms Oasis Trailhead:
In the trailhead parking lot, there are about 22 spots for regular sized vehicles, and 4 spots for road trippers in RVs.
To get there from areas west of Joshua Tree (Los Angeles, Orange County, Inland Empire), take Hwy 247 or Hwy 10 east and get onto Hwy 62 heading east. Turn right onto Canyon Road. About one mile in the road turns into Fortynine Palms Canyon Road, and you’ll arrive at the parking lot shortly.
If you’re arriving from the east, take Hwy 62 west and make a left onto Canyon Road. It will turn into Fortynine Palms Canyon Road after about a mile, and you’ll pull into the parking lot within about half a mile.
There’s no shade along this trail until you get to the oasis and temperatures are known to soar over 100 degrees in the summer. Even during cooler months, the sun is still strong. Make sure you take plenty of water with you and avoid hiking here in the heat of the day.
The first stretch of the trail is a rocky uphill ascent through the desert. You won’t see any Joshua Trees in this area of the park, but you will see plenty of red barrel cacti lining the path.
As you climb for about three quarters of a mile, you’ll have vast views of rock formations, mountains on the horizon, and the actual town of Joshua Tree.
At this point, which is the highest point on the trail, you’re 3,070 feet above sea level. Here, you’ll be surrounded by rugged peaks covered in boulders.
Early in the morning and at dusk, bighorn sheep have been sighted in the area. This is a good place to hydrate a little and try to spot some wildlife.
When you’re ready to continue, begin your descent into the valley and toward the oasis. On this segment of the trail, there are large rocks jutting into the path and footing can get a bit difficult.
If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of a chuckwalla basking on one of the rocks. Chuckwallas are the largest lizard species in Joshua Tree National Park and are hard to miss, as they can grow to be up to a foot and a half long.
As you continue downhill, palm trees will come into view seemingly out of nowhere. The bright pop of greenery stands in stark contrast with the surrounding brown tones of the desert landscape.
Continue toward the palm trees until you come across a cluster of smooth, gray boulders. Climb up onto the boulders, where you’ll be greeted with full views of the lush palm trees that make their home in the most unexpected place.
The palm trees that grow at the oasis were originally planted over 100 years ago by miners. They used the trees as markers so they could find the small spring they used as a water source when they returned to the area. The spring continues to flow to this day, keeping the palm trees flourishing and serving as a watering hole for local wildlife.
While you explore the oasis and enjoy the shade of the palm trees, be careful where you step. The oasis is a sensitive biological area and you don’t want to crush any plant growth. Scramble up and down all the boulders all you like and try to avoid stepping on the sand and dirt.
I was fortunate enough to see a red-spotted toad, one of only two amphibian species in the park, perched on a boulder near the spring. Since the oasis is one of the only reliable water sources in the park, you’ll likely see animals you won’t come across elsewhere in the park.
When you’re ready to head back, follow the trail in reverse to return to the trailhead. There are no other trails that intersect with this one, so you don’t have to worry about going the wrong way.
The Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is worth hiking if you’re visiting Joshua Tree. It’s a great option if you want a quick hike with a worthwhile point of interest, the oasis, and if you go in the morning you’ll still have time to explore other areas in the park for the rest of the day such as Barker Dam or Jumbo Rocks.