Take In Stunning Mountain Views On This Popular US National Park's Trail

Where in the U.S. would you go for stunning mountain views? Colorado, maybe. Montana, Washington, California? Yes, to the last one! California is home to some spectacular mountain ranges, including the famous Sierra Nevadas. But today, we're discussing a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. Mountains in the desert? Absolutely.

There are many beautiful trails in Joshua Tree. Strolls like the 30-minute walks to Cap Rock and Indian Cove allow you to see desert flora, including Joshua trees. Several moderate hikes take you a little further to see old mines and, of course, more iconic Joshua trees. But in the isolated Black Rock area, there's a strenuous hike that happens to be one of the loveliest in the park. The Panorama Loop is a 6.6-mile trek that takes you up to 1,100 feet over sandy washes and through a thick forest of Joshua trees. It's not the best trail for first-time hikers, but for those with a bit of experience, it's stunning.

The Panorama Loop

Start your hike at Black Rock Nature Center, where National Parks Service (NPS) staff can help you plan your trek. Quite a bit of the trail is sandy, so your legs will get a good workout. You'll start hiking through Black Rock Canyon until you hit the Panorama Loop. The canyon alternates between open scrubland, hillsides full of Joshua Tree, and craggy rock formations near the trail.

Most hikers, including blogger 57 Hours and several AllTrails users, suggest going counter-clockwise around the loop. 57 Hours says the trail is better signposted that way, while AllTrails users say it's less of a steep climb (though that makes it harder on your knees going down.) So yes, there's a climb, though it's not too strenuous, and on your way up, you'll have beautiful views of Mount San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. Blogger Hiking Guy calls the views of these peaks "jaw-dropping." There's also a huge Joshua Tree right in the middle of the trail, which makes for a great photo opportunity.

The hike should take between three and five hours. However, several AllTrails users say it took them under three hours. If you like, you can take one or both of the spur trails that lead to Warren Peak and Morongo View. These short trails give you panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Tips for hiking in Joshua Tree

The NPS recommends doing this hike in fall, winter, or spring. In the summer, temperatures in Joshua Tree are scorching, and the sun is intense. Hikers on AllTrails say that there is little shade on this hike and suggest setting off in the early morning to avoid the worst of the heat. But on this trek, it can also be windy and a bit cool. That means you'll need to be ready to layer up. Hiking Guy advises taking hiking poles to help you on the ascents and descents if you take the side trail to Warren Peak.

There is limited cell service in this area of the park, and weather conditions can be extreme. Always tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. You should also bring lots of water and food, especially salty snacks. With a bit of planning, you can have a superb hike on the Panorama Loop.