How Long is the Boy Scout Trail in Joshua Tree?

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The Boy Scout Trail is one of the longer trails in the park and starts at the Keys West Trailhead. It offers a spectacular view of a landscape dotted with Joshua trees in the Upper Mojave Desert and cactus and yucca in the Lower Mojave desert. The trail descends for 1000 feet and ends at Indian Cove.

As a point-to-point hike, Boy Scout Trail Joshua Tree National Park is an 8-mile long hike. However, you can decide to do a 16-mile round trip hike as an adventure. It takes around 6 to 8 hours to hike the entire trail.

Preparing for your Hike

Boy Scout Trail is an excellent trail for most hikers, and it’s not so difficult since the elevation gain is minimal. Please note that the Boy Scout Trail is not a loop trail; it’s a point-to-point, which means you can finish hiking the trail in one day unless you want to do an overnighter.

What to Bring Along

For this hike, water and sun protection are the most important things you need. Bring plenty of water with you as you can get unbearably thirsty in the desert with all the walking you’ll do. At least one gallon of water per person daily is a good rule of thumb.

If you plan to do an overnighter, please cache water along the trail beforehand. Pack lightly too. The open desert sun is harsh on the skin. You’ll need protective clothing, sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen.

Go for comfortable hiking shoes and a thick pair of socks to protect your feet from blisters. Get a fitted and comfortable backpack for carrying your gear around. If you’re backcountry camping, get a cozy tent and sleeping system.

The elevation gain for the Boy Scout Trail is 173 feet, so you might need hiking poles to ease the pressure on your knees. Always call ahead to confirm the weather and trail conditions.

Registration Process

You don’t require permits to hike at Joshua Tree National Park, but you must register. It is not a complex process as you can do self-registration. To self-register, go to any Backcountry board, e.g., Indian Cove backcountry board, to register yourself.

It is free to enter from the Indian Cove, but if you’re going through the park, you’ll have to get a pass. It costs 20 dollars for a 7-day pass and 30 dollars for an annual pass

Hiking Boy Scout Trail in Joshua

The Boy Scout Trailhead is north of Park Boulevard near Quail Springs. The hike begins at the trailhead located at Keys West Backcountry Camping Registration parking lot just off park Blvd, near the park’s west entrance. It’s the same trailhead used for The Willow Hole Trail. From the trailhead, you’re headed towards Indian Cove.

The terrain here is fairly flat, easy to hike, and has several trails that split off to rock climbing areas. Head north, and soon you’ll get to the junction with Willow Hole Trail; continue left on the Boy Scout Trail. This part of the trail has a lot of Joshua trees which the Joshua Tree forest is famous for.

The next part of the hike is the Wonderland of Rocks area, which is very rocky and filled with granite boulders. The trail makes a downward slope into a wash from where the trail reaches the junction with Big Pine Trail.

It gets more rugged and rocky as the trail climbs to the vista. Be prepared to scramble over a few rocks in this section. You’ll get a fantastic view of Twentynine Palms from the vista.

The trail begins to lose elevation quickly after the climb. It descends into a rocky canyon. This is where day hikers end their hike and turn back around. If you are going on a backpacking trip, hike through the canyon, a section of steep switchbacks, and a few dry washes. Once you get out of the wash, the trail ascends a bit and then descends along a hillside.

The Boy Scout Trail continues to Indian Cove Campground from this point. Also, the hike to the Indian Cove Entrance Station is a gradual downhill walk on a worn trail where you will find the northern terminus for Boy Scout Trail.

Since the campground has no water, take a left to the ranger station to fill your water if you need a refill before you head on to the Indian Cove Trailhead.

The Best Time to Hike Boy Scout Trail

This incredible hike is best done between October and April in optimal weather conditions. Daytime temperatures are around 70 and 80 degrees during this period. Start your hike early in the morning to get a head start before the heat becomes unbearable.

Highlights of the Hike

From where the hike starts at Boy Scout Trailhead at the Boy Scout Trail parking lot, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife you might spot, especially in the morning.

The trail offers a gorgeous view of the San Gorgonio Mountains, the highest point in Southern California, and Joshua trees in the forest. There are also several interesting rock formations to see along the trail.

Camping on the Trail

The Joshua Tree National Park Service operates several campsites that are either on a first come, first serve basis or only available on reservation. With the rising popularity of the park, getting a reservation or a spot is complicated and sometimes takes months of careful planning.

However, there are excellent spots along the trail where you can camp overnight if you’re up for some adventure and spectacular sights. You should consider this option if you don’t want to hassle reserving a spot.

Useful Tips

Here are a few helpful tips for hiking Boy Scout Trail Joshua Tree

  • Dogs are not allowed on this trail so leave your furry friend at home while hiking.
  • If you’re considering overnight camping, do so before you hike the Wonderland of Rocks area. Camp on the west side as camping on the east is prohibited to protect the Bighorn sheep population.
  • Please note that your campsite has to be at least one mile from the road.
  • Campfires and open fires are prohibited in the backcountry.
  • The South parking lot has amenities, unlike the north parking lot.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s an 8-mile long trail, the Boy Scout Trail is a good hike any day. Hiking the trail is hard, especially if you’re a new hiker. However, it is not one you want to bring children to. Put in lots of practice and exercise before hiking the trail, and don’t forget to bring along a muscle-relaxing ointment to massage your leg muscles when you start to feel tired.