Split Rock Trail is one of the shorter trails in Joshua Tree National Park. Think of it as a mini hike that links to other longer trails. It’s one the best trail for new hikers to begin hiking from as it’s an easy hike and short too. It offers scenic rock viewing with fantastic rock formations and, let’s not forget, the Joshua trees. It’s a moderate trail with 150 feet of elevation gain.
Located in Joshua Tree National Park, Split Rock Loop Trail is a 2-mile long with a total elevation gain of about 150 feet and takes about an hour to complete the hike. It might take longer to complete because there are many amazing sights to see on this short trail.
Preparing For Your hike
The Mojave Desert is beautiful but also harsh. You must prepare well, especially if you’re taking your family along. Hiking it is easy, and there’s hardly any elevation change, but there’s hardly any shade in the desert, so it’s best to have an early morning start. Please check the weather and trail conditions before you go
Getting Your Permit
The Split Rock trail is a day hike, and you don’t need permits for a day hike in Joshua Tree. You do, however, need to pay a park entry fee. The annual pass costs 80 dollars which you can order online from REI, or you can get a seven-day permit for 15 dollars.
What to Bring Along
Although this hike is short, the trail is in the desert, so you need to bring plenty of water and sun protection: sunglasses, hats, comfortable clothes for walking, and a trail map for navigating. Take along a portable headlamp in case it gets dark while you’re there. For shoes, go with something comfortable for walking.
Since it’s a day hike, you don’t need a big backpack, something to hold all your essentials will do. There are lots of picturesque places on the loop trail, so bring along a portable camera, or your smartphone will do for taking those awesome pictures. If you go with your smartphone, it’s wise to invest in a selfie stick or a smartphone tripod that you can attach to a tree branch. This way, you’ll get more explicit images that are not blurred.
Hiking Split Rock Trail
Split Rock is visible from the Split Rock Parking lot. At the start of the trail, some signs give directions, and it’s best hiked counterclockwise. The Eagle Cliff mine site is just ahead, but you aren’t going to Eagle cliff, so follow the sign to the loop. From where the trail begins at the Split Rock picnic area, go round the left side of Split Rock. You’re looking for a cave that you can explore and take shade under.
Continuing on your hike, follow the marked path through the big boulders. Walk for a while and turn right, following a small sign, leading you to the only climb on the hike to the ridge. It’s not a challenging climb. From there, you go through a wash, up some stairs, and then through another boulder field. You’ll have to go through boulders for a while before turning left to see the Mummy face rock. You can take amazing photos of the many face rocks on this trail.
Then go through a wash filled with sand to the trail junction, where you’ll take a right to see Face Rock and return to continue on the loop trail. You’ll go through another wash to a boulder field and likely see climbers on the rocks. There’s one more face rock before you end the loop hike at the picnic area.
The west entrance is the more popular and busier route to Split Rock Trail. However, you can also use the north entrance, which requires a 7-mile drive into the park. From Park Boulevard, turn right to Split Rock trailhead from the parking area.
Fun spots to see on the Trail
Split Rock Loop Trail In Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its stunning wildflowers, cacti, and creosote bush, so keep your eyes peeled for interesting flowers that bloom along the trail. It’s also a popular spot for rock climbers. The beautiful rock formations are also a sight to behold. There isn’t much wildlife here, so you might not see any except lizards.
Flower Species on Split Rock Trail
Most flowers here are in season between January to September. Along your hike, you’ll likely see flowers that you may be unable to identify. Here’s a quick guide on some flowers you’ll see on the trail.
- California Indigo Bush: Usually in season between April and May, this flower is identified by its cobalt/violet blossoms.
- Cushion Foxtail Cactus: This flower is in season between April and June and has bright pink blossoms with reddish black spines.
- False Woolly Daisy: In season from March to June, you can identify this plant with its five ray flowers that each appears as a petal.
- Turpentine Bloom: This plant is first announced by its aroma when you rub the fruits or stem. It smells like citrus and has a yellowish-green stem. It’s in season from February to March.
- Wright’s Buckwheat: This flower is in season from June to August. Many butterflies and native bee pollinators take nourishment from this plant.
- Desert Paintbrush: Identified by its bright red bracts that surround the nectar-rich flower, this flower is in season between May and September
Best Time to Hike Split Rock Trail
If you’re going because you want to see the flowers in the beautiful Mojave Desert, springtime is the best time to visit. The desert is usually hotter in the summer so hiking the loop may not be ideal because of the heat.
Tips and Precautions
You need to know some things before embarking on your hike at Split Rock Loop Trail in Joshua Tree National Park.
- Dogs aren’t allowed on the trail so leave your furry friend home.
- Always follow the Leave no trace rule. Take out everything you bring to the trail. Also, take nothing out of the trail.
- Be careful not to step on any vegetation while on the trail.
The Split Rock Loop Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is perfect for your family as it is approximately a 2-mile hike and easy for kids. It’s difficult to get lost on the trail as there’s a sign at almost every turn to give direction to where every path is located. The important thing is to have fun while exploring the stark beauty of the desert.