Joshua Tree National Park: Barker Dam Trail

Joshua Tree National Park, a desert wonderland in Southern California, is known for its unique landscapes and distinctive Joshua trees. While the park offers a few challenging hikes for seasoned adventurers, it's also a great destination for those seeking easier, family-friendly treks. In this post, we'll explore the Barker Dam Trail, which allows visitors to experience the park's natural beauty without breaking a sweat.

Barker Dam Trail: 

This short and easy 1.1 mile loop trail leads to a historic water reservoir and offers picturesque views of the surrounding desert. It's an ideal choice for a leisurely 1-hour stroll. Elevation gain is only 50 feet and composition of the trail consists of compact dirt, granite boulders, and sandy washes. You’ll even get to see some petroglyphs before heading back to the parking lot. 

Explore Rock Formations: 

Take time to admire the unique rock formations and Joshua trees along the Barker Dam Trail, and consider exploring nearby areas such as Hidden Valley.

Bring Essentials: 

Pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and sturdy hiking shoes suitable for rocky terrain, and consider bringing a map or GPS device for navigation.

What we Learned: 


Native Americans, migrating through here in their continuous search for food and water, left behind evidence of their activities. Petroglyphs have been found carved into canyon walls and boulders, generally near food or water sites. Pictographs, painted in red, black, and white are found on ceilings and walls of rock shelters. Mortars and grinding slicks, where seeds were crushed or ground, are also found among the rocks.

Nearby you will see petroglyphs which have been traced over with paint. This type of vandalism prevents others from seeing the petroglyphs in their original form. Please help us by reporting any vandalism you observe."

Overall, this trail was fun and easy. The best time to visit the Barker Dam Trail is during the cooler months, as summer temperatures can be scorching. The trail is relatively easy, but the terrain can be rocky, so sturdy shoes are a must. Don't forget to bring plenty of water, as staying hydrated in the desert is crucial.

The Barker Dam Trail is a perfect introduction to the diverse beauty of Joshua Tree National Park. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful and scenic walk, this trail offers a little something for everyone. So, next time you find yourself in Joshua Tree National Park, make sure to explore this hidden oasis and uncover the rich tapestry of history and nature that makes this place so special."

Photos by my brother Steven Buena:

Know Before You Go:

There’s no cell reception in certain parts of the park so make sure to download a map of the area ahead of time. I used the app called National Parks Pocket Maps, but there are others you can leverage. You can download maps ahead of time on Google Maps or Apple Maps.

Make sure your car is filled with gas as the last thing you want is to run out of gas in the desert.  


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