Joshua Tree, GPS

Boy Scout Trail

This is a shuttle hike that goes along the edge of the maze that is the Wonderland of Rocks and then drops down into Indian Cove. It's not a backcountry hike to an old mine or anything but I am including it for completeness of Joshua Tree hikes; plus, it is a nice hike.

And since it is a shuttle hike, you will need to arrange to have a car at the Indian Cove trailhead or someone to pick you up there. Of course, you can always turn back and head back to the Boy Scout Trailhead.

Getting There

The Boy Scout Trailhead and backcountry board is signed as the Keys West trailhead. To find it, go 2.4 miles (3.9 km) west of the Hidden Valley campground or head 0.6 miles (1 km) east of the Quail Springs picnic area. It is well signed and there is a large gravel parking lot here.

Hike Directions

Shuttle trip: Easy, 8 miles (12.9km), 360 ft (110m) gain one way. 3 hours.

Out and Back: Strenuous, 16.1 miles (25.9km), 1890 ft (576m) gain round trip. 7 hours.

This trail is well signed and fairly easy to navigate, but it wouldn’t hurt to have my GPS route.

The sign at the trailhead says it is 7.7 miles (12.4 km) out to Indian Cove, but I measured it as 8 miles (12.9 km). Start on the obvious trail to the north. The trail is flat and cuts across open Joshua Tree woodland for the first 3 miles (4.8 km). This is easy going. At 1.2 miles (1.9 km) you will come to a trail junction. The right fork follows an old road to Willow Hole. For this trip, continue on the left fork.

After 2.3 miles (3.7 km) of remarkably flat terrain, you will enter a set of low granite hills. The trail meanders through these hills and enters a sandy wash. The trail generally stays in the wash downhill but watch for signs where occasionally leaves, as it does in a couple of places, to avoid rocky dry falls.

At 3.8 miles (6.1 km) in, another wash enters in from the west. The Big Pine trail heads up this wash to the West Entrance. Continue downstream in our wash. Oaks, pinyon pine, juniper, and Joshua trees become more frequent but are still recovering from wildfires that passed through here many years ago.

At 4.0 miles (6.4 km) from the trailhead, there is a small concrete dam and old cattle trough (34.0916°, -116.19522°) abandoned in the wash. It is hard to believe anyone could have gotten cattle down here or that it would have even been a worthwhile endeavor in this arid land, but it was wetter here once and ranchers surely did.

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About Guy Starbuck

Exploring the American West.
  • Nevada
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