Hike the Skull Loop Trail In Joshua Tree National Park

The Skull Rock Loop Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a mostly flat and sandy trail through a rock wonderland of massive Monzogranite boulders that are a unique feature of this National Park. This is a great trail for first time visitors and families.

Tip: There is a great Self-Driving Audio Tour on Get Your Guide for the National Park if you enjoy having a historical background on the gold prospecting and cattle rustling of Joshua Tree’s past.

Hiking Info

  • Trailhead location: Map to Skull Rock

  • Nature Trail: 1.7 mile Loop Trail

  • Rated: Easy

  • Elevation change: 160 ft

  • There is a street parking on the side of the road near Skull Rock

  • Bathrooms along the trail at Jumbo Rocks Campground (this is a really amazing place to camp!)

  • No dogs allowed

  • Kid friendly, so many rocks to explore!

Tip: Make sure you bring good hiking boots, Danner makes some with vibram soles that have great traction. These Boot Trail 2650 are nice looking and fuctional.

When To Go

The best time of year to visit Joshua Tree National Park is March-May and October-November.
Avoid July & August, it’s too hot to do anything.
The winter months of December - February are cold but still doable if you prefer off season travel with less crowds.
June and September are on the hotter side, but if you avoid midday hiking you’ll be okay.

The Hike: Skull Rock Loop Trail

This trail starts at a very popular rock formation that literally looks like a skull. You’ll see the sign point you in the direction along a sandy wash towards Jumbo Rocks Campground.

There are browns arrow signs all along the way, take the stairs towards the right to stay on the trail.

There are so many interesting rock formations all along this route. See the little rocks that look like teeth below? Long ago when this was a volcanic area the molten rock heated and cooled underground. When it cools it forms cracks. Then later these cracks fill with more molten rock. Now after many thousands of years the land has eroded to show these filled in cracks. They're called intrusions.

After about .5 miles you’ll get to a bathroom and the Jumbo Rocks Campground. You’ll walk through this campground as part of this trail. We spent some time here rock scrambling because there are so many fun boulders to climb.

Tip: Watch your step and your hands, the rock is really rough like extra course sandpaper. In fact, you could bring leather gloves if you plan on doing some scrambling. It’s so fun!

After the campgrounds you’ll cross the street to stay on the trail.

Eventually you’ll hit a fork in the trail, if you go left for a bit you’ll end up on the Discovery Trail with some more amazing rock formations like below. To complete the trail veer right and you’ll see the Skull Rock where you started.

Do you know any other great hikes in Joshua Tree National Park we should try? Please leave them in the comments below.

Book Your Trip

These are some of my favorite sites for finding the best prices, places to stay, book tours, and more:

Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for the best hotel deals and easy change or cancellation

Find A Tour

Search Get Your Guide to book a variety of tours and activities

Book Your Flight

Browse Expedia for deals on flights, hotels, rental cars and more

Shop Comfortable Hiking & Athleisure

Shop Vuori for long-lasting comfortable hiking and workout apparel for men and women (my fave!)

Shop Travel Gear

Shop Herschel for nice luggage and other travel goods and accessories that are made to last

This website contains some affiliate links. If you purchase an item, I receive a small commission at no added cost to you. Thank you for supporting this travel blog with your purchase!


2022: A Year in Review


2 Days in Canyonlands National Park