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Backpack the California Riding and Hiking Trail in Joshua Tree

Yucca Valley, California



36.97 miles

Elevation Gain

2792 ft

Route Type



Added by Bradley Burgess

Experience Joshua Tree National Park's rugged beauty from the 37 mile backcountry California Riding and Hiking Trail.

The starting point for this hike is at the Black Rock campground, 5 miles from the town of Yucca Valley. You'll need to self register for a free backcountry permit before starting.

The first section of the trail follows a wash then the trail narrows and, after only a mile or two, you'll begin climbing. This will be almost all of the climbing you'll do on the entire hike. The trail winds up and over a pass, with an optional side trail to the summit of 5516" Eureka Peak, before beginning the descent to the Upper Covington Flats area. After hiking through a valley for a short time, you'll start the second (and last) significant climb of the hike. This section is the most remote and with views of the surrounding mountains and the Salton Sea off in the distance, arguably the most scenic as well.

After once again descending to the low desert, you'll cross Key's View road at 17.4 miles. With this being close to the mid point of the trail, it's a good spot to cache water. Another .8 mile will bring you to Ryan Campground. The second half of the trail represents the easier portion, with the majority of it being relatively flat, easy going hiking.  

Leaving the campground takes you on the back side of 5457" Ryan Mountain before leading you through wide open desert and onto a road crossing very close to the White Tank Campground. After crossing the road and passing behind Belle campground, there's less than seven miles to go. The trail ends just inside the park boundary, by the North Entrance station.

The entire trail can be done as an ambitious overnighter or as a three day, two night hike. The most important consideration for this hike is staying hydrated. There are no water sources along the trail, so packing and caching plenty of water is essential. Camping is allowed anywhere in the backcountry provided your campsite is one mile from any road, and 500 feet off the trail. All in all, this trail is a fantastic way to take in all of the park's various ecosystems with hefty amounts of solitude.

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