CA – Joshua Tree National Park, Boy Scout Trail

As I mentioned in my previous post, Joshua Tree NP handles backcountry camping a bit different than many other areas. I found it to be user friendly. Basically you park at one of four approved overnight parking areas and complete a walk-up permit. The rules are simple. You need to be at least a mile from the road and 500 feet from the trail. The Boy Scout Trail had one other rule which stated you could only camp to the west of the trail. Given the high use of this trail, I was surprised by the lack of obvious off-trail footprints or multiple social trails.

The trail begins as a super highway. 

I was once again treated to a turbulent sky and blooming Joshua trees.

There are lots and lots of rocks in the park.

The trail is basically meandering and flat for the first 4-5 miles. It was so relaxing and enjoyable.

The park has done a good job with signage at each wash or possible junction to keep hikers going in the right direction.The one thing this trail lacked was a one-mile marker which would be helpful for many since the camping rule states you must be beyond that point.

There were so many perfect campsites like this . . . but alas too near trail and on the east vs west side.

Many hike the 8ish miles to Indian Cove campground. It’s about 1,000 foot descent in last couple miles. It was late in the day when I started my hike and my goal was to avoid the descent and find a place to sleep under or near a Joshua tree and enjoy the sunset. Well . . . the trail started descending and I got to this overlook and I really wanted a view down into Indian Cove Basin so I was motivated to see what was at the next notch.

Of course when I got to the next ridge, what did I find? Yep another ridge.

Nope, not falling for that trick. I found this nice wildlife trough in the wash. The policy of Joshua Tree NP is that all available water is to be reserved for wildlife.

As I began my off-trail trek, I turned around to look at the clouds and light but what did I find instead? Yep, darn helium balloons. So back I went to do my part in keeping the park clean.

After hiking for a while I found a perfect home protected from the wind and with views in every direction. Lucky me I got to sleep under a Joshua tree!

The view from my tent at first light. Ahhhh, so amazing!

I found a perfect rock near camp to drink coffee and wait for the first kiss by my friend the sun.

On my hike out I saw one group camped 50 feet vs 500 feet from the trail. I met a group of four in the parking lot being quiet selfish and disrespectful by playing loud music while waiting for their friends to hike in from their night out. So yes it is a busy park and all is not perfect, but my hike and my night were the best I could ask for and I’d highly recommend.

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 6-7, 2019


  • If you’re heading south and need a shower, I found the travel center truck stops at the junction of I-10 and Hwy 86 were a great option. It’s also a good place to grab grub if you’re heading to the desert where fewer options exist.



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