Hidden Valley Joshua Tree: Family Hiking & Outdoor Baby-Friendly Adventures

Hiking in Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree

Hidden Valley, nestled within the stunning Joshua Tree National Park, is the ultimate destination for hikers, particularly parents with young children

The gentle terrain, short distance, and shaded areas make Hidden Valley an ideal choice for parents looking to introduce their toddlers to the great outdoors.

And if you’re not a parent, this is still a great hike for you to check out.

In this article, I’ll be your trusty guide as we delve into the wonders of Hidden Valley, offering personal tips for hiking as parents, general safety guidelines, trail details, amenities, weather conditions, and hiking gear essentials.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or an inquisitive parent, prepare to be inspired and ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

Table of Contents

What Makes Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree Special?

The Hidden Valley trail’s main features and attractions include its signature rocks and Joshua Trees, along with the historical significance of the trail as a former hideout for cattle rustlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

What Are the Major Features of Hidden Valley?

Rocks at the hidden valley trail in Joshua Tree

One aspect that stands out at Hidden Valley is the diversity in rock sizes. Whether you’re an active hiker aiming for the big rocks or a parent like me supporting your little toddler navigating their own rocky adventure, there’s something for everyone here.

As mentioned, the trail boasts vast rock formations, with some steep rock walls favored by climbers and flatter rock masses ideal for bouldering and taking in the valley’s panoramic views.

After a while, we found the landscape becoming familiar; the Joshua Trees and rock formations were repetitive, yet their consistency contributed to the unique charm of the trail.

Hidden Valley Trail is a treasure trove of information, thanks to the various plaques along the trail. These plaques provide interesting insights into the valley’s history, geology, flora, and fauna. As you hike, keep an eye out for these informative tidbits to enhance your understanding of this remarkable place.

plaques with descriptions about the Hidden Valley Trail

As you hike, you may encounter wildlife such as lizards, squirrels, foxes, and birds. The only wildlife we saw during our hike were tiny lizards and one giant black lizard sitting on top of a cliff.

Lastly, the unique variety of plants and trees found in Hidden Valley is due to its enclosed location and microclimate. Home to pinyon pines, junipers, oaks, various types of cacti, and the iconic Joshua Trees, the trail offers a rare glimpse into the diverse plant life that flourishes here.

How Do You Prepare for a Family Hike in Hidden Valley?

The best way to plan a fun and safe family hike at Hidden Valley is to consider a few important factors:

Consider a Hiking Carrier: A hiking carrier isn’t necessary for an easy hike like this one. However, the Hidden Valley Trail’s gentle terrain makes it an ideal place to introduce your baby to a hiking carrier. I didn’t use one for our daughter because she was a bit grumpy at the start, but I think it’s something to consider as parents.

Stay hydrated and energized: Bring plenty of water and nutritious snacks to keep everyone’s energy levels up. We found that offering our baby, Quinn, snacks and water during multiple breaks helped keep her engaged and energized throughout the hike.

Choose the right time: Start early in the morning or later in the afternoon for cooler temperatures and better parking options. This also helps avoid peak times when trails can get crowded.

Plan for restroom breaks: Use restroom facilities in Joshua Tree City before entering the national park, as the restrooms at the park can be less than ideal.

Stay close to your little ones: We observed some brave parents letting their slightly older kids wander a bit. However, being new to the hike and conscious of potential encounters with wildlife like snakes, we chose to stay close to our 16-month-old daughter.

What Is the Difficulty and Duration of the Hidden Valley Trail?

Hidden Valley Trail is a one-mile loop that showcases the best of Joshua Tree’s rocky landscapes. Although a relatively short hike, the trail was more than enough for our little one to explore and enjoy.

The difficulty level of the Hidden Valley Trail is generally easy but can be more challenging if you veer off the path and climb the rocks.

I personally found an area towards the end of the trail, likely a different path, where there was a bit of an incline that turned out to be quite tiring, especially while carrying my daughter. Despite this, remember to heed any warning signs, especially those that remind you not to take unnecessary risks.

Our family hike at Hidden Valley took us about 1 hour and 20 minutes, with our young daughter exploring and walking at her own pace. We also took a break from breastfeeding at the beginning of the hike. Hiking at this pace on a suitable trail made us enjoy our hike with the baby.

baby quinn climbing up the rocks at the Hidden Valley hiking trail

Generally, the hike would take around 50 minutes to an hour for adults, but be prepared to adjust your pace to accommodate your little ones.

Engaging with your child by pointing out various objects, as we did with Quinn, can make the hike more fun and interactive for them.

And remember, don’t hesitate to venture off the main route if you feel adventurous and want to explore more of the beautiful surroundings, but with caution!

The Hidden Valley Trail is one of the most popular and age-appropriate trails at Joshua Tree compared to other hikes.

Nevertheless, each hiking destination has areas where it’s easy for your toddler to walk around or for you to hike while carrying your toddler.

We feel that hiking is an excellent opportunity for family bonding. It’s a way to connect with nature, take a break from technology, and foster an early love for outdoor activities.

This is especially important to us, as it sets a healthy and active tone for our daughter, Quinn. It’s a gentle reminder that we’ve always been mindful of our overall health.

What Hiking Gear Do You Need for Hidden Valley?

When planning your adventure in Hidden Valley, make sure you have the following hiking gear essentials:

  • Sunglasses: The budget-friendly yet durable Goodr glasses offer excellent sun protection without causing heartache if scratched or broken. You certainly don’t need to invest in expensive brands like Ray-Ban for this hike. With Goodr, you’re just $20 away from a replacement pair.
  • Hiking shoes: Comfortable footwear with a good grip is essential. I initially wore my Vivobarefoot shoes but found that the rocky terrain wasn’t kind to my feet. I switched to my North Face hiking boots for better support and comfort. That said, you don’t necessarily need hiking boots for this type of hike; any shoe with a strong grip should serve you well.
  • Hydration: We had a Hydro Flask for us and our toddler’s Nuby water bottle.
  • Additional Gear: Some hikers were seen using trekking poles for additional support. Depending on your comfort level and hiking experience, you may consider packing these as well.

What Items Should Parents Bring for a Baby on this Hike?

For parents, to make your hike enjoyable and worry-free, be sure to pack these essential items in your diaper bag:

Backpack and water bottle: A small backpack, like those popularized by Fjallraven, should be more than enough for this relatively short hike. It’s great for tucking away small essentials like snacks. We didn’t bring a backpack because we knew the hike was short.

Our toddler was comfortable in her Coterie diaper, which, as mentioned earlier, is known for its high absorption and comfort.

Coterie Diapers: On our hike, we found these diapers to be a game-changer. Known for their excellent absorbency, they held up impressively throughout our journey. It took us 20 minutes to get to the hike and 1 hour and 20 minutes for the hike itself. Despite the long duration, our baby’s diaper, although heavy, didn’t leak. Just remember, the trick lies in securing it properly.

Thinkbaby Sunscreen: Not all sunscreens are created equal. We’ve always trusted Thinkbaby for its safe and effective formula that shields our baby’s delicate skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Nuby Water Bottles: We love Nuby water bottles as they keep water cold and have a spill-proof cover and an easy-to-use straw. They’ve been a hit with our little one.

Sunhat: Choosing the right sunhat for your baby is crucial. Look for one that offers ample coverage for the face and ears. You can find affordable and stylish options at Amazon, Target, or H&M.

Snacks: We usually pack Cheerios for our daughter. Given in small doses, they provide better nutrients than traditional baby snacks and ensure she still eats her meals afterward.

Baby Quinn eating Cheerios as a snack

What Are Important Safety Measures in Joshua Tree?

Embarking on a hiking adventure at Joshua Tree, particularly in the captivating Hidden Valley, requires thorough preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

As a father of a young daughter and an outdoor enthusiast, I can attest to the importance of planning ahead. So, let’s dive into the essential safety information you should be aware of before visiting this breathtaking location.

Why Are Good Footwear and Hydration Crucial for Hiking?

Your choice of footwear plays a crucial role in ensuring your safety while hiking. The trail in Hidden Valley is known for its rocky and uneven terrain, requiring sturdy shoes or boots with good traction. Wearing high-quality footwear will make a world of difference in your comfort and safety on the trails.

In addition, hikers know that staying hydrated is a must when exploring the great outdoors. This is important in Joshua Tree National Park, where the arid climate can quickly take its toll. Pack plenty of water and snacks to maintain your energy levels and prevent dehydration.

How Does the Weather Affect Hiking in Hidden Valley?

Mother Nature can be unpredictable, so it’s important to check the weather forecast before heading out to Joshua Tree.

digital photo of unpredictable weather

One of the useful tools we leveraged during our visit was the National Weather Service’s forecast page (https://forecast.weather.gov/). This website provides detailed forecasts that can help you anticipate and prepare for weather changes during your visit.

It’s particularly important to check the forecast for Joshua Tree National Park separately from Joshua Tree town, as weather conditions can differ due to the elevation difference between these locations.

The park can get scorching during the summer months, so planning your hike accordingly will help avoid any unpleasant surprises.

As an example of the unpredictability of Mother Nature, our visit to Joshua Tree in May was marked by unexpected weather conditions. With daytime temperatures around 80 degrees, the real surprise came with thunder and lightning at night, followed by rain the next day, and then a return to heat.

It felt like I was in Hawaii, where the weathers are not consistent.

In the desert, weather can shift rapidly, and being prepared can make the difference between a pleasant hike and a challenging one. Despite our unusual weather experience, the unpredictability added an element of adventure to our trip.

What Safety Measures Should Be Taken for Toddlers?

Toddlers are naturally curious, and our daughter, who had just started walking, was eager to explore. To ensure her safety, we ensured she had appropriate footwear and stayed close by.

It’s important to be vigilant, as the last thing you want is for your little one to fall and hurt themselves on a rock or encounter a dangerous animal like a snake. Be well aware of your surroundings, especially for potential hazards such as poisonous plants, insects, and any wildlife. The best thing you can do here is to stay on the marked trails and try not to wander off (with babies).

We also made sure that we kept at a comfortable pace while taking multiple breaks. This made it easier and safer for us. I say safe because if we were going too fast and our daughter became agitated, we would start panicking. And if we started to panic, then there could be an increase in danger by making quick decisions at the trail.

I want to reiterate that the gentle terrain, short distance, difficulty, and some shaded areas made this hike relatively safe for our toddler, Quinn. These are all important things to consider when choosing a hiking trail for your baby.

What Are the Hiking Guidelines in Hidden Valley?

To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone, Joshua Tree has some rules and regulations in place:

  • Dogs are not allowed on the trails in Joshua Tree National Park.
  • The park is open 24 hours a day, but keep in mind that some areas may be closed due to weather or other conditions.

When driving within the national park, adhere to the 35 mph speed limit. Park rangers patrol the area, so remember that safety always comes first. Since there’s only one road, I’ve had the temptation of trying to pass up the drivers, but the lines were double (meaning it’s illegal). The best thing you can hope for, assuming the driver in front of you is extremely slow, is that they pull over when given the opportunity.

Another option is you can pull over to a destination point and take a quick break to enjoy the nature at Joshua Tree.

How Do You Access Hidden Valley?

Discover three distinct entrances to the Hidden Valley Trail, each offering a unique perspective on the breathtaking Joshua Tree National Park. Let’s delve into these options and help you determine the best route for your family’s outdoor adventure.

Where Are the Main Entry Points to Hidden Valley?

The West Entrance is the most popular access point to the Hidden Valley Trail, and for good reason. Situated about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, this entrance serves as a convenient starting point for many visitors. However, be prepared for crowds, particularly on weekends and holidays. If you’re seeking a more tranquil experience, consider one of the other entrances.

Tucked away in the town of Joshua Tree, the North Entrance offers a more intimate connection to the park. This entrance is ideal for those who want to explore the area and perhaps grab a bite to eat in the nearby town before or after their hike. For families with young children, this entrance also provides opportunities to enjoy the local playgrounds and other kid-friendly amenities.

For those who prefer a more secluded experience, the South Entrance near Cottonwood Spring is the way to go. This entrance is closer to the Interstate 10 freeway and tends to be less crowded. It’s an excellent option for families who want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the more popular West Entrance while still enjoying the stunning beauty of Joshua Tree National Park.

How Do You Navigate Through Hidden Valley?

Venturing into the national park calls for a dependable map to guide you during your hike. Be aware that your smartphone’s GPS may not be reliable due to the potential loss of phone service within the park. So, instead of relying solely on digital means, it’s a good idea to carry a physical, printed map, bringing back a touch of old-school exploration. For your convenience, we’ve linked a map of the trail and parking area here.

Here is a picture of the Joshua National Park map from nps.gov.

What Are the Required Fees and Regulations?

Before embarking on your Hidden Valley Trail adventure, familiarize yourself with the fees, permits, and regulations that apply to the park. A 7-day pass costs $30, or opt for a yearly pass if you plan on visiting multiple times. For the most current information on fees and regulations, check the Joshua Tree National Park website.

What Amenities Are Available in Hidden Valley?

Restrooms: Come Prepared.

Hidden Valley offers basic restrooms that may not meet everyone’s cleanliness standards. With no sink available, bring a hand sanitizer or wipes to maintain proper hygiene. We found it best to visit the restrooms at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center before entering the park. These facilities were cleaner and more comfortable, and it’s conveniently located just a few minutes from the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.

Parking: Arrive Early.

The parking lot at Hidden Valley can fill up quickly, especially during peak times. We noticed ample spaces for regular cars as well as designated areas for larger vehicles like vans or RVs. To secure a spot and avoid parking-related stress, it’s best to arrive early.

Picnic Time: Fuel Up Before or After Your Hike

At the trailhead, you’ll find several picnic tables for your use. Enjoy a meal before or after your hike to fuel up or unwind after exploring the beautiful Hidden Valley Trail.

However, keep in mind that these tables aren’t located in shaded areas, so they can become quite hot during the day. Depending on the weather, you may want to have your picnic early in the day or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Hidden Valley?

The best times to visit Hidden Valley are early in the morning, around 6 am, or in the late afternoon, around 4-5 pm. By visiting during these times, you can avoid the extreme heat, especially during the summer months.

Even in May, not peak summer, we noticed our skin feeling warm in the early morning hours. Starting your hike as early as 6 am is a wise choice, as temperatures rise noticeably by 6:30 am.

Alternatively, visiting around 4-5 pm before sunset allows for slightly cooler temperatures, giving you a good two-hour window to hike and explore before it gets dark.

Interestingly, we noticed there were some lucky days when we could even start our hike at 11 am. This was thanks to occasional gusts of wind and periods of cloudiness that cooled the air.

But remember, weather conditions can be unpredictable. To stay updated with real-time weather changes, use reliable weather forecasting sites like forecast.weather.gov.

Also – if you want to avoid the crowd, try to go super early or later in the day. This will be helpful, especially when it comes to parking or trying to get really good photos of the hike.

How Much Calorie Burn Can You Expect from this Hike?

Apple iWatch with total calories burned and average heart rate at Hidden Valley

During my hike at Hidden Valley, I burned 216 active calories. Remember that this number will vary depending on factors such as your weight, fitness level, and hike intensity.

I also noticed my heart rate was averaging around 120 bpm. Carrying my baby throughout the hike contributed to the elevated heart rate. Additionally, some inclines proved more challenging and further raised my heart rate.

Nonetheless, it’s a helpful starting point when considering a hike at this beautiful location.

How Can an Apple Watch Be Used to Monitor Your Hike?

I used an Apple iWatch to track my calories burned, steps, and heart rate during my hike. The battery life lasted the entire trip, which is a huge plus for any hiker.

However, the watch occasionally sent notifications asking if I was still working out (hiking) when I was only taking a break to snap a photo or hold my baby. It’s a minor inconvenience but something to be aware of if you’re using the iWatch to track your hike.

Burning More Calories: Climbing Rocks with Caution

For those looking to burn more calories during their hike at Hidden Valley, consider climbing the rocks. Exercise caution and follow all the rules when venturing off the designated trails. Remember, safety always comes first.

Hall of Horrors: A More Challenging Option

If you’re seeking a more challenging hiking experience, the Hall of Horrors might be a better option. This area requires more strength and stamina as you’ll be climbing up steep inclines and navigating through rocky terrain. If you’re hiking solo or without a child, this could be an excellent way to increase your heart rate and burn more calories. Just remember to prioritize safety and follow all posted rules.

What Other Attractions Are Available Near Hidden Valley?

Other attractions available near Hidden Valley include the following: Keys View, appreciated for captivating sunsets, Hall of Horrors, an adventurers’ site due to its unique rock formations, and Skull Rock, identifiable for its unique structure. Also, Barker Dam offers visitors a serene environment nestled in Joshua Tree’s natural beauty. Lastly, Cholla Cactus Garden serves as a tranquil morning excursion.

These attractions contribute to Hidden Valley’s multifaceted appeal, explored further in subsequent sections.

A sunset visit to Keys View is recommended because it offers a remarkable display of sunsets that appeal to many visitors. While not a traditional hike, the short 0.3-mile path is easily traversable. Its proximity to other attractions, approximately an hour or less away, offers convenience.

However, it’s advisable to plan visit times strategically, considering potential parking challenges during peak sunrise and sunset hours.

What Makes Hall of Horrors Attractive to Visitors?

Hall of Horrors attracts visitors because it has exciting rocks to climb. The area is full of different rock shapes and sizes, making it a great spot for both hikers and climbers. It’s a short 0.6-mile loop, but if visitors choose to climb, it can be more challenging. Being careful is important for this hike.

What Makes Skull Rock a Noteworthy Landmark?

Skull Rock is an interesting attraction that requires no hiking to enjoy its unique appearance. However, if you’re up for a little adventure, there’s a 1.7-mile loop trail with moderate difficulty, taking about an hour to complete.

What Can Visitors Expect at Barker Dam?

Barker Dam is a must-visit spot for nature lovers. This 1.1-mile loop trail offers an easy hike, taking around 30 minutes to complete, but longer with a toddler or a kid as they like to explore. Discover the beauty of the dam, surrounded by the breathtaking landscape of Joshua Tree.

Starting your day at the Cholla Cactus Garden is highly recommended. The 0.3-mile loop trail is a short and easy hike, perfect for a morning stroll. Witness the fascinating landscape filled with Cholla cacti, creating a surreal experience. It takes about 5 minutes to complete

Why Should You Consider Hiking the Split Rock Loop?

Lastly, the Split Rock Loop offers a 2.5-mile trail with moderate difficulty, taking about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. This hike allows you to explore various rock formations, making it a worthwhile addition to your itinerary.

How Do the Other Trails in Joshua Tree Compare?

Name of Hike Distance Difficulty
Keys View 0.3 miles Extremely easy
Hall of Horrors 0.6 miles Varies
Skull Rock 1.7 miles Moderate
Barker Dam 1.1 miles Easy
Cholla Cactus Garden 0.3 miles Easy


Now that you’re equipped with all the essential information about these fantastic attractions at Hidden Valley Joshua Tree, it’s time to plan your visit and make the most of your trip. Remember, as a parent and outdoor enthusiast, I’ve personally experienced these hikes and attractions, ensuring you have the best possible insights.

I'm a professional marketer from Los Angeles, California. More importantly, I'm a brand new father who can't wait to take my beloved partner and daughter on all sorts of hiking trails. My mantra is that work will always be there, but watching your little one grow happens once in a lifetime.

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