Distance (round-trip)

4.4 mi

Time

2 hrs

Elevation Gain

530 ft

Season

Spring
Fall
Winter

Weather

The trail to Pine City is often overshadowed by the more prominent Ryan Mountain Trail and the more accessible Barker Dam Trail. But I’ll let the secret out — this is one of Joshua Tree’s best hikes. It’s the perfect mixture of a casual desert walk filled with classic Mojave plants, a pinyon pine microclimate formed from large boulders and a seasonal wash, and sweeping views of Queens Valley and down towards Twentynine Palms. All this is wrapped up into a four-mile day hike with bonus rock scrambling and side trails to explore.

Pine City Trail

Start out from the parking lot that is shared with the Desert Queen Mine Trail. Access this trailhead via the Desert Queen Mine Road from Park Boulevard (near Jumbo Rocks).

Part 1: A LOOK AT DESERT FLORA

The first 1.25 miles of this trail parallels a wash, located on your left, as it slowly climbs towards the Pine City site. While walking this trail, you have the opportunity to observe pretty much every type of classic Mojave Desert flora, including:

The shining, smelly, and medicinal Creosote

Creosote Bush

The classic (and sharp) mojave yucca,

Mojave Yucca

The jumps-onto-your-pants-as-your-walk-by silver cholla,

Silver Cholla

And the namesake Joshua tree.

Joshua Tree

All of these plants thrive in the higher elevations found within the Mojave Desert.

One of the first signs that water is becoming more abundant is the presence of the juniper tree, which is often found along the banks of washes like this one.

Juniper Tree

There is also a huge variety of cacti found along this hike, such as the California barrel cactus.

Barrel Cactus

Pricklypear Cactus

All these plants are neat to see, but isn’t this supposed to be pine city? Well, just after your first pinyon pine sighting, at mile 1.3, the trail drops into a beautiful alcove of large granite monzonite boulders with large pinyon pines nestled between them. When you mix large rock piles with a fairly active wash, you create a microclimate suitable for plants that require a much more cool and moist environment.

Pinyon Pine

Park 2: EXPLORATION

While it’s easy to complete this hike in a couple hours, I would highly recommend spending at least a half a day exploring the pine city site and nearby canyons. You’ll find a rare mixture of fantastic scrambling, beautiful flora, and almost guaranteed solitude. A trail junction, found just before Pine City, offers a variety of exploration options.

Pine City

The left-most trail contours around the west side of Pine City for one-third of a mile, eventually reaching an airy vista looking into the valley to the north.

Pine City Overlook

The right-most trail dips briefly into Pine City before starting a rapid descent towards the Oasis Visitors Center. You can actually thru-hike all the way down to Utah Road if you shuttle a vehicle. Otherwise, don’t venture too far down that direction or it will mean a lot of climbing on the way back.

Another option is to go directly into Pine City and enjoy the shade of pine and boulders while having lunch, reading a book, or taking a desert nap.

Cactus Garden

Exploring Pine City

Once you are satisfied with your experience, return to your car by retracing your steps to the south.

Walking Home

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Camping

Kid-Friendly

Shade

Trail Map

1 Comment

Phillip Stosberg Mar 4, 2018 18:03

Have you or has anyone you know chosen the option of backcountry camping in this area?

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