Summary: A very short hike in Joshua Tree National Park, the Cholla Cactus Garden trail is a short loop through a dense stand of the unusual teddybear cholla.

The Cholla Cactus Garden hike is a very short and easy loop in Joshua Tree National Park. Located along the main road through the park, it’s in a transition zone between the Colorado and Mohave Deserts where there is more water. As a result, this small area supports an incredibly dense patch of cholla cacti. There are very few other cholla cactus stands in the park. A pamphlet at the trailhead provides more information on the trail and cholla plant. 

The loop is almost completely level, with a very obvious trail through the cacti.

Also called the teddybear cholla, you can recognize the plant by its densely interlaced yellow spines, tightly clustered stems, and dark lower trunk. (The area is dominated by these plants, but you can also find other deserts plants including the Hedgehog Cactus, Desert Starvine, Beavertail Cactus and Pencil Cholla along the trail.)

Despite it’s pleasant-sounding name, it’s not a great idea to touch the plants or wander off-trail… the stem-joints are designed to easily detach and will latch onto your skin due to the miniscule barbs on the spines, giving the plant the nickname of “jumping cholla.”

Getting to Cholla Cactus Garden

The trailhead for the Cholla Cactus Garden trail is located off Pinto Road, which is the main road running through Joshua Tree National Park. It’s 26 miles (52km) from the southern entrance to the park, or 39 miles (63km) from the western entrance. There’s a large carpark but no toilets or any other facilities. Joshua Tree National Park is 140 miles (225km) east of Los Angeles.

When to hike?

It’s a very short loop which you can generally do at any time of the year… but, if you can avoid the middle of the day – especially in summer – when high temperatures can make the hike very unpleasant or even dangerous.

image The short Cholla Cactus Garden loop in Joshua Tree National Park
Source: Joshua Tree Visitors Guide

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