The short hike to Arch Rock is a popular trail in Joshua National Park trail, which goes to a natural arch and a heart-shaped rock formation. Starting from a large carpark, the wide and well signposted trail heads across the desert.
Intriguingly, the carpark for the trail is on the opposite side of the highway to Arch Rock. So after a short 0.2 miles (300m) the trail crosses the road, at an informal pedestrian crossing.
There’s almost no shade, as the trail
The trail soon reaches the collection of enormous boulders, or inselbergs. The rock is called White Tank Granite, an igneous rock formed by hot magma being pushed up from deep underground and forced into the overlying rock in a process known as intrusion, before being cooled and hardened. (
Rather than going directly to Arch Rock, I continue along the trail a little further to Heart Rock, crossing a couple of shallow gulches along the way. A popular but unofficial landmark in Joshua Tree National Park, the trail to Heart Rock now has official markers making it very easy to find this distinctive feature!
As you approach the rock, it’s obvious how it got it’s name! (Just before sunset is best for getting the light shining through the top of the rock, while sunrise will provide some nice colour to the rock.)
From here it’s back the same way, this time taking following the trail into the large granite boulders to get a view of Arch Rock.
Although both rock formations are interesting, Heart Rock is definitely the most unusual and photogenic of the two! It’s back the same way to the carpark. The walk can be done comfortably in under an hour.
Getting to Arch Rock (and Heart Rock)
The trailhead for the Arch Rock trail is located on Pinto Road, which is the main road running through Joshua Tree National Park. It’s 33 miles (53km) from the southern entrance to the park, or 23 miles (37km) 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?
The short return walk can be done for most of the year – but it’s best to avoid the middle of the day in summer, when high temperatures can make the hike very unpleasant or even dangerous. There is no shade along the trail.
- National Park Service (NPS) – Hike Arch Rock