Arch Rock Joshua Tree National Park

by | Jun 13, 2020 | California, USA

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Among the giant rock piles and distinctive Joshua Trees the granite arch known as Arch Rock spans 30 foot over a boulder field in Joshua Tree National Park.  It’s an easy hike to the arch from its new trail head at Twin Tanks parking lot.

Arch Rock is one of our favorite rock formations in Joshua Tree and the hike itself a lovely. For those of you planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park we wanted to share our experience and tips for hiking to Arch Rock.

We visited Arch Rock in 2020 and followed the trail from the new Twin Tanks/Arch Rock trail head. Parking is no longer permitted at the original trail head at White Tank Campground unless camping there. 

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Arch Rock, Joshua Tree

 

Arch Rock

Arch Rock is located in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. With its unique rock formations and distinctive Joshua Trees set against a barren desert landscape, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most magical and enchanting places on the planet.

The 30 foot granite Arch Rock sits in the middle of a boulder field close to the White Tank Campground off the Pinto Basin Road. Hiking to Arch Rock is one of our favorite things to do in Joshua Tree National Park.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Arch Rock

 

Hiking the Arch Rock Trail

Among the Joshua Trees and giant boulders, a 30 foot natural granite arch sits is elevated above a Joshua Tree Boulder field a few miles from the junction of Park Boulevard and Pinto Basin Road. Arch Rock is accessed via an easy 1.2 mile total hike on an out and back trail which begins at the Twin Tanks/Arch Rock parking lot.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Hiking to Arch Rock

Arch Rock Joshua Tree tip:  Arch Rock is close to Joshua Tree’s beautiful Heart Rock, a unique rock formation shaped like a heart. The rock itself is around 10 feet tall and rises above a boulder field close to the Arch Rock trail deep in the Joshua Tree desert. Heart Rock is quite difficult to locate and is accessed via an unmarked trail – if you are in search of Heart Rock you can follow the directions in our guide to Heart Rock in Joshua Tree and combine both Heart Rock and Arch Rock in a single hike. Both Heart Rock and Arch Rock are among the best Instagram spots in Joshua Tree.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

The beautiful Heart Rock is one of our favorite rock formations in Joshua Tree

 

  • Hike Length:2 miles round trip
  • Hike Time: 1 hour – allow an extra 30 to 60 minutes if planning to visit Heart Rock
  • Hike Difficulty:easy hike across relatively flat terrain. Depending on when you hike, high temperatures increase the difficultly of all Joshua Tree hikes.
  • Parking Lot:Twin Tanks/Arch Rock Parking Lot

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

The trail is quite well marked although it is very easy to lose your sense of direction in the desert

 

Getting to the Arch Rock Trail Head

The Arch Rock trail head is located at the Twin Tanks/Arch Rock Parking Lot.

  • If you enter from the West or North Entrance then drive south on Park Boulevard until you reach the junction with Pinto Basin. Drive South on Pinto Basin for just over 2 miles until you reach the Twin Tanks/Arch Rock Parking Lot.
  • If you enter the Park from the South, drive north on Cottonwood Springs Road and continuing North on Pinot Basin Road after reaching the junction of Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road close to the Cottonwood Springs Visitors Center. From there, it will take about 40 minutes to make the 28 mile trip north through the park to the Twin Tanks/Arch Rock Parking Lot.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree tip: While it is possible to hike to Arch Rock from the White Tank Campground, parking is extremely limited at the campground and has been restricted to those staying in White Tank. On our last visit to Joshua Tree the campground was closed to car access when we visited. It’s much easier to get a parking spot at the larger designated parking lot further down the road and making the 1.2 mile round trip hike instead.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

A sign for Twin Tanks/Arch Rock parking on the Pinto Basin Road

 

Map of Arch Rock Trail

We’ve put together the below map of the hiking route to Arch Rock. The Arch Rock trail is shown in Yellow, with the detour to Heart Rock in Orange.

We highly recommend saving the GPS location of the rock and the surrounding area on an offline map app before you visit Joshua Tree to avoid getting lost. There is almost no cell-phone reception in Joshua Tree National Park so make sure to save the location on Google Maps ahead of time.

Caching your Google Map: In case you didn’t know, you can save a map area on Google Maps for offline use. This is really useful when visiting places like Joshua Tree National Park that don’t have cell service. To do this using your cellphone, zoom to the area you’d like to save for offline use, and then in the Google Maps search box type “OK Maps”. You’ll then get a prompt to save your map.

How to Use this Google Map: Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to “Your Places” and selecting this map. We use these maps all the time as you can set out your itinerary ahead of time and quickly reference the saved maps.

 

The Arch Rock Trail

Most hikers to Arch Rock will use the Twin Tanks/Arch Rock parking lot as this is the designated trail head as of 2020. However, we’ve included directions from the White Tank Campground for those who are staying at the campground and want to hike to Arch Rock.

From Twin Tanks/Arch Rock Parking Lot

Follow the trail from the parking lot and across the Pinto Basin Road (the parking lot is on the opposite side of the road to Arch Rock). Take the first right turn on the Arch Rock trail. After this turn, you’ll be walking across open desert ground towards the rocky outcrop where Arch Rock is located.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Most of the trail leads across a flat desert path

 

As you reach the rocky area you will see a junction in the trail, with Arch Rock trail marked as straight on and to the right – the Arch Rock trail is a loop so there are two routes which lead to the rock.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

A trail sign at the Arch Rock loop

 

It’s possible to climb on Arch Rock although it does require some scrambling over rocks!

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Arch Rock

 

From White Tank Campground

If you are staying at White Tank Campground, the 0.5 mile hike to Arch Rock starts at campsite 9. Follow the trail and Arch Rock is on the right about a quarter of a mile down the trail.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Arch Rock

 

Hiking to Arch Rock with kids

Arch Rock is an easy and flat trail and a great hike with kids. On our most recent visit to Joshua Tree we did the hike with our 2 year old and 9 month. Our 2 year old walked most of the way there and back but got tired when the temperatures rose on our return to the car.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Grabbing a ride back to the car!

 

Arch Rock Joshua Tree tip: there are no drop offs along the trail but do be careful if kids are climbing on the rock.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

Standing under Arch Rock

 

Tips for Arch Rock, Joshua Tree

  • Arrive early: The park gets extremely busy and the sun is unrelenting so the earlier the better! We started our mornings at sunrise and it was incredible to enjoy the almost empty roads and trails and the uninterrupted views.
  • Sunrise and Sunset: the soft evening light makes sunset a popular time to visit Arch Rock. For people shows, we preferred the soft light after sunrise.
  • Closed toe boots: cacti are abundant in the desert and closed toe shoes are useful.
  • The wildlife: outside of the winter months of November to February there is the possibility of encountering Joshua Tree’s most hostile residents – the park is home to some venomous wildlife which includes rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. It shouldn’t be a problem if you keep your feet and hands where you can see them and make sure kids do the same!
  • Snacks and Water: Bring lots of water on any hikes in Joshua Tree. There are water filling stations throughout the park. There are water filing stations at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms, West Entrance Station, Black Rock Campground, Cottonwood Campground, Indian Cove Ranger Station. Bring snacks and lunch if required.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

There is no shade along the trail to Arch Rock

  • Cellphones: there is very little cellphone service once inside Joshua Tree National Park. Make sure to save your trails offline and bring a phone charger for the car.

Arch Rock Joshua Tree

The light is beautiful around sunset

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