Split Rock To Face Rock Loop: A Short But Iconic Joshua Tree Hike

Hike-At-A-Glance


Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Trail

Date Hiked: February 22, 2013
Best Season: Spring Winter
Check Trail Conditions: Joshua Tree NP Park HQ 760-367-5502
Notes: Dogs are not permitted on park trails.
  • Distance: 2.64 miles round-trip (with Face Rock). 2.0 miles round-trip if just Split Rock
  • Elevation Gain: 168 feet
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Trail Type: Dirt and rock
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The northwest end of Joshua Tree National Park is what most visitors envision when they think of Joshua Tree. This higher elevation Mojave Desert section of the park is covered with the trees from which the national park gets its name as well as those famous big huge boulders that just beg to be climbed.

For our last day in Joshua Tree over Presidents’ Day weekend, Jeff and I decided to string together several short hikes in this section of the park and finally have some fun on those big giant boulders. The first stop after checking out of our Twentynine Palms hotel was Split Rock…one of the most famously photographed rocks in Joshua Tree, and one of the most popular spots in the entire park. At all three visitor centers, we heard park rangers referring even croc-wearing tourists to Split Rock.

Split Rock is located 10.9 miles from the Oasis Visitor Center, off Loop Road, west of the main junction inside the park. Roadside signs clearly mark the turn-off to the Split Rock parking lot and picnic area. The immediate proximity of Split Rock to the parking lot makes it clear why this easily accessible boulder is so frequently visited. Vault toilets are located at the parking lot.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

The parking lot and picnic area.

The marked trailhead is located right next to Split Rock. You can also do the loop in reverse, catching the end of the trail just across the parking lot — but we chose to start at the famous rock.

Walk around Split Rock to explore inside a little cave on the backside of the boulder, then follow the rock-lined path as you climb down to the valley floor.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Trailhead located next to Split Rock.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Standing at the mouth of the little cave located on the back side of Split Rock.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Picking up the trail on the backside of Split Rock. Note the parallel lines of rocks on the left marking the official trail after the descent.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Just one of hundreds of super cool rock formations along this short hiking trail.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Veins run through many of the giant rocks.

This short hike winds through a valley that provides spectacular views of rugged boulders and rock formations, as well as an excellent introduction to desert flora. The trail is very well marked through the majority of the hike.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Signs clearly keep hikers on the right trail the entire loop.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

One of a couple rock staircases along the trail.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Nope, not Face Rock yet. Even though it looks like a face.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

The longest stretch of bare flat dessert on the trail.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

A baby Joshua Tree!

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

The trail markers disappear here for a few minutes, but just head straight.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

See the rock climber scaling the tall flat boulder in the middle? She or he is that little tiny bump on the left side of the boulder .

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

A closer view of the rock climber. This area is extremely popular with climbers, and many of the rock formations are signed and ranked for climbing.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Strategically placed small rocks keep you on the trail.

At 1.3 miles you encounter a marked trail junction indicating a short detour to Face Rock. This spur is not as well marked as the main trail, and there is no sign whatsoever at Split Rock, but it’s not too hard to find — the face is a big profile shot up on your left. The sound of cars zipping by tells you that the main road is near.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

You’ll hit the junction to Face Rock at 1.3 miles into the hike, if you start your hike loop at Split Rock.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

The trail spur to Face Rock is very short.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Our first sighting of Face Rock…a profile face shot at the end of the left rock formation, staring off to the right.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

A better closer  view of Face Rock, with me standing on the trail for perspective.

Retrace your steps back to the signed trail junction to pick up the main Split Rock Loop Trail again. You will quickly encounter a very rare treat…one of the few shady spots in all of Joshua Tree. Hike on through it to once again catch your breath, soaking in the majestic rock formations and beautiful desert scenery that accompanies you back to the parking lot.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

A very brief spot of shade near trails end. One of the very few shady spots we saw anywhere in the park.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Another way too cool rock formation. If you look at the base of the formation, you can see a few rock climbers gearing up.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

A full grown Joshua Tree. Such rugged beauty.

Split Rock to Face Rock Loop Hike

Approaching the end of the trail and the parking lot.

At just 2 to 2.64 miles, this hike wouldn’t normally excite regular hikers. But the unique scenery and gorgeous views make it a very worthwhile stop when hiking in Joshua Tree. And at just 2 to 2.64 miles, with those famous spectacular Joshua Tree boulders, this trail is perfect for novice hikers and for families with young kids.  If you want to add on a little more mileage, just a very short distance down the same road is the Jumbo Rocks/Skull Rock loop trail, with similarly amazing geology in just under 2 miles of walking.


View Split Rock – Face Rock Joshua Tree.kml in a larger map

Split Rock Face Rock Elevation Profile

Trail elevation profile. Click on the image for a larger view.

Comments

  1. Ethos Adventures says

    Thanks for sharing so many details about this fun jaunt! We will be sending a group out to Joshua Tree very soon and your article makes this trek seem all the more likely to make the list!

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