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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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