Bike riding in Joshua Tree National Park is restricted to roads open to vehicles. The park’s Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan designates approximately 29 miles of trails for non-motorized bike use, however, the new trails cannot be used until Congress gives its approval. In the meanwhile, the park’s backcountry roads offer opportunities to explore many areas. If you are ready to experience some of the most beautiful cycling and hiking the Palm Springs area has to offer, grab your CamelBak, other Hydration Pack or Hydroflask and get out on the trail!
Cyclers need to be aware that the paved roads in Joshua Tree National Park hve no shoulders and are often narrow. Bikers should pay very close attention when rounding corners since boulder piles and Joshua trees can restrict the vision of drivers, and during certain times of the year the desert tortoises will cross the roads and can be a hazard to cyclists as well. On unpaved roads, keep an eye out for hikers and horses.
If you are thinking of breaking the rules and going off road, keep in mind that bicycle tire tracks on the open desert can last for years and can seriously damage the landscape. Keep in mind there are serious fines for those who cycle where they shouldn’t in the park, and you will be doing severe damage to the environment if you do as well.
Directions: Joshua Tree National Park lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles. You can approach it from the west via Interstate 10 and Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The north entrances to the park are located at Joshua Tree Village and the city of Twentynine Palms. The south entrance at Cottonwood Spring, which lies 25 miles east of Indio, can be approached from the east or west, also via Interstate 10. You can view a maps of the park and roads leading to it here.
Back Country Roads
Mountain bikes and 4-wheel-drive vehicles are welcome in the park. For your own safety and for the protection of natural features, stay on established roads. Tire tracks on the open desert can last for years and will spoil the wilderness experience of future visitors.
Paved roads in the park are narrow with soft shoulders. Curves, boulder piles, and Joshua trees restrict the vision of bikers and motorists. The unpaved roads in the park are safer for bikes and offer many opportunities to explore the area. Here is a sampling:
Berdoo Canyon Road
Connecting the south end of Geology Tour Road with Dillon Road, this 4-wheel-drive road requires a high clearance vehicle. Berdoo Canyon Road exits the park after 11.5 miles (18.4 km). The last 3.9 miles (6.24 km) to Dillon Road winds past the ruins of the Berdoo Camp, which was established in the 1930s by the builders of the California Aquaduct.
Black Eagle Mine Road
Beginning 6.5 miles (10.5 km) north of Cottonwood Visitor Center, this dead-end dirt road runs along the edge of Pinto Basin, crosses several dry washes, and winds through canyons in the Eagle Mountains. The first nine miles (14.5 km) are within the park boundary. Beyond that point is Bureau of Land Management land and a number of side roads. Several old mines are located near these roads but may be too dangerous to approach.
The dirt roads in Covington Flats offer access to some of the park’s largest Joshua trees, junipers, and pinyon pines in the high desert. From Covington Flats picnic area to Eureka Peak is 3.8 miles (6.2 km) one way. The dirt road is steep near the end, but the top offers views of Palm Springs, the surrounding mountains, and the Morongo Basin. Your trip will be 6.5 miles (10.5 km) longer if you ride or drive over to the backcountry board, a starting point for excellent hiking.
Geology Tour Road
The road turns south from the paved road two miles (3.2 km) west of Jumbo Rocks Campground. The distance from the junction to Squaw Tank is 5.4 miles (8.8 km) This section is mostly downhill but bumpy and sandy. Starting at Squaw Tank, a 6-mile (9.7-km) circular route explores Pleasant Valley. A printed guide is available at the beginning of the road.
Old Dale Road
This 23-mile (37.3-km) road starts at the same point as Black Eagle Mine Road. The first 11 miles (17.8 km), cross Pinto Basin, a flat, sandy dry lake bed. Leaving the basin, the road climbs a steep hill, then crosses the park boundary. A number of side roads veer off toward old mines and residences. The main road leads to HWY 62, 15 miles (24.3 km) east of Twentynine Palms.
Pinkham Canyon Road
This challenging 20-mile (32.4-km) road begins at Cottonwood Visitor Center, travels along Smoke Tree Wash, and then cuts down Pinkham Canyon. Sections of the road run through soft sand and rocky flood plains. The road connects to a service road next to I10.
Queen Valley Roads
A network of roads, totaling 13.4 miles (21.7 km), cross this valley of boulder piles and Joshua trees. A bike trip can begin at Hidden Valley or the dirt road opposite Geology Tour Road. Bike racks have been placed in this area so visitors can lock their bikes and go hiking.
- Bicycles may be used on roads open to motor vehicles and on designated bicycle trails.
- Carry plenty of water, at least one gallon per person per day-two for extended or uphill trips.
- Wear a helmet. If you take a spill your brain will thank you.
- Ride with caution. Park roads are narrow with sandy shoulders, bumps, and potholes.
- Watch for RVs and trucks with e x t e n d e d side-view mirrors.
- Wear reflective clothing after dark.
The way we ride today shapes mountain bike trail access tomorrow. Do your part to preserve and enhance our sport’s access and image by observing the following rules of the trail, formulated by IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association. These rules are recognized around the world as the standard code of conduct for mountain bikers. IMBA’s mission is to promote mountain bicycling that is environmentally sound and socially responsible.
Ride On Open Trails Only.
Respect trail and road closures (ask if uncertain); avoid trespassing on private land; obtain permits or other authorization as may be required. Federal and state Wilderness areas are closed to cycling. The way you ride will influence trail management decisions and policies.
Leave No Trace.
Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Recognize different types of soils and trail construction; practice low-impact cycling. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage. When the trailbed is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.
Control Your Bicycle!
Inattention for even a second can cause problems. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations.
Always Yield Trail.
Let your fellow trail users know you’re coming. A friendly greeting or bell is considerate and works well; don’t startle others. Show your respect when passing by slowing to a walking pace or even stopping. Anticipate other trail users around corners or in blind spots. Yielding means slow down, establish communication, be prepared to stop if necessary and pass safely.
Never Scare Animals.
All animals are startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement, or a loud noise. This can be dangerous for you, others, and the animals. Give animals extra room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife is a serious offense. Leave gates as you found them, or as marked.
Know your equipment, your ability, and the area in which you are riding — and prepare accordingly. Be self-sufficient at all times, keep your equipment in good repair, and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. A well-executed trip is a satisfaction to you and not a burden to others. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.
Keep trails open by setting a good example of environmentally sound and socially responsible off-road cycling.