I was excited to go to Joshua Tree Park and stumbled upon the Willow Hole Trail. I didn’t have a trail picked out until the night before. I knew I wanted to do anywhere between 5-10 miles (I know that’s very broad). We stayed in Palm Desert, and driving to Joshua Tree Park was interesting. The entire area was under wind warning, and the roads had sand blowing across at over 40 miles per hour. We hoped getting over into the next valley would be better weather but had decided we weren’t going to stay if it wasn’t. Luckily Joshua Tree Park was protected, and we were able to run the Willow Hole Trail.
I was excited to go to Joshua Tree Park and cross another national park off my list. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how much I would get out of it because of the similar climate to where I already live. Even just “2 hours away” in another part of the Mojave Desert is entirely different. We have Joshua Trees but not as many, and the terrain is completely different. Joshua Tree surprised me with how much I like it!
About the Willow Hole Trail:
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 320 feet
The Willow Hole Trail at Joshua Tree Park sounded like the perfect trail to run. It’s a 7 mile out and back that goes to Willow Grove, which has its microclimate. Willow Trees protect Willow Hole near several rock formations. Most of the trail is fairly easy and runnable sand, whereas the last mile is deeper sand. We averaged around 9:30 for most of the trail and 12 minutes for the super sandy section. The day we went, it was windy but not too hot. Despite living in the desert, I was worried it would be too hot.
Willow Hole Trailhead: Boy Scout Trail, 64568 Park Blvd, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
My Experience on the Willow Hole Trail:
As mentioned, I was worried about the heat. We planned to get there earlier but arrived around 7:30 am. Luckily the heat wasn’t too bad. I opted to wear my Reebok Floatride 4. I did have a trail shoe with me but wanted more cushion. After running so much on sand at home, I figured my road shoe would be fine (it was).
To get to the Willow Hole Trailhead at Joshua Tree Park, you need to park at the Boy Scout Trailhead. The Boy Scout Trailhead has about 20-30 parking spots, but it can get busy. There were about 10 cars when we arrived, and the lot was nearly full when we left! You then take the trailhead about 1.2 miles to the Willow Hole Trail. The first 1.2 miles are moderate and slightly uphill. The san is fairly compact, so you don’t have to worry about feeling like you’re running on the beach (yet). Other than that, you get a 360 view of the beautiful Joshua Tree Park.
You’ll see some small turn-offs on the Willow Hole Trail, but the Willow Hole is the main trail. Most of the turn-offs lead to rocks. Did you know Joshua Tree National Park is known for its pristine rock climbing? We didn’t see anyone out, but it was also fairly windy.
Around 1.25, you’ll see a turn-off for the Boy Scout Trail. We ended up doing some of this later, and it’s a gorgeous trail I would love to come back and complete.
You’ll continue on the biggest trail from there, and it’s well-marked. Eventually, you’ll see cascading rock formations: “the wonderland of rocks.” Around 2.25 is the best view of all of the rocks, and from there, you’ll go downhill towards the Willow Grove.
This section of the Willow Hole Trail is where the trail gets much sandier. You’ll be going through deeper sand sections that your feet just sink into. Plus, you get to see different types of vegetation.
I didn’t realize the different types of vegetation in the Wonderland of Rocks, but plants can dig their roots into the rocks; how neat. We got to Willow Grove around mile 3.5. There are a lot of turns and going across rock beds. There are also a lot of small rocks that jet out of the sand. The last mile was TOUGH. In fact, I tripped a few times on the rocks.
For us, there was no water at the Willow Grove! Sometimes it has it, and sometimes it doesn’t. I enjoyed the Willow Trees and felt I got somewhere “secret.” We admired the Willow Grove and then headed back towards the start. We did take a side trip onto the Boy Scout Trail, which looked to be a nice trail that I would love to come back to. I enjoyed the Willow Hole Trail at Joshua Tree Park and would do it again. Hopefully, next time it has water.
You can see more trail runs and hikes here.
Questions for you:
Have you been to the Willow Hole Trail at Joshua Tree Park?
What is your favorite National Park?