Boy Scout Trail, Boy Scout Trailhead - South, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Boy Scout Trail - 16.4 miles

Boy Scout Trailhead - South

Mt. San Gorgonio (11,499') from the Boy Scout Trail

Mt. San Gorgonio (11,499') from the Boy Scout Trail

Round-Trip Length: 16.4 miles
Start-End Elevation: 4,028' - 2,920' (4,185' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -1,108' net elevation loss (+1,586' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Boy Scout Trail - 16.4 Miles Round-Trip

The Boy Scout Trail spans an 8 mile transition zone between the high and low Mojave Desert, showcasing an extraordinary range of plants, cacti, trees and terrain. The southern portion travels through an archetypal Joshua Tree flat, then edges higher into a pinyon-juniper ecosystem.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Further north it drops sharply into a rugged canyon and emerges in a bajada that supports a variety of plants and succulents from the low Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Hikers will see how even subtle elevation changes affect plant composition along each mile of the trail:

The trail rises north through a Joshua Tree forest with views of distant peaks in the San Bernadino Wilderness. A mild grade continues past the Willow Hole Trail split (1.25 miles : 4,130') with a glimpse into the Wonderland of Rocks (1.25 miles : 4,130').

Terrain changes noticeably beyond 2.8 miles, undulating on a faint path amid more diverse vegetation. Juniper, pinyon, oak, nolina and a variety of cacti and cholla emerge through 3 miles and its highest point (4,185') - arguably the most scenic section of the Boy Scout Trail.

The trail levels on a high plateau and spills into an open wash (3.75 miles : 4,060'); take note of the signpost here, a useful navigation mark on the return.

The trail is intermittently rugged, cluttered and ill-defined to and past the Big Pine Trail split (3.95 miles : 4,025'), alternating through narrow washes and tangles of mesquite, cats claw and oak. You'll skirt a dry fall at 4.15 miles (3,981') down to an old cattle tank - another good landmark on the return.

The trail exits a wash on the high plateau (4.35 miles) and follows a twisting course to the top of a deep canyon with northerly views of a desolate landscape. At 4.65 miles (3,958') the trail crests before dropping 400' in just .4 miles along faint, tightly wound switchbacks into the canyon (see GPS points).

The trail reaches the canyon floor (5.2 miles : 3,550') and bears right down the wash. The next sparingly-marked mile drops down the narrow, rugged canyon lined by yucca, mistletoe, barrel and mound cacti.

A signpost and string of rocks marks the wash exit (6.2 miles : 3,275'); bear right to exit the canyon over a small knoll. The trail drops into the canyon's wide, brushy spillway (6.4 miles : 3,184') and keeps right. Desert willow, Mormon Tea, creosote, mistletoe and jojoba are particularly abundant.

The trail veers out of the spillway over another small knoll and pours into a sparse bajada (6.65 miles : 3,165').

Joshua Trees are nowhere to be found in the lower Mojave, a markedly different environment from which you started. Here creosote thrives, while cheesebush, paperbag bush and a variety desert scrub and cholla fill out the landscape. The sandy trail glides 1.6 miles through open desert to its northern terminus at Indian Cove (8.2 miles : 2,920').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N34 06.069 W116 11.957 — Reach canyon floor - turn right down wash
  • N34 02.469 W116 11.149 — Boy Scout Trailhead South
  • N34 06.241 W116 11.201 — Exit canyon wash to right
  • N34 03.427 W116 10.773 — Willow Hole Trail junction
  • N34 06.251 W116 11.048 — Enter canyon spillway
  • N34 05.163 W116 11.528 — Signpost in faint section of trail
  • N34 06.370 W116 10.848 — Exit canyon spillway - begin descent to north trailhead
  • N34 05.372 W116 11.663 — Big Pine Trail junction
  • N34 06.789 W116 09.336 — Boy Scout Trailhead North (Indian Cove)
  • N34 05.496 W116 11.712 — Old cattle water tank
  • N34 05.798 W116 11.863 — Begin descent into canyon
  • N34 06.069 W116 11.957 — Reach canyon floor - turn right down wash
  • N34 06.241 W116 11.201 — Exit canyon wash to right
  • N34 06.251 W116 11.048 — Enter canyon spillway
  • N34 06.370 W116 10.848 — Exit canyon spillway - begin descent to north trailhead
  • N34 06.789 W116 09.336 — Boy Scout Trailhead North (Indian Cove)

Worth Noting

  • The trail's ecological and topographic diversity appeal to many of the Park's mammals and reptiles. Bighorn Sheep are known to inhabit the Wonderland of Rocks area.

  • While only a moderate roundtrip elevation gain, the trail's varied terrain and length make it a moderately challenging day hike. Anticipate longer travel time on the return from Indian Cove

  • Some segments of the trail are faint, indistinguishable or run through unmarked wash sections. Patience, vigilance, ample preparations and a good topo map are essential for travel in such terrain.

  • Overnight campers must observe Day Use Only restrictions, which limit camping to the west side of the Boy Scout Trail.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Overnight campers must observe Day Use Area restrictions, which limit camping to the west side of the Boy Scout Trail. There are no maintained backcountry campsites along this trail. Speak with a Ranger for detailed information on backcountry camping zones, permits and regulations.

Directions to Trailhead

The Boyscout Trailhead (south) is located approximately 6.5 miles south of the West Entrance Station on Park Boulevard.

Contact Information

Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Visitor Information
760.367.5500

Comments

"Exercise caution on passing Big Pine trail while on the Boy Scout Trail. If you miss the trail and continue down the wash - which judging by the many footprints a lot of people have done - you may become stranded on a rocky ledge with no way out except a 50 to 100 foot drop. My son (17) was negotiating these dry falls and came to the edge. He was barely able to climb back out. I reported this to the Park Service and they said maybe a marker was missing. South to North"
Russell Lee  -  Twentynine Palms  -  Date Posted: June 27, 2012

 

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