Willow Hole and the Wonderland of Rocks, Boy Scout Trailhead - South, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Willow Hole and the Wonderland of Rocks - 7.1 miles

Boy Scout Trailhead - South

Wide washes thread through the Wonderland of Rocks en route to Willow Hole

Wide washes thread through the Wonderland of Rocks en route to Willow Hole

Round-Trip Length: 7.1 miles
Start-End Elevation: 4,028' - 4,050' (4,170' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +22' net elevation gain (+510' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Willow Hole and the Wonderland of Rocks - 7.1 Miles Round-Trip

The Willow Hole Trail leads deep into the Wonderland of Rocks, a labyrinth of washes and sculpted monzogranite rock formations. The main route in follows a brief section of the Boy Scout Trail before heading east on the Willow Hole Trail into this large encasement.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Like Hidden Valley, the Wonderland of Rocks funnels and traps rain, creating a unique micro-habitat that supports a range and abundance of plant and animal life.

Willow Hole is a seasonal water source surrounded by willow trees, and just one of many potential water sources in the Wonderland of Rocks.

These rare desert resrouces are critical to wildlife, especially bighorn sheep. To preserve natural balance, the Willow Hole Trail and Wonderland of Rocks are day use only.

Though the Willow Hole Trail is reasonably marked, sections are vague and the landscape can be indistinguishable. Carry a good map and stay on designated routes. Visitors will enjoy expansive Joshua Tree flats on the Boy Scout Trail and surreal rock gardens in the Wonderland of Rocks:

The trail rises gently up a sandy path through broad Joshua Trees and mixed mojave vegetation. Views to the west are quite good, especially of Mt. San Gorgonio (11,499') in the San Bernadino Wilderness. You'll reach the Willow Hole Trail split (1.25 miles : 4,140') and bear right.

The Willow Hole Trail bends NE through similar terrain before entering the more topographically complex Wonderland of Rocks. Approximately .6 miles from the split you'll come to the first of several vague wash splits and crossings - stay straight.

The trail now travels almost exclusively through washes, requiring vigilance to signs and markings leading in and out of them. Because the landscape can quickly become indistinguishable and unrecognizable - especially on the return - it's recommended you keep track and note as many natural landmarks as possible along the way.

After squeezing through a few tight places, the main wash opens considerably amid towering rock formations that loom larger as you move deeper into the wilderness.

Much of the remaining route is not marked, but this wide section of wash is intuitively followed. There's little additional elevation gain, but deep sand in the last .5 miles will slow your pace.

The trail ends at a chokepoint in the wash where a seasonal waterhole lies under a willow tree. There's no sign indicating the end, but the tree, waterhole, blockage and distance traveled will indicate the turn around point.

You may continue up the wash around either side of the willow tree (and many do), but the route has many obstacles. Only those with advanced scrambling and desert navigation skills should consider further travel.

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N34 02.469 W116 11.149 — Boy Scout Trailhead South
  • N34 03.427 W116 10.773 — Willow Hole Trail junction

Worth Noting

  • Willow Hole is one of many potential water sources in the Wonderland of Rocks. Availability of water draws significant wildlife activity. Bighorn Sheep are known to inhabit the area.

  • The are several unofficial cross-country routes beyond Willow Hole that lead deeper into the Wonderland of Rocks. Consult a backcountry ranger for more information.

  • On the way to Willow Hole, take note of your surroundings when traveling through washes. Some un-marked segments may appear differently on the return, and it's helpful to be mindful of all wash crossings, entries and exits.

  • Day Use Restrictions apply and are strictly enforced in the Wonderland of Rocks. Overnight campers should become familiar with the restrictions before embarking.


Camping and Backpacking Information

  • This is a Day Use Area Only. No camping is allowed east of points along the Boy Scout Trail, along the Willow Hole Trail or anywhere in the Wonderland of Rocks. There are no maintained backcountry campsites along the Boy Scout Trail or Willow Hole Trail. Speak with a Ranger for detailed information on backcountry camping zones, permits and regulations.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are not permitted on hiking and riding trails in Joshua Tree National Park.

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

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Enjoyed this hike through the Joshua Trees and entering into the Wonderland of Rocks. Relatively flat trail but is a little more challenging as is 1/2 soft sand riverbed and some areas where have to walk across stones that can be easy to slip on. Enjoyed the willows and opportunities to scramble up the rocks at the end. I posted a detailed trip route on ViewRanger http://my.viewranger.com/route/details/MTYyMTA2MA== "
Alex B  -  Bay Area, CA  -  Date Posted: December 28, 2017
"This is quite a fine hike, not too long or arduous so that a moderately skilled hiker can spend plenty of time admiring the rock formations without having to rush back, even in seasons when sunset comes early. Besides the obvious Joshua trees themselves, this route is filled with an amazing variety of plants of all kinds, from crevice-dwelling cactus to delicate wildflowers to gnarled junipers and cliff-hugging pinyon pines, with the surprise of a dense stand of two types of willows at the destination wetlands whose name they bear. Although it is a bit of a maze, the trail runs east-west, so the sun's position will help keep you oriented. Finally, although it is not generally difficult terrain, there are countless tumbled boulders underfoot and long stretches of extremely loose coarse sand/decomposed granite in the wash leading up to Willow Hole, any of which could cause a day-ruining turned ankle or worse, so be careful - even more, if you decide to take advantage of any of the climbing trails along the way into the Wonderland of Rocks. "
Joan Barger  -  Redlands, CA  -  Date Posted: November 28, 2017
"This is an easy hike that is rewarding for the effort required. The trail is 99% hard pack or sand and footing is never an issue. Navigation really is not an issue if you pay attention and look around and ahead. Honestly there are other hikes in J.tree that offer more challenge and far greater scenery but take more effort. Note: I am a moderately experienced senior hiker."
L.B. Blair  -  Sacramento, CC a.  -  Date Posted: February 15, 2017


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.