Hiking the 49 Palms Oasis Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Hiking the 49 Palms Oasis Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree National Park is located less than three hours from both Los Angeles and San Diego and attracted nearly 3 million visitors in 2017.  One trail that is commonly skipped is the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail (also called the 49 Palms Oasis Trail, depending on your documentation), even though it is very easy to access and one of the first trails encountered by visitors from the west. 

It was also highlighted in our blog on the Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park.

Though you may be tempted to skip this hike in favor of entering the main park entrances and seeing other, more well-known attractions, what you’ll be missing is a very special desert landscape that is sure to surprise you!


  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Distance: 3.0 miles (round-trip)
  • Trail: Out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 679 feet
  • Peak elevation reached: 3,059 feet
  • Best time of year to hike: Fall through spring
  • To beat the crowds: Arrive before 9:00 am or after 3:00 pm
  • Footwear: Sneakers
  • Watch out for: Sun exposure
  • Restrooms: Located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Time needed: 2 hours


Map of the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trailhead

Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail Location (from the National Park Service)


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The Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is one of many hikes and sights highlighted in our 12+ page itinerary for Joshua Tree National Park.




The trailhead is located on Canyon Road, which is off Highway 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway) in between the North and West Entrance Stations to Joshua Tree.  Since it looks more like a neighborhood entrance than an entrance to a National Park, the signs to Canyon Road are easy to miss and you’ll want to keep a close eye out after you pass Indian Cove Road from the west. 

The trailhead parking is located at the end of the 1.7-mile road.  There are quite a few parking spaces dedicated to the trail and clean pit toilets.  When we arrived, the parking lot was essentially empty, but it can get busy during the peak springtime months.  Even during peak times, however, this trail is definitely one of the lesser traveled hikes in the park, mainly due to its location.

Hiking the Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail does not require a park entry fee.  However, if you just hike this trail and don’t see the rest of the park, you are missing out by not seeing the heart of Joshua Tree National Park!

There are restrooms at the trailhead (pit toilets) but not restrooms on the trail.

Fortynine Palms Oasis Trailhead Sign in Joshua Tree National Park





49 Palms Oasis Trail Map in Joshua Tree National Park

49 Palms Oasis Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service

After starting out, the trail heads uphill and to the east alongside a hillside of large rocks.  The incline is gradual (and quite easy) as you gain about 300 feet in elevation before turning south and going back downhill for the rest of the journey. 

The trail is exposed the entire way, and while shadows may form on the trail in the early morning or late evening hours, you should expect to be in the sun the entire time.  Make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen and bring a lot of water with you, even if it’s in the cooler months.

Hiking to the Fortynine Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park

Hiking to the Fortynine Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park

Along the path there are a variety of plants.  Our favorite was the California Barrel Cactus, which flowers in late April / early May, but there are many others in what appears to be a barren landscape.  You can learn more about what plants you can expect in Joshua Tree National Park here.  Though fewer in numbers, you can also see hawks flying overhead, desert birds (who like to hide in cactus) and lizards skittering across the trail.

California Barrel Cactus in Joshua Tree National Park

Throughout most of the trail, hikers have great views of the Morongo Valley and the towns of Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree.   

Morongo Valley and Twentynine Palms

About halfway through the hike, the Fortynine Palms Oasis becomes visible.  This Oasis seems completely out of place in the desert.  As you get closer and closer, if there is any wind blowing you can start to hear what sounds like water flowing.  That sound is actually palm leaves blowing in the wind, and this unexpected “song” gets to be very noticeable as you get closer to the oasis!

Fortynine palms oasis trail in Joshua Tree National Park




The oasis itself is a wonderful spot in an otherwise dry desert.  The area is fed from an underground water source formed along fault lines.  The trees (fan palms) were originally planted by local miners who used the trees to mark the water source in the early 20th century. 

Because of the water, local animals use it as a watering hole.  While not common, it is possible to find bighorn sheep, birds and other wildlife at the oasis getting a quick drink.

At the Oasis, there are many opportunities to find shade or have a picnic on the boulders.  For us, it was just a pleasant place to spend time, relax and refuel before beginning the trip back.

The return goes fast, first with another quick 300-foot climb before heading down to the parking lot.

Fortynine Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park

Fortynine palms oasis in Joshua Tree National Park


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  • We said it before and we’ll say it again, make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and water on this trail. The desert is dry (even in the winter).  While the effects of dehydration can come on fast, prevention requires constant hydration.  A favorite product that we use is the Platypus pack, which is especially great because it can be used with any backpack and is easy to clean.
  • Since this hike is exposed for most of the way, hiking this earlier in the day is the best way to beat the heat and direct exposure. Save the middle of the day for driving, short walks like the Cholla Cactus Garden, or partially shaded hikes such as Hidden Valley.
  • The Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is close to the Indian Cove Campground, so if you are staying there it makes sense to hit this trail on the way into the park in the morning or for a short jaunt after dinner and before the sun goes down. 


Though in a remote part of Joshua Tree National Park, the 49 Palms Oasis Trail has a few things to see nearby that are worth looking into.  You’ve already made an effort to get out here, so you might as well see the other parts of this part of the park!

  • The Indian Cove Nature Trail is a short 0.6-mile loop. Departing from just west of the Indian Cove Campground, the trail travels through a variety of cactus.  Signs along the way tell hikers about what they are viewing.  In addition, this is a great place to spot wildlife, such as birds and jackrabbits.
  • The Oasis Visitor Center is located near the most commonly used entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Here you’ll find a small nature trail as well as the visitor center.  The center is a great place to rest from the heat, do a bit of shopping and refill on water before you head into the main park.  Rangers are also present to give you tips on what to do in the park and answer any questions you may have.

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      About Just Go Travel Studios

      We are Amy & Pete Brahan. Very simply, we are passionate about our National Parks and Public Lands and explore them with our three kids whenever we can.

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