After reading a few reviews of what was described as “The Best Day Hike” in Joshua Tree National Park, it was decided that this trail would be perfect for my annual birthday trip to the park. The reviews of this loop hike declaring it to be the best, appear to be accurate even if the mileage estimates vary from 6.2 – 7 miles, as this has become my new favorite hike in the high desert. When inquiring about this hike, it’s best just to call it “North View-Maze-Window Rock Loop” after the three trail segments that make up this particular trek.
The hike has been known of for quite some time, but until recently it required some orienteering skills to complete. The entire hike with its various loops and trail junctions are now well marked and signed. Anyone with moderate hiking experience will be able to finish the hike according to the prescribed route. However at times, the trail becomes “subtle” as it crosses over barren rocks and through washes susceptible to the smoothing out of boot tracks and cairn scattering. If you pay attention, carry a trail guide with a simple map you’ll be fine. If you wander off trail to take advantage of a photo op or to water the plants, be mindful of where the trail was when you left it. In some sections, the trail is virtually invisible unless you were directly on it.
Finding the trailhead is a little tricky as it is not well marked. The 3-4 car maximum parking area (called by some the “borrow pit lot” because of its proximity to an old gravel pit) is located immediately north of roadway marker 24 near the park’s west entrance.
This loop hike takes advantage of three trails, North View trail, Maze loop and Window Rock loop. Each trail section provides its own character which makes this hike compelling and anything but boring. The North View trail offers spectacular views of the village of Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms and Copper Mountain. The views are framed with stacked boulder fins and naturally formed cairns.
The Maze loop leads you through low slot canyons, again built from stacked boulders, accented with cactus and juniper. The Window Rock loop presents a visual oddity in the form of a high rock window that at times will appear to be a large winged bird or just a square-like opening near a ridge line depending on your angle of view. Bighorn Sheep are readily spotted on this trail, which also takes you through spreading groves of Joshua trees.
In short, it’s all here. Just about all of the visual, wildlife and floral attractions of the park can be found within this moderately difficult loop hike. I can’t recommend it highly enough. This is the kind of hike that defines why I love to walk under open skies on paths unpaved.