Skull Rock Nature Loop, Skull Rock Nature Loop Trailhead, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Skull Rock Nature Loop - 1.8 miles

Skull Rock Nature Loop Trailhead

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

Round-Trip Length: 1.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 4,321' - 4,321' (4,442' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +121' net elevation gain (+234' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Skull Rock Nature Loop - 1.8 Miles Round-Trip

The Skull Rock Nature Loop passes through a maze of spectacular rock formations and luxuriant washes. Rock in this area began as liquid molten deep below the earth's surface. Continuously heated by movements in the Earth's crust, this molten oozed upward and cooled while still below the surface. Subsequent surface layer erosion exposed the rock, a form of granite called Monzogranite.

Exposed monzogranite typically displays horizontal and vertical joints, created by the erosion of overlying rock layers (horizontal) and through contact with adjacent rock (vertical). Wind and percolating water act upon these nascent fractures and exaggerate joints over time.

Large rock clusters funnel and trap rain, creating micro-climates with uncommon biodiversity. The Skull Rock - Jumbo Rocks area hosts vegetation from the high, mid and low Mojave deserts, including Joshua Tree, Mojave yucca, juniper, pinyon, oak, nolina, paperbag bush, creosote, jojoba, various cholla and cacti. Snakes, chuckwalla, jackrabbits, wood rats, coyote, bobcat, and even great horned owls are drawn to its rich and varied food sources.

The loop can be started from several points along Park Boulevard and within the Jumbo Rocks Campground. The following description begins at the east Park Boulevard roadside parking area and travels counter-clockwise:

The trail climbs a small hill and enters a narrow slot between massive rock formations. An easy scramble around two boulders leads through the slot and spills into a wide wash. The trail - fairly well marked but easily absorbed by an indistinguishable landscape - twists up a high ridge with useful perspective and remarkable northeasterly panoramas (.5 miles : 4,418'). Remain navigationally vigilant, as many social trails stray from the main. The trail undulates ruggedly back down and crosses the road into Jumbo Rocks Campground (.8 miles : 4,415').

Follow the main road artery through the campground to a sign marking the resumption of the trail (1.25 miles : 4,353'). It climbs once more with interpretive signs explaining key geological features, plants and wildlife. The trail levels over monzogranite rock slabs and wraps around the base of surreal formations before dropping abruptly into a narrow, brushy wash (1.65 miles). Up and to your right is eponymous Skull Rock (1.75 miles), its namesake eerily evident. Continue through the wash to Park Boulevard to complete the loop.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N33 59.876 W116 03.609 — Skull Rock Nature Loop Trailhead (northside)
  • N33 59.736 W116 03.985 — .5 miles : Crest on high ridge
  • N33 59.520 W116 04.095 — .8 miles : Cross road and enter Jumbo Rocks Campground
  • N33 59.562 W116 03.726 — 1.25 miles : Resume trail and exit campground
  • N33 59.876 W116 03.609 — 1.8 miles : Skull Rock Nature Loop Trailhead (northside)

Worth Noting

  • Early morning and late afternoon provide the best lighting.

  • Be mindful of snakes when scrambling about, and never place your hands or feet where you can not see them. Joshua Tree is home to six poisonous species.

  • Be courteous toward occupied campsites in the Jumbo Rocks Campground.

  • The north side of the Skull Rock Nature Loop provides climbing access to Conan's Corridor (Colorado Crack - 5.9 and Gem - 5.8).

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Individual campsites are available at the Jumbo Rocks Campground.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are permitted on the Skull Rock Nature Loop. Dogs must be leashed and under control at all times. Waste removal is required by law.

Directions to Trailhead

The Skull Rock Nature Loop Trailhead is located on Park Boulevard in Joshua Tree National Park. From Highway 62 in Twenty Nine Palms, CA, travel south on Park Boulevard 11.5 miles to the trailhead. The trail can be accessed from roadside parking on either side of Park Boulevard.

Contact Information

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

Visitor Information

Park Headquarters

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"How Old is the skull rock?"
ZAY HERBO  -   -  Date Posted: April 10, 2019


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