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Hike Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail

Joshua Tree National Park

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Hike Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail pano

0.3 Mi





Gain (ft)
4 Star Quality



Welcome to Joshua Tree’s most dangerous hike! It’s not rugged trails or exposed ridges that make this trail so treacherous; it’s the Teddy Bear Cholla that you need to watch out for. This also happens to be exactly the reason why you should absolutely stop here and stroll through this casual 0.3 mile garden trail.

As you are walking be aware that even slightly brushing against a cholla will cause the spines to dive into your shoes, clothes, and/or skin. Speaking from personal experience, pulling out the spines is quite unpleasant . The cholla detaches their joints onto unsuspecting animals and birds as a means of dispersal; when these joints fall off they create new stands of cactus, just like this one.

This trail is located on the lonely western edge of Pinto Basin. More importantly, it’s located on the western threshold of the Colorado Desert, just as it starts to gain elevation. This area provides a unique blend of seasonally plentiful water (4 inches) from Wilson Canyon, and a loose mixture of soil and rock (to trap and hold the water).

This trail is well worth the drive any time of the day, but if you can visit during the last hour of light before sunset the cactuses really glow. Spring bloom is another special time to stop by, which usually happens in March or April.

Close up on Teddy Bear Cholla

A close look at a Teddy Bear Cholla

Grab a free interpretive brochure and start by hiking counter-clockwise. 16 markers are found along the trail, which refer to the topics in the brochure describing the unique blend of flora and fauna found within the garden.

Interpretive Markers along Cholla Cactus Garden Trail

16 intepretive markers guide you through the free brochure

The trail focuses on teaching hikers why the cholla cactus garden is so unique and what adaptations plants and animals have developed to live here successfully. Take your time and read through the brochure at each sign-post -- there is a lot of good information here.

Teddy Bear Cholla

The spiny lobes of a Teddy Bear Cholla

The Cholla Cactus Garden

A look at the density of Cholla Cactus Garden

If you plan on spending a day driving around the park, this is a great addition to your itinerary (along with other quick stops such as Key’s View Scenic Overlook, Skull Rock, Hidden Valley Nature Trail, and Barker Dam Trail) If you are coming in from the Cottonwood entrance (south side of the park), then this trail is an easy stop on your way in. Even though it doesn’t offer a long or challenging experience (other than avoiding the cholla!) this hike is well worth the side trip next time you are in Joshua Tree.


  • From the southeastern corner of Park Boulevard, turn south onto Pinto Basin Road. Continue for 9.8 miles, descending into Pinto Basin, until you see a large parking lot on the right.
  • Driving Directions

    Permits & Fees

  • $25 : Joshua Tree Entrance Fee


  • Year Round

What's Nearby?

White Tank Campground

White Tank Campground

Arch Rock Nature Trail

Arch Rock Nature Trail

Cottonwood Springs Oasis

Cottonwood Springs Oasis

Have you hiked through the Cholla Cactus Garden?

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