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.
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.
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.
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.