This is a shuttle hike that goes along the edge of the maze that is the Wonderland of Rocks and then drops down into Indian Cove. It’s not a backcountry hike to an old mine or anything but I am including it for completeness of Joshua Tree hikes; plus, it is a nice hike.
And since it is a shuttle hike, you will need to arrange to have a car at the Indian Cove trailhead or someone to pick you up there. Of course, you can always turn back and head back to the Boy Scout Trailhead.
The Boy Scout Trailhead and backcountry board is signed as the Keys West trailhead. To find it, go 2.4 miles (3.9 km) west of the Hidden Valley campground or head 0.6 miles (1 km) east of the Quail Springs picnic area. It is well signed and there is a large gravel parking lot here.
|Hike Distance||8 miles (12.9km) Shuttle|
|Elevation Gain, Loss||360 ft (110m) gain one way.|
|Hike Time||3 hours|
|Out and Back Hike:|
|Hike Distance||16.1 miles (25.9km) Out & Back|
|Elevation Gain, Loss||1890 ft (576m) gain round trip.|
|Hike Time||7 hours|
This trail is well signed and fairly easy to navigate, but it wouldn’t hurt to have my GPS route.
The sign at the trailhead says it is 7.7 miles (12.4 km) out to Indian Cove, but I measured it as 8 miles (12.9 km). Start on the obvious trail to the north. The trail is flat and cuts across open Joshua Tree woodland for the first 3 miles (4.8 km). This is easy going. At 1.2 miles (1.9 km) you will come to a trail junction. The right fork follows an old road to Willow Hole. For this trip, continue on the left fork.
After 2.3 miles (3.7 km) of remarkably flat terrain, you will enter a set of low granite hills. The trail meanders through these hills and enters a sandy wash. The trail generally stays in the wash downhill but watch for signs where occasionally leaves, as it does in a couple of places, to avoid rocky dry falls.
At 3.8 miles (6.1 km) in, another wash enters in from the west. The Big Pine trail heads up this wash to the West Entrance. Continue downstream in our wash. Oaks, pinyon pine, juniper, and Joshua trees become more frequent but are still recovering from wildfires that passed through here many years ago.
At 4.0 miles (6.4 km) from the trailhead, there is a small concrete dam and old cattle trough (34.0916°, -116.19522°) abandoned in the wash. It is hard to believe anyone could have gotten cattle down here or that it would have even been a worthwhile endeavor in this arid land, but once it was wetter here and ranchers surely did. From here the wash cuts deeper into the granite of the White Tank formation and 0.2 miles (0.3 km) farther along the trail leaves the wash on the left. The trail traverses across the hillside and comes to a nice viewpoint (the best along the trail).
After going around a small bowl, the trail drops down the face of a hill and you enter a set of tight switchbacks before dropping into another canyon. Follow this canyon downstream. It turns to the east and drops you out into the alluvial of Indian Cove. Once on the flat, the trail quickly leaves the broad sandy wash and beelines directly to the small trailhead along the Indian Cove Road.
Hope you have a car waiting for you here, otherwise it is a long walk back.