Samuelson’s Rocks

Samuelson’s Rocks was once the homestead of a Swedish man named Johann (or John) Samuelson who came out here in the late 1920s. He must have had some time on his hands because some of the rocks here have 1930s Depression era political and naturalistic commentary. Search all around the hill as there are quite a few inscriptions. See how many you can find; I counted seven. It must have taken some time (and dedication) to carve his beliefs on these rocks.

One of them reads:
“The Rock. Of Faiht. And Truht. Nature is God. The Key to Life is Contact. Evolution is the Mother and Father of Mankind. Without them we be nothing.“ – John Samuelson. 1927.

Another is:

“The milk of human kindness ain’t got thick cream on it for all of us. Ask Hoover.”

Being from Sweden, I’m guessing English wasn’t Mr. Samuelson’s first language. Many of the inscriptions have spelling errors, but keep in mind, dictionaries were scarce in remote mining districts at the time.

How exactly Samuelson got to Joshua Tree remains a bit of a mystery. Some stories suggest he was a sailor. I couldn’t find enough evidence to confirm that. Samuelson was working for Bill Keys out at the Desert Queen Mine in 1928. By the 1930s, he worked the Hidden Gold Mine below Keys View.

Nothing remains of his cabin here. The faint trace of a hand-stacked rock road climbs up the hill. Only a metal bed frame sits on top of the hill. On the far western side of the rocks is the remains of a small corral. The top of the hill makes a relaxing place to rest for a while. This is a peaceful spot with a pleasant view. I can see why Samuelson chose it.

Off to the east is a homestead ruin with a root cellar. It is worth a detour to explore. I’m not sure if it was associated with Samuelson or not.

Getting There

The trailhead is at an unmarked pullout 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Joshua Tree (West) Entrance Station of Joshua Tree National Park. Park on the right-hand side of the road in a dirt pull-out. There is only room for a couple of cars here. Please park off the pavement.

Hike Directions

Hike Distance5.6 miles (9km) Out & Back
Trail TypeUse
Hike DifficultyModerate
Elevation Gain, Loss870 ft (265m) gain round trip.
Hike Time2.5 hours

I’ve been hiking in Joshua Tree for more than twenty-five years and I didn’t know about this trail until a few years ago. I’ve always hiked over to Samuelson’s Rocks from the main road or Quail Springs Picnic area. This trail is superior to both, although not as straightforward. I like it because it wanders through the hills a bit and gives you a nice change in scenery.

There are a few trails here (all unmarked) so a GPS will be a big help. From the trailhead, pass on the left side of the small boulder pile directly in front of you then drift right into the wash. The trail will go over a small summit and pick up a new wash. It amazed me how quickly I felt like I was in wilderness here when the road was just a short distance away. At a half mile in, this wash will join up with a larger wash. You will want to make a sharp left here (turn south).

Follow this larger wash uphill. The wash turns into the trail and pass over another summit at 0.9 miles (1.4 km). From here, you will finally be able to spot the lone outcrop Samuelson’s Rocks down in the valley 2 miles (3.2 km) off in the distance.

The trail now meanders towards it through low granite outcrops and in and out of washes as it heads down into the valley. Basically, it follows along the eastern edge of the hills here. You can’t go too wrong as you will always be able to see the Samuelson’s Rocks outcrop in the distance, but GPS will be handy.

My photos were taken over various trips from 2007 to 2017.


Samuelsons Rocks.gpx

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Samuelson's Rocks
54 photos

Last Updated on May 21, 2021 by Guy Starbuck