I’m a fan of arches. I don’t know why but they are always fun to find. There aren’t that many in Joshua Tree National Park (Arch Rock and Garrett’s Arch come to mind) but the lesser-known Window Rock one is lurking right off the road.
The trailhead for Window Rock (also known as the Maze Loop Trailhead) is an unmarked dirt pullout 1.7 miles (2.7 km) east of the Joshua Tree (West) Entrance Station. As the road goes around a curve, it is on the left-hand (north) side. There is only room for three or four cars to park here.
|Hike Distance||4.9 miles (7.9km) Loop|
|Elevation Gain, Loss||460 ft (140m) gain round trip.|
|Hike Time||2 hours|
The trail is developed and well-signed (by Joshua Tree standards) and while I didn’t really find the need for a GPS, it wouldn’t hurt to bring one along. Some sections are a bit mazey. You will be on a loop trail that circumnavigates the unnamed 4,627 ft (1410 m) granite hill directly ahead.
The Park Service calls this loop “The Maze”, so follow those signs when you see them. “The Maze” seems a bit over-blown to me, but someone thought it was.
From the trailhead, walk down into a small old gravel pit and into a wash 100 ft away. The trail heads east up a sandy, but pleasant wash: Joshua trees, Juniper, Yucca, Nolina, and the ubiquitous Creosote greet you. The wash gets increasingly narrow and after a mile, the trail leaves it and parallels it on the right. After 0.4 miles (0.6 km) the trail re-enters the wash as it passes around the north side of Peak 4,627. The rocks here are a mix of the lighter quartz (monzonite) granite and the darker and much older Precambrian metamorphic gneiss.
The trail drops downhill and intersects with another wash coming in from the south at 1.7 miles (2.7 km). Turn right (uphill) into this wash. After around 500 ft (150 m), watch for the trail to leave the wash on the left. The trail stays left of the light-colored granite outcrops ahead and circles around to enter “The Maze”. If you have hiked more than ten minutes in the Wonderland of Rocks, this won’t be much of a maze to you. The trail is fairly obvious so it shouldn’t be difficult to get through, although it does have some twists and turns.
The trail winds around the rocks and cuts through a small granite canyon. Then it climbs up a short distance to a saddle where you get a good view back behind you. That was the whole maze. Hope you made it! From here, the trail rambles downhill (and southeast) into another wash. Once in the wash, you should notice Window Rock directly ahead. The “Window” is an arch right near the peak of the hill.
The trail continues on and comes to the second intersection of washes at 2.7 miles (4.3 km). Turn southwest and follow this wide sandy wash for 0.7 miles (1.1 km) to the last turn in the loop. At this intersection, the trail leaves the wash to the northwest. The trail crosses a couple of washes and keeps right of a rocky hill. It then enters open Creosote and Joshua Tree Desert, and you should notice the road paralleling you off to the left. The trail makes a beeline back to the trailhead.