Hiking to Lucky Boy Vista in JTNP
If you follow our blog, you may know that we've been dealing with an injury for quite a few months. I (Andrea) injured my knee and leg in an accident waaay back in July of 2016. It's December now, and finally, things are starting to feel better and we're starting to actively be outside a little more. This injury put a complete hold on hiking, highly restricted the camping options, and really just shut down our outdoor lives for a few months. But finally, we were able to head out to the desert and take a hike.
Joshua Tree National Park has a lot of trails with varying intensities to choose from. We specifically sought out a trail that would be mostly flat, and somewhat short. With the injury, up to this point, going about a mile was the limit, but I was ready to push it a bit further. We found this relatively unknown trail in the "Hiking Joshua Tree National Park" Falcon guide (Amazon), which is a great resource for finding and discovering hikes in the park. This trail is located in the Queen Mine area, so it has an abundance of boulders and Joshua Trees - the best things in the park.
The trailhead for this is located at a small (parking for 2 or 3 cars) pullout off of Queen Mine Road, which crosses Park Blvd (it's Geology Tour Road on the other side of Park). This is a dirt road, but is typically well maintained and easily passable without 4WD. Our Subaru likes playing in the dirt, so anything involving a dirt road is good! The pullout is on the right side, and has a small sign indicating the trailhead. If you reach the Pine City backcountry board you've gone too far, backtrack about 1/2 mile.
The trail starts off fairly wide and very smooth. It's the typical sandy trails that Joshua Tree offers. As you wander along for the first mile, there are trees and boulders to explore. You'll pass a small metal gate along the way - go through it if it's open, or around it if it's closed. Don't hesitate to pause and admire the surroundings on this trail - it's one of the best we've hiked here as far as the views and quantity of trees. At about 1 mile, there is a sign at a fork in the road. If you go left, you'll continue on the Lucky Boy Loop. We went straight to head out to the Vista. After this, start looking to your right for the remains of the Elton Mines. What remains is mostly sunken mine shafts, and they are all covered and fenced, but still there to see. We saw a few rusty metal scraps along the way that are likely remnants of an era long gone.
The last half mile or so takes you right out to the Vista, where the trail ends. The views here are truly worth the short hike. This trail appears to be somewhat forgotten to visitors. We had read that it tends to be one of the more quiet trails, and it was true - we didn't pass one single person on our hike, despite the park being pretty busy. While out at the Vista, we took some time to climb on some rocks, scramble around the tailing, admire some cacti, and to just sit and enjoy the view. The wind kicked up pretty good out here, so we didn't last too long in the chilly winds.
Heading back, we followed the same path that we took out. Once we got back past the gate, we found a boulder to sit on for lunch. It was enjoyable to sit in the desert and enjoy a small backpack lunch, with the only sounds around us being the wind and some birds. This was a truly peaceful hike. The views on the return trip are almost better than the outbound trip - if it's a clear day, you can catch mountains (San Jacinto and San Gorgonio) in the distance, maybe with snow covering them! There are a lot of fun boulders to explore, too.
The trail is listed as a 2.5 miles roundtrip trail in our guide book. We wander, so it became about 2.9 miles for us. It has an easy incline going towards the Vista, and remains smooth and sandy for the duration of the hike. It's an easy trail, with views that are worth it. Add this hike to your list, especially in those busy months where it feels like all of L.A. has come to play in the desert.
You can never have too many vantage points of Joshua Tree National Park ... this one didn't disappoint.