Boy Scout Trail Overview
The Boy Scout trail is an 8 miles trail through the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park. The trail is often used for day hikes, access to fantastic climbing, or overnight backpacking trips.
The Boy Scout trail travels through some of the most beautiful desert terrain of Joshua Tree National Park, and is a mostly flat well worn trail that's easy to follow during the day.
Pro Tip: Hiking in the Desert Sun
Joshua Tree is absolutely beautiful, but the desert can be a dangerous place if not properly prepared. There are no water sources along this hike, make sure you bring plenty of water.
Along with risk of dehydration sunburn is also a big risk, make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen. My favorite sweatproof sunscreen is Bull Frog (Amazon Affiliate), it doesn't go on slimy like regular sunscreen.
In addition to sunscreen I recommend lightweight long sleeve sun shirts (hoods help) or long pants. Here are two of my favorites:
Boy Scout Trail Parking
The Boy Scout Trail can be accessed from either the Key West Parking lot or the Indian Cove Parking lot within Joshua Tree National Park.
The Key West parking lot is larger than the Indian Cove parking and has a toilet and starts at the south end of the Boy Scout Trail.
Pro Tip: Be Careful of Desert Bees
There can often be high bee activity in Joshua Tree National Park and the bees in the desert are attracted to water. Any pooling water at your campsite can attract large amounts of bees. Make sure you close all your water sources when not drinking out of them.
Bees were also swarming the toilet at the Key West Parking Lot when I was there last.
The Indian Cove Parking lot on the north end is much smaller than the Key West Parking lot:
Other than the size of the parking lots, the one thing to take into account from either parking lot is the terrain. As you will see in the next section starting off at Key West will be mostly flat hiking and then will slope down towards the Indian Cove parking lot. If you start at Indian Cove parking lot the trail slopes upwards at the start then levels off flat as you approach the Key West Parking lot.
Boy Scout Trail Hiking Maps
The detailed Boy Scout Trail map below can be accessed, viewed and downloaded to your phone on Caltopo.
Looking at the terrain statistics above, the Key West Parking Lot is on the far left side and the Indian Cove parking lot is on the far right.
Boy Scout Trail Camping and Backpacking
Day hiking along the Boy Scout Trail is fantastic and you will see plenty of beautiful Joshua Trees. If you really want to experience Joshua Tree National Park though, you have to experience it at night. The desert landscape, boulders and Joshua trees all seem to come alive at night under the stars and is an experience that should not be missed.
Permits for camping along Boy Scout Trail can be found and filled out at either the Key West Parking Lot or the Indian Cove parking lot. Before you go make sure you check out the Joshua Tree National Park official Backpacking rules and information here.
Some key information to note is that you can not camp within 1 mile of a road of 500 feet from a trail. To easily visualize this, I plotted all the buffers on my Boy Scout Trail map I made on Caltopo:
Any location in the above map that is within a red zone is a no camping zone because it is either 1 mile from the road or 500ft from the trail. Rangers patrol this area very frequently so it pays to no where you can and can not camp, it's never fun to have to move your camp after setting up.
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