Pinkham Canyon

Desert Center, California (Riverside County)

Last Updated: 09/15/2020
5 / 5 ( 11 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Length: 19.8 miles
Highest Elevation: 3327 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: West
Nearest Town: Desert Center
Nearest Town w/ Services: Indio
Official Road Name: Pinkham Canyon
Management Agency: Joshua Tree National Park Service
District: US National Park Service
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Pinkham Canyon
To some, Joshua Tree National Park is only a desert. It is actually two deserts, the higher elevation Mojave and the lower elevation Colorado. The result is amazing desert flora, rock formations and those wacky namesake trees (actually a type of yucca). Joshua Tree’s beauty shines around the clock, with vibrant sunsets melting into nights filled with uncountable stars. Joshua Tree National Park encompasses almost 800,000 acres, larger than Rhode Island. The Park offers hiking, photography, horseback riding, rock climbing, and camping, to name a few activities. Most 4x4 off-roaders love the Park for its trails. Almost all of the trails have a Gold or Silver Mine associated with them. Pinkham Canyons attraction is the Snow Cloud Mine, watch for Waypoint 4 for the trailhead to the north. So enjoy, and explore with safety.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Pinkham Canyon

Route Information

Technical Rating:
( EASY - MODERATE )

Read more about our rating system

Waypoints

1. Trailhead (0 mi)
The trailhead for Pinkham Canyon is directly across the road from the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, you are expected to pay your entrance fees here. The Cottonwood Campground is just east of the visitor center.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 33.748199, -115.824984

Starting Point: Indio

From Indio, continue east on the 10 Freeway, 25 miles to Cottonwood Springs Road and head north. Cottonwood Springs Road becomes Pinto Basin Road and in 7 Miles you will arrive at the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center on your right. The trailhead for Pinkham Canyon is directly across the road on the west side.

Camping

Dispersed
Improved
Designated

Trail Reviews (14)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Have not been on this trail in over 25 years. And now I have never felt older... Hoping to see wild flowers but we missed the bloom. We did see birds, squirrels and a few Big Horn Sheep. Only saw one other person on the trail. 4wheel drive and high clearance highly recommended as there are two areas towards the end (west end) of the trail where you will need both. Also the sand in the washs gets soft. Otherwise this is a very easy and fun trail! Enjoy and please pack your trash.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This is a great trail!!! I'm sorry I didn't do it sooner. It's very secluded and really quite beautiful. I actually prefer this trail over Berdoo Canyon. The trail is truly a mix and depending on some of the lines you take through the wash, it can be either easy or push into four/five rating range if you choose the wrong set of tracks to follow.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Started the trail from I-10. It appears that the trail has been “erased” by rains. It was very difficult to follow and we back-tracked numerous times. We eventually gave up since we were making such slow progress and retraced our steps back to 10.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
My friend Robert was my trail backup when I lived in California. I’m now mapping trails in Idaho. Robert is doing an excellent job of running the trails and providing much-needed Trail Reviews, check out his review from 9/14/2020

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This is our 4th trip through Pinkham Canyon and it has not changed much since the original mapping except for 1 thing, the wildlife. We entered Pinkham at Thermal Canyon, about 1/3 along the trail and headed North towards the Cottonwood Visitor Center. There is a lot of soft, fairly deep sand and speed or 4WD will get you through it. We happened to stop on a soft spot and found our rear wheels spinning out and digging in and we needed to engage 4WD to pull ourselves out. We were surprised at the amount of jack rabbits and cotton tail rabbits running across the road in front of us and commented there must be a lot of predators around and sure enough a few minutes later a coyote ran across the road. But by far the highlight of this trip was seeing a large horned stag deer running along side us. We barely had time reach for the phone and snap a video from inside the Jeep.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Great

Author:
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Currently closed due to C-19, still a great trail to get some practice on

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Fun little back way into Joshua Tree. Great aconditions after the recent rain and snow. Took the trail from the south side and as stated it can be a little confusing as the canyon wash spreads out closer to the 10

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Can’t add much to SJ’s excellent review. A week later the wildflowers are still going bananas! In the final section of Thermal Canyon, Don't be surprised if you find yourself on a different “braid” of the trail than is indicated on the gps track. This is a river wash following a canyon, and it splits & splits again; not to worry, they all follow the canyon out towards hwy 10.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Enjoyable, easy ride. Very, very special for us, because the super bloom was on, and it was a great show. I doubt this road will look this way again for a long, long time. Try to get there before the blooms go away. Only real challenge, and you have to be careful here, is the "waterfall." Steep drop, maybe 3 feet. Having someone guide me was helpful. Entered at Joshua Tree, and headed west. At the very end, when you get onto Aqueduct Road, you need to be careful to find the entrance to I-10. We stayed on Aqueduct Road for about 3 miles, and found the opening on our left.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This was a great trail. The last few miles (heading west) are really hard to follow and we ended up on a trail that had only one set of tire tracks for the last hundred yards or so. I would highly suggest having a GPS with the trail loaded into it . The obstacles are not bad if you have the right clearance. Overall, it was a great trail.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
A flat sandy desert 2 track trail with only 1 obstacle of note. The air temp was 70 but there was a bit of chill in the air. We entered at Cottonwood Springs Ranger Station where the trail takes you south ending near Interstate 10. Mostly open wide desert, a section of the trail enters a canyon where you will encounter a short waterfall obstacle requiring some tight turns and definitely a high clearance vehicle. New since my last visit are park trail markers placed every few hundred feet. Even with the markers its easy to wander off trail and follow other well worn and recent tracks as we did towards the end of Pinkum. We ended up about 1/2 mile east of the trail on a still well traveled path (we weren't the only ones to wander off trail!). At this point you are back onto BLM land where we we ran into a boulder wall that was man made to prevent access to Aqueduct Rd but the wall had been modified providing a gap allowing us to squeeze through and onto Aqueduct Rd. Now at this point to get back to paved roads you can follow Aqueduct Rd (parallel to Interstate 10) about 10 miles east or west. OR....once on Aqueduct Rd turn right and about 1/2 miles on your left you will find a well groomed dirt path to a Interstate 10 rest stop. While gated at the rest-stop, it is not locked and held closed with a twisted steel cable. Untwist the cable to open the gate, go through locking the gate behind you and you will be at a Interstate 10 on-ramp heading west. Of note the Pinkum trail-head is marked with a sign at Aqueduct road but it it not appear to have tire tracks. Someday Ill have to try it again starting at the south trail-head to understand how we got so far off track.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This isn't the best time of the year to visit JTNP but not bad with an early start. The east trailhead is the easiest to find since it's directly across the road from the JTNP Visitor Center. Bring plenty of water and never travel out here alone.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
A wonderful flat sandy desert trail through the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. We entered for the north end which is right at the Cottonwood Springs Ranger Station. The south end of the trail enters Pinkum Canyon and the steep sides can close in and be intimidating. There is only 1 waterfall section that is very technical which is the reason for Dennis's difficulty rating of 4. While for me as a new driver in a new JKU it was intimidating, completing the obstacle was exhilarating. I got through the obstacle just fine but my stock JKU did pay a price of a scrape or 2 on the bottom. It is very isolated and you are potentially 10 miles from help so take all safety and survival precautions should you get breakdown.

Questions & Answers (2)

Q: What is the road down Thermal Canyon like? Easier than Pinkham? (The "Thermal Canyon" link on the Pinkham Canyon page is broken & searching doesn't turn up anything).
–Kurt Herzog (11/17/2018)
–Dennis Clark (11/17/2018)
Q: What clearance do you need for the rear end on the waterfall obstacle? I got a stock 2018 Tacoma dcsb offroad 4x4 with previous wheeling experience. From the video seems like my tail would slap/scrape the drop.
–Eduardo (09/08/2018)
–Vlad Mott (03/31/2019)
–Dennis Clark (09/08/2018)

Writer Information

Dennis Clark

Mapping Crew - California and Idaho

Dennis Clark was born in Los Angeles in 1942 and after 76 years of living in So Cal he moved to Emmett, Idaho with his wife Patricia, has four adult children with many grand and great grandchildren. He has loved the outdoors since his Cub Scout and Boy Scout days while camping with the family. He's an archer, hunter and fisherman but no longer wishes to harm animals. He has been involved with photography since the 1960's. He became more of a serious hiker in 2010 when he started Geocaching and has hiked the three tallest peaks in So Cal, Mt San Jacinto, Mt San Gorgonio and Mt Baldy, along with most of the lesser peaks in search of caches. Geocaching started his love for the USFS Trail system as he used the trails frequently to get to certain trailheads. He had a 2002 Ford Ranger 2wd and its amazing where that little pickup took him. In 5 years of weekly geocaching he was only stuck once in some Palm Springs sand. His 2016 Wrangler Sport Unlimited was purchased in 2015. He has become quite lazy in the hiking department as he can now drive to most locations. He's looking forward to posting some trails and don't hesitate to ask him for any help you might need.
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