Pine City Trail, Pine City Trailhead and Backcountry Board, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Pine City Trail - 3.9 miles

Pine City Trailhead and Backcountry Board

Pine City

Pine City

Round-Trip Length: 3.9 miles (scrambles continue into canyon)
Start-End Elevation: 4,432' - 4,578' (4,578' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +146' net elevation gain (+189' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Pine City Trail - 3.9 Miles Round-Trip

Pine City is located in a maze of rugged and heavily vegetated canyons in the northeast corner of Queen Valley. This area is named for its high concentration of pinyon pine, sheltered and funneled water by surrounding canyons and rock formations.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Because Desert Bighorn Sheep are drawn to Pine City's potholes, lush vegetation and cooler temperatures, it's been designated a Day Use Area. While the short trip to Pine City Overlook is quite easy, exploring the boulder-riddled labyrinth is considerably more difficult.

Fit hikers can drop into these canyons for a closer look, and the ambitious may continue northeast through the mountains via Pine City Canyon to connect with Park Boulevard near the North Entrance Station:

The Pine City Trail heads north and level across Queen Valley, formed by differing rates of erosion between the surrounding mountains and underlying rock.

Negro Hill (4,875') stands prominently over the Pine City Trailhead area, while Queen Mountain (5,687') and its east ridge frame the northern horizon. Joshua Trees dot the great expanse, but grow poorly in the far east end of their range.

The trail moves quickly across the valley to a brief wash merge (1.25 miles : 4,538'), beyond which the landscape intensifies with large rock gardens and interesting arrangements of trees, cacti and shrubs (1.45 miles : 4,538'). This is generally considered the south edge of Pine City, and the Day Use Area demarcation.

The trail continues northeast to Pine City Overlook and an end of maintained trails sign (1.95 miles : 4,578'). Social trails emanate down into canyons and along high ridgelines, the latter providing commanding views across Queen Valley and of the pine-filled complex below. Steep pitches, large boulders, and tangled vegetation complicate the scramble, but patient hikers should have little trouble exploring the canyons of Pine City.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Desert Bighorn Sheep range throughout the desert mountains of eastern California, Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and southern Utah. Their total population is estimated at 13,000, a mere 250-300 of which live in Joshua Tree National Park.

Desert Bighorn take to steep, rocky terrain for predator evasion, bedding, and lambing, but will venture into open low areas to feed. Green grasses are preferred, but when scarce (as is often the case in Joshua Tree), they'll consume a variety of other plants, including cacti.

Joshua Tree's Bighorn Sheep generally belong to one of three geographically disparate herds. 120 animals, the largest herd, roam the Eagle Mountains in the southeast corner of the Park.

The second largest herd counts about 100 animals in the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the far west. The smallest herd, about 30 animals, is seen mainly in the Wonderland of Rocks, Queen Mountain, and Pine City vicinity.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N34 01.424 W116 04.666 — 0.0 miles : Pine City Trailhead and Backcountry Board
  • N34 01.804 W116 04.590 — 0.5 miles : Level travel across Queen Valley
  • N34 02.367 W116 04.291 — 1.25 miles : Brief wash merge; landscape intensifies
  • N34 02.862 W116 04.046 — 1.95 miles : Trail ends at overlook of Pine City Canyon

Worth Noting

  • Those comfortable in the backcountry will find a more adventurous route to Pine City from the Split Rock Loop Trailhead. This 9.4 mile roundtrip option navigates the lightly traveled and sparingly marked Eagle Cliff Hills, a rugged composite of canyons, immense rock formations, and diverse vegetation.

  • The boulders you'll see on this hike are Monzogranite Rock, which forms when molten liquid, heated by the continuous movement of Earth's crust, seeps upward and cools while still below the surface. Monzogranite is often distinguished by rectangular joints and a rough, grippy surface prized by climbers.

  • The nearby Desert Queen Mine complex was a lucrative gold mining outfit that operated from 1865 - 1961. Intact equipment and several gated mine shafts can be found along trails within .75 miles of the Pine City Trailhead parking area.

  • The Pine City Day Use Area is designated to protect bighorn sheep that utilize water pockets in these canyons.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for backcountry camping in Joshua Tree National Park. There are no designated backcountry campsites along the Split Rock, Eagle Cliff, or Pine City Trails.

  • Wilderness campsites must be located one mile from any road and 500' from any trail. Open fires are prohibited in the backcountry. Camping is not permitted within 500' of historical remains.

  • The Pine City vicinity is a Day Use Area, designated so to protect sensitive bighorn sheep populations and historical remains. Camping is not permitted in the Day Use Area.

  • The Day Use Area is not marked, so hikers are expected to identify and honor this zone on their own. The Day Use Area begins approximately 1.8 miles north of the Pine City Trailhead and Backcountry Board.

Rules and Regulations

  • Honor Day Use Area boundaries. Do not disturb wildlife or remove artifacts.

  • Do not enter mines at anytime.

Directions to Trailhead

The Pine City Trailhead and Backcountry Board is located 1.25 miles north of Park Boulevard at the terminus of Desert Queen Mine Road. Desert Queen Mine Road is a graded dirt road suitable for most cars in good condition. Heavy rains can create muddy conditions impassable to 2WD vehicles.

The turnoff for Desert Queen Mine Road is located 9.6 miles from the North Entrance Station (5 miles west of the Park Boulevard - Pinto Basin Road split).

Contact Information

Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twenty Nine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Visitor Information

Park Headquarters

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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