CRHT: Twin Tanks to North Entrance Station, California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT), Joshua Tree National Park, California

CRHT: Twin Tanks to North Entrance Station - 14.7 miles

California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT)

Open monzogranite gardens give way to brushy bajadas on the eastern leg of the CRHT

Open monzogranite gardens give way to brushy bajadas on the eastern leg of the CRHT

Round-Trip Length: 14.7 miles
Start-End Elevation: 3,912' - 2,885' (3,926' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -1,027' net elevation loss (+1,129' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

CRHT: Twin Tanks to North Entrance Station - 14.7 Miles Round-Trip

Joshua Tree National Park's California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) stretches 37 miles from the Black Rock Campground in Yucca Valley to the Park's North Entrance Station in 29 Palms.

Trail Section Map | Full CRHT Map | Photo Gallery

The easternmost section of this versatile and varied trail glides gently down a vast bajada in the low Mojave desert region. True desert lovers will enjoy its boundless open space, light crowds and subtle but complex ecological variations.

The following description travels north on the CRHT from the Twin Tanks Trailhead to the North Entrance Station parking lot. The trailhead is located just north of the California Riding and Hiking Trail on Pinto Basin Road.

From Twin Tanks, walk a short spur south .12 miles and follow signs (east) over Pinto Basin Road. Once over the trail may initially be obscured by washouts, but an intuitive heading will lead you to it.

The trail bends north on wide, packed gravel through open desert framed by high ridgelines to the east and west, and rugged silhouettes of the Hexie Mountains at your back.

The stark expanse ahead belies a rich scrub and brush community with plants from the mid and low Mojave deserts. Creosote is predominant, while Joshua Tree, Mojave yucca and juniper are sparse, though fairly abundant between 2-3 miles.

Lower elevations see greater variety with chuparosa, paperbag bush, jojoba, various colla, mound, hedgehog and barrel cacti. Coyote Melons, a softball size gourd that grows from stringy vines on the ground, are prevalent throughout. Look for coyote, jackrabbit, quail, chuckwalla, snakes and desert tortoise along the way.

The trail moves easily down the bajada, highlighted by large monzogranite boulder fields to the east and a few accessible piles to the west. You'll pass the Belle Campground (1.35 miles) and over a Park facility road (2.7 miles : 3,643') to the first major wash crossing (2.8 miles : 3,623').

The trail edges east and scales a low saddle (3.0 miles : 3,636') with perspective on the expanse through which you just came, and series of washes you're about to enter. Note dark basalt rock on this saddle and slopes above, a sharp contrast to the light monzogranite of previous miles.

The trail drops from sight of the road into and across a wash (3.1 miles), the first of many between the saddle and North Entrance. Joshua Trees are all but gone as you enter the low desert.

You'll cross three consecutive washes to the west (3.65 miles : 3,495'), then a wide one back to the east (4.1 miles : 3,408'). The trail merges with and becomes a wash between 5.15 and 5.85 miles, slowing travel in both directions. Notable on this stretch are barrel and mound cacti growing in well-drained basalt walls to the east.

In 6.45 miles (2,882') the trail bends decisively northwest, marking the final approach. The grade now moderates and undulates across several washes in the lower bajada to the CRHT's eastern terminus at the North Entrance Station (7.35 miles : 2,885').

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N33 59.365 W116 01.379 — Twin Tanks Trailhead and CRHT Backcountry Board
  • N33 59.273 W116 01.361 — .12 miles : Pickup trail across Pinto Basin Road
  • N33 59.829 W116 00.954 — 1.0 mile mark
  • N34 00.753 W116 00.924 — 2.1 mile mark
  • N34 01.250 W116 00.959 — 2.7 miles : Cross Park facility access road
  • N34 01.325 W116 00.955 — 2.8 miles : Cross wash, edge east
  • N34 01.416 W116 00.826 — 3.0 miles: Top of saddle
  • N34 01.454 W116 00.738 — 3.1 miles : Cross wash
  • N34 01.866 W116 01.008 — 3.65 miles : Cross 3 successive washes
  • N34 02.225 W116 01.122 — 4.15 miles : PIckup trail after wide wash crossing
  • N34 02.912 W116 01.197 — 5.0 mile mark
  • N34 03.749 W116 01.230 — 6.0 mile mark
  • N34 04.464 W116 01.900 — 7.35 miles : North Entrance Station Backcountry Board

Worth Noting

  • This section of the CRHT is crossed by many washes, but most are well marked and easy to navigate. The correct path is fairly intuitive, as it rarely deviates from a northerly heading. Still, remain vigilant and use the road for general guidance.

  • This trail is highly exposed to sun, heat and wind. Bring sunglasses, a broad rim hat, lotion and layers. Be mindful of snakes, especially near boulder piles and tortoise burrows.

  • Despite their edible appearance, coyote melons are quite bitter and may cause intestinal distress if eaten. Indigenous people consumed its dried, ground seeds, while the hollowed out gourd was used as a ceremonial rattle.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • There are no designated or maintained backcountry campsites on this section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

  • Campground camping is available at the Belle Campground, 1.35 miles from the Twin Tanks Trailhead.

  • Wilderness camping is permitted 500' from the trail and one mile from Park roads.

  • Camping is not permitted in day-use only areas. These are clearly labeled on topo maps and all backcountry registration boards.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs, bikes, guns and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

  • Horses are permitted, but must stay on trails and may not graze on Park lands or drink from Park water sources.

Directions to Trailhead

The Twin Tanks Trailhead and CRHT Backcountry Board is located on Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park. The trailhead is located 10.8 miles from Highway 62 in Twenty Nine Palms, CA.

From Highway 62, turn south on Park Boulevard and travel 8.6 miles to Pinto Basin Road. Bear left on Pinto Basin Road toward Cottonwood Springs and Interstate 10. The trailhead is located 2.2 miles on the right (west) side of the road. Walk the short spur or road south .12 miles to pick up the CRHT from the main parking area.

Contact Information

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

Visitor Information

Park Headquarters

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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