With giant boulders, hidden ruins, and abandoned historical artifacts, the Wall Street Mill Trail is one of the most interesting hikes at Joshua Tree National Park in California. It’s also one of the least visited trails while the adjacent Barker Dam Nature Trail usually gets most of the attention.
This spring we ventured out to Joshua Tree to check off some day hikes from our never-ending California bucket list. If you’re looking for an easy trail at Joshua Tree with interesting stops, put Wall Street Mill on the top of your list!
To help you plan and make the most of your visit to Joshua Tree, here is our detailed guide covering all you need to know for hiking the Wall Street Mill Trail.
Quick Trail Facts
Before we dive into the details, here are a few Wall Street Mill Trail facts to give you an overall idea of the hike:
- Length: 2.4 miles out and back
- Time needed: 1-2 hours
- Trail difficulty: Easy
- Elevation gain: 70 feet (it’s pretty flat)
- Dogs allowed?: No
Location & Parking
You can start the Wall Street Mill Trail from two locations:
- Barker Dam Nature Trailhead
- Wall Street Mill Trailhead
Most people park at the Barker Dam visitor parking lot and start the hike from there. You can shorten the hike by driving to the official Wall Street Mill Trailhead slightly up the road and park there as well.
We personally parked at the Barker Dam parking lot because we planned to do both hikes so it was just easier to leave our car there.
Once you park your car you will see both the Barker Dam Nature Trail and the Wall Street Mill Trail start within a couple of feet from each other with a restroom separating the two trailheads. The Wall Street Mill Trail starts to the right of the restroom while the Barker Dam Nature Trail starts to the left of the restroom.
Both trailheads are well-marked and provide a large map with points of interest that you’ll want to see along the way.
Parking Location: Barker Dam Nature Trail, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
Wall Street Mill Trail Description
The Wall Street Mill Trail is 2.4 miles long and pretty straight forward but you will need to make a couple of detours if you want to see historic house ruins and old, abandoned cars. I recommend using AllTrails or Maps.Me hiking apps if you’re not familiar with Joshua Tree trails to stay on track with the hiking route.
Map of the Wall Street Mill Trail:
The Wall Street Trail is one of the easiest day hikes at Joshua Tree so it’s perfect for beginner hikers, families, or anyone looking for a flat trail. The trail is short but you want to set aside 1-2 hours to explore everything that it has to offer.
Before Joshua Tree was turned into a National Park this land was used for a variety of purposes including farming and mining. The main attraction along this trail is the Wall Street Mill, an old gold processing mill from the 1930s. This mill was owned by a local rancher named Bill Keys who operated this mill until 1966.
As you will learn along this trail Bill Keys was quite the character. He even ended up in jail for 5 years after killing a man in a shootout over a land dispute, something that sounds like a plotline in an old Western Movie. The great part about the Wall Street Mill Trail is that you get to enjoy beautiful scenery AND learn something interesting about Joshua Tree history.
A couple of things to keep in mind before you head out on your hike:
- There is a fee to enter and hike at Joshua Tree, even if you’re coming just for the day. The current cost is $30 for a 7-day visitor car pass or $25 for a 7-day motorcycle pass. Or you can purchase an annual National Park pass for $80 which grants you unlimited entry into US National Parks for a year. This is what I have and it usually pays itself off within a couple of trips.
- There is no reception along the Wall Street Trail so I recommend downloading a hiking map ahead of time. Much of the landscape looks the same so it’s easy to get lost.
- Joshua Tree weather gets extremely hot past April which can be very dangerous, even for short day hikes. Before heading out on any trails be sure to bring enough water, wear a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and bring a lip balm. Try to hike early in the morning before it gets too hot and avoid hiking in the middle of the day during high heat times.
- Joshua Tree does not have any drinking water. You will need to purchase enough water for hiking or camping ahead of time.
- There are no gas stations inside Joshua Tree National Park. Be sure to fill up on gas before entering the park so you don’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere with no gas.
- It’s always a great idea to tell someone where you’re heading because accidents and heat exhaustion can happen at Joshua Tree. Sadly, people have lost lives at Joshua Tree, even on short trails like this one.
- Dogs are not allowed on this trail so this is something to keep in mind if you brought your dog to Joshua Tree. You can read more about Joshua Tree National Park pet policy here.
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If you plan to camp at Joshua Tree overnight, the closest campsite to the Wall Street Mill Trail is the Hidden Valley Campground. This is a gorgeous campground surrounded by large boulders offering 44 campsites on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The Hidden Valley Campground is a great place to stay if you’re heading out to Joshua Tree last minute and didn’t book a campsite ahead of time. Be sure to come and look for a spot early as they can fill up very quickly, especially on the weekends and on busy Holidays.
What To Bring
The weather at Joshua Tree can be a bit unpredictable at times. During our trip in April it was cold, raining, and winy one day and insanely hot the next.
If you’re doing quick day hikes like this, the most important thing to bring along is plenty of water. Here are some other items that we packed for our day hikes at Joshua Tree:
- Merrell Mix Master Trail Running Shoes that are perfect for day hikes like this
- Nike One Luxe leggings that are made from sustainable materials and can be worn for a few days straight when hiking and camping
- Comfortable t-shirts & flannels – great for hiking and camping outdoors
- Polarized Sunglasses to help with harsh sunlight
- Sunscreen & lip balm which is essential for hiking at Joshua Tree
- Reusable water bottle with a filter, plus extra water if needed
- Headlamp and a first aid kit for emergencies
- Portable phone charger in case your phone runs out of battery and you get lost
- A light jacket & cozy beanie in case it starts raining or the wind picks up
- A small day pack. I use the REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack which fits everything I need for a day hike and comes with a breathable back & mesh straps for extra comfort.
Our Experience Hiking The Wall Street Mill Trail
Here is the detailed breakdown of the Wall Street Mill Trail for those wondering what the hike is like & a few of the “must-see” stops along the trail.
Our original plan was to hike the Barker Dam Nature Trail first, but when we got to the trailhead, it was very busy. Instead, we noticed that almost nobody was heading into the adjacent Wall Street Mill Trail so we decided to give it a go instead.
To my surprise, I enjoyed the Wall Street Mill Trail a lot more than I expected because it had unique attractions and information on Joshua Tree history that other trails don’t.
From the Barker Dam parking lot, the trail starts along a wide flat path made of soft sand. In about 0.3 miles it will connect with the official Wall Street Mill Trailhead and continue north.
The first side detour leads to partial ruins of an old house. You will need to venture off the main trail to get there but it’s an interesting stop that I recommend checking out.
It’s not clear who used to live in this house, perhaps one of the former ranchers or gold miners who used to operate in Joshua Tree. Visitors can walk around freely amongst the ruins and still see the remains of partial walls, doors, windows, and even a chimney.
From there you can backtrack to the main trail or cut across to an abandoned rusty car that’s nearby. There are 3 old abandoned cars that you will see along the Wall Street Mill Trail but this one has the clearest view and access.
The next stop is the Worth Bagley Stone. This is where the shootout happened between William F. Keys and Worth Bagley in 1943 over a land dispute that ended in Worth Bagley’s death.
William F. Keys was sentenced to 9 years in prison from which he served 5 years before receiving a pardon. After he was released, he erected this stone that reads “Here is where Worth Bagly bit the dust at the hand of W.F. Keys May 11, 1943”.
From there head back to the main trail and keep going for another 0.7 miles to the Wall Street Mill site. The trail ends here at the old mill which is blocked off from access with a fence but visitors can walk around and explore it from the outside.
In this area, you can also see two more abandoned old cars, one hidden inside a shrub.
Once you’re done exploring, you can head back the same way you came. Overall, it took us around 2 hours to see all the stops and explore the old mine.
Joshua Tree is one of the easiest National Park to access and hike in Southern California. We hope you’re ready to take on the Wall Street Mill Trail but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below!
Looking for a rental around Joshua Tree National Park? Check out this super helpful post next that covers 10 Stunning VRBO Vacation Rentals In Joshua Tree, California!
Planning more trips in California? Here are a few other California travel posts that you may like:
- Guide To Hiking Barker Dam Nature Trail In Joshua Tree
- 6 Easy Death Valley Hikes That You Shouldn’t Miss
- 9 Wonderful Activities To Do In Big Bear Lake In Fall
- Visiting Alabama Hills? Here’s All You Need To Know!
- 18 Amazing Things To Do In Yosemite For First Time Visitors
Interested in stepping up your photography skills? Here is the camera gear that I use and recommend to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7II Camera With 28-70 mm Standard Lens
- Polarizer Filter for the standard lens (helps eliminate reflection and enhance color especially on super bright days): Amazon Basics 55 mm
- Wide Lens (great for nature shots): Sony 16-35 mm F4
- Polarizer Filter for the wide lens: Amazon Basics 72 mm
- Small Tripod (to stabilize photos and eliminate blur): JOBY Gorrilapod
- Memory Cards: SanDisk 32 GB
- Batteries: Sony Camera Charger Set
- Camera Bag: Lowepro weather-resistant bag
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