Barker Dam is a short loop trail in Joshua Tree National Park California. The trail features a historical dam constructed in the early 1900’s which offers a rare water source in an otherwise arid environment.

Hiking Barker Dam Loop Trail

Joshua Tree National Park is primarily known for it’s desert like views, amazing stargazing, spring flower blooms, and Joshua Trees. One thing the park isn’t usually known for is water. However, Barker Dam provides a unique experience that is usually rare and hard to find in the Mojave Desert region. The dam’s unique construction allows for a seasonal water source and small creek. Naturally, with water comes life. The dam allows for a riparian creek and is a water source for all types of desert life from plants, birds, and mammals like coyotes and bighorn sheep. Away from the dam the views are lined with Joshua Trees, Cholla Cactus, and other varieties of desert plants.

 Barker Dam History

The history of Barker Dam goes back to the late 1800’s and is rooted in cattle ranching. In those years, the region averaged closer to ten inches of annual rain whereas now it only receives just a couple. In 1902 the Barker and Shay Cattle Company lowered stone into an area between Queen Valley and Wonderland Rocks. The lowered stone caught much needed water that was used for the cattle. In 1949, another rancher, Bill Keys, made improvements to the dam. As the years went on the cattle industry dried up (no pun intended). Today the dam is listed on the National register of Historic Places.

On A Personal Note:

If you’re looking for a short trail in the park, add this to your itinerary. The highest chance of seeing wildlife here is early in the morning or at dusk. If you’re looking for other things to do visit the day guide to Joshua Tree National Park.

Have you done this trail recently? Please leave a comment about updates to the trail descriptions or trail pictures below.

  • Overall Difficulty: 50% 50%
  • Overall Views: 75% 75%
Barker Dam Trail Quick Facts:
  • Elevation: 4,241 feet.
  • Elevation Gain: 105 feet.
  • Estimated Distance: 1.5 miles.
  • My Actual Distance: 1.3 miles.
  • Estimated Time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
  • My Time: 1 hour 17 minutes; 38 minutes moving
Barker Dam Trail Directions:
Open in maps.  The main parking lot is off Barker Dam Road. The parking lot is very popular and can fill up at times. However, there is an overflow parking lot nearby. Cell phone service is poor within the park so it’s likely you’ll have to use a park map. Barker Dam Road is off of Park Blvd in the northern sector of the park. Cost is the price of admission to the park. An America The Beautiful Pass will also work.
Barker Dam Trail Pictures:
Who Barker Dam Trail Is For:
Novice Hikers: The most difficult part about this trail that novice hikers would have to worry about is the heat. If you’re not used to being outside or are sensitive to heat, carry extra water and don’t push yourself. Otherwise, this trail is a great way to see a historic site in the park. 

Advanced Hikers: This trail is by no means difficult but it is nice to get to see a water source where it’s usually so scarce here. Add this site to other short trails.

Expert Hikers: Same.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike Barker Dam:
Late winter and early spring is without a doubt the best time to hike this trail. If it was a year with normal or above average rainfall, the dam will be at higher capacity. Rainfall will also bring an abundance of vibrant colors of blooming cactus, Joshua Trees, and wildflowers. May usually ushers in hot temperatures and the hottest months are typically June and July with temperatures exceeding well over 100 degrees. Summer and early fall can still have some very hot temperatures but the evenings and mornings tend to be a little cooler. 

Summer can bring about other problems besides just heat. The summer months are the monsoon season for the desert. This season brings about the chance for lightning and thunderstorms. Avoid being out in the open during a thunderstorm to prevent being hit by lightning. The trail does not have any low lying areas so there should be no concern of flash flooding here. 

It’s always a good idea to check the weather before heading out on a hike. 

Barker Dam Trail Conditions:
The trail is very well maintained and well marked. Stay on the path to prevent native vegetation that grows off the trail from getting disrupted. Avoid the nasty cholla cactus that grows near the path at all costs. The trail gets a lot of foot traffic but still keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.