What was originally planned as a quick stop along our journey of exploring Joshua Tree National Park turned into an incredible adventure of squeezing through narrow tunnels and discovering crevices hidden behind massive clusters of boulders. Hall of Horrors is perfect for all explorers and thrill-seekers out there. Anybody who wants to escape the ordinary in search of the extraordinary! We went to the Hall of Horrors without the knowledge of what to expect, but we could not have been happier with what we discovered in between the massive clusters of boulders.
This is not your typical, easy hike exploring the park’s primary features. It is a choose-your-own-adventure in the purest of senses allowing you to venture wherever you wish, explore any crack or crevice your heart desires, or even climb up the side of an 80-foot granite wall! We climbed, we scrambled, we squeezed ourselves in between the narrow tunnels, we laughed and we had so much fun! Keep reading for Episode 10 of the 52 in 52 series – Hall of Horrors in Joshua Tree National Park. From how and where to find them to what to expect, we have covered it all!
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Getting to Hall of Horrors Trailhead
Similar to the majority of must-do attractions in Joshua Tree National Park, the Hall of Horrors trailhead is located along Park Boulevard. If you are arriving from the West Entrance, you will pass by the Hidden Valley Campground before proceeding for another 3 miles to reach the Hall of Horrors trailhead. Taking the North Entrance requires a longer drive passing by Skull Rock and Sheep Pass Campground.
Hall of Horrors is actually very close to Ryan Mountain, so it is a good idea to visit these two attractions one after another. That is what we did when we visited Joshua Tree. Something to keep in mind is the limited parking throughout the park. The parking at Hall of Horrors trailhead is very small and we were not able to find a spot there. Parking along the road in this area of Joshua Tree is highly inadvisable as we saw numerous vehicles with tickets on their windshields.
We eventually found a parking spot at the Ryan Mountain trailhead and after that hike (which you can read about here), we decided to walk back to the Hall of Horrors trailhead. If you are in a similar situation, keep in mind that the distance is approximately 0.7 miles and takes between 15 – 20 minutes. We met a few other fellow travelers who were trekking between the two attractions as well, so it seems to be common practice.
When to Visit Hall of Horrors
If you have been following our 52 in 52 series, you probably already know what my advice for visiting Hall Horrors would be: Visit in late winter to the beginning of spring to beat the summer heat and arrive early on a weekday to avoid the crowds!
Despite the fact that the parking area at Hall of Horrors trailhead was full, this Joshua Tree attraction did not seem as crowded. The massive rock formations offer visitors the chance to choose their own adventures. The National Park services also do not seem to provide much information about this particular location, so many visitors do not know what to expect when visiting Hall of Horrors.
Traveling to Joshua Tree National Park was another spontaneous trip we embarked on without much research beforehand. So we did not know what we were looking for at Hall of Horrors either. We were lucky enough to have found this incredible spot halfway by chance, halfway thanks to a few other explorers while on the trail!
Elevation Gain: None, aside from climbing and adventuring
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, depending on your choices
Dogs: Not Allowed
Access: Up-to-date Park fees can be found here; Military gets a free annual pass
Starting Point: 33.9986651,-116.1449559
First of all, I would like to mention that the actual Hall of Horrors trail is only 0.6 miles and it makes a loop around the incredible clusters of boulders scattered in this section of the park. How many miles you track will be up to you and how adventurous your spirit is.
We ended up hiking for about 3 miles including walking to Hall of Horrors from the Ryan Mountain parking and back. The path is flat and easy with barely any elevation gain until you find the geological formation named Hall of Horrors hidden in between the boulders; that is when your desire to scramble and explore will kick in! This is where the real adventure begins!
The Hall of Horrors is a natural formation resembling a narrow crevice hidden behind a towering pile of boulders. If you are determined to find it, you will have to ditch the path and go on a little exploration of your own – trust me it is worth it!
If you are starting from the parking area you will find a small path to the left behind the dumpsters. At the beginning, a massive cluster of smooth rocks is blocking the scenery in front of you. As you make your way along the path, the cluster of boulders will remain to your right and soon after you will notice a smaller pile of boulders in the distance ahead – where you should be heading to. That was the path we took on the way back. Choosing the right trail might be a faster and easier option, especially if you are in a time constraint.
The trail, lined with beautiful Joshua Trees is easier to follow once you leave the first rock massive behind you. Keep straight and admire the scenery – incredible mounts of abrasive granite boulders are scattered around to add uniqueness to the otherwise deserted fields.
A small pathway will soon take you behind a massive bush and closer towards the mount of boulders that is your goal. The trail proceeds between the rocks until it reaches a large boulder, which will reveal the narrow, hidden “hall”.
I was absolutely astonished once I took my first glimpse of the slender crevice and I could not wait to jump down and explore more. Unfortunately, this hall has a dead-end unless you have proper climbing equipment. The boulders are fully close to the end of the tunnel despite my husband’s efforts to scramble higher up the rocks. Looking up, we noticed a few climbing hooks along the flat granite surfaces of the boulders, so we are sure there are some great climbing routes starting from inside the tunnel.
More Climbing and Exploring
I was absolutely enjoying this little narrow tunnel that I could saunter down so freely. Little did I know that was only the appetizer and Alex was about to discover another hidden gem right next to the Hall of Horror. On the left side of the first crevice, a small palm tree blocks the entrance to another narrow “hall”. The further you go, the narrower the slot and the skinnier you have to become. Halfway along the tunnel, my husband thought he would get stuck, though luckily we both made it by squeezing ourselves through the rocks. Soon after, the hallway becomes a bit wider again before reaching what might, at first, seem like a dead-end.
By carefully and slowly scrambling and climbing over a thin rock ledge, you will find yourself standing on top of the boulder problem! I suggest following your adventurous spirit and continuing to explore at the top. I personally went to the left as I saw a tiny opening in between the rocks, which resembled a window overlooking the vast lands of Joshua Tree National Park. My husband, on the other hand, tried scrambling even higher, led by his love to rock climb and desire to soak in the incredible panoramic scenery!
As you are done scrambling, exploring, or even just lounging and soaking up the sun – getting back down is the same as how you came up. I decided to climb straight down while Alex, somehow suddenly scared of the heights, decided to cat-crawl backwards down the ledge on the right side of the ‘hidden hall’. One more skinny squeeze and you are back where you started from, ready to blaze your own trail back to your car or next adventure. Ultimately, that is the wonderful thing about the Hall of Horrors – you get to decide how much you get out of it!
As we were going back to the car, which we had left at the Ryan Mountain parking lot, we had a good amount of time to discuss what we had just experienced. We were fully aware that the official Hall of Horrors trail is not a full mile, but we wanted to capture and keep the memory of this fantastic location in our 52 in 52 series. What is more, we wanted to share this with all of you who would be interested to learn more and find this must-visit Joshua Tree sight for yourselves!
After every stop of our trip across Joshua Tree, we were even more impressed and dazzled by the beauty and uniqueness of the park. Albeit being a little more crowded, the nature and mishmash of different biomes is something that must be experienced first hand! Have you been to the Hall of Horrors, and if so what are your thoughts on it? I’d love to know what you have to say in the comment section below and make sure to come back next week, as we take you along with us on our journey of exploring another incredible hidden gem, far from the crowds, in Joshua Tree National Park!