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Hiking Barker Dam at Joshua Tree

Tips to know when hiking Barker Dam at Joshua Tree National Park. When I heard that Barker Dam was also known as Big Horn Dam for all of the big horned sheep climbing the rocks around the reservoir, I knew that would be a hiking destination during our trip to Joshua Tree. Every time we drove to Palm Springs or Twenty-Nine Palms, we would see the signs that cautioned us to be careful of big-horned sheep, our eyes would look upwards scanning the rocks.  But a man-made lake, in the middle of the desert? That’s where they must be, right?

Things to know about hiking the trail to Barker Dam:

  • It’s a half-mile, each way
  • You may think “it’s only half a mile, I have plenty of  water” but there is no shade along the trail  and temps can be in the triple digits
  • There is limited parking near the hiking trail entrance, but it fills up quickly in peak season when the lake is full.  If there are no cars you can assume its empty and dry but its still a beautiful hike that shares some amazing nature outside of the Joshua Trees for more variety.
  • It starts out as a marked path in the sand and slowly becomes smooth, flat rock and sand and then eventually you’re using large stones, small boulders as natural stairs.  It’s an easy hike as long as you watch where you are going
  • It’s a narrow trail with one way in, one way out and can get bottlenecked in crowds
  • The dam is made of wood, constructed around 1900
  • We’ve seen the area during the wet season and it’s beautiful to see the reflection of the giant rocks in the water, and in the dry drought where the desert vastness has its own beauty.
  • You’ll see the landscape start to change quickly as you get closer to the water source
  • Hike along through our gallery below, in our quest to find the bighorn sheep


Zanne is the Founder, Editor, Administration, and Publisher of WhereGalsWander along with the title of Chief Trouble Maker. Blame her for everything.

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