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For such a short hike, Barker Dam Trail packs in a lot of interesting sights.
You will, of course, see tall Joshua trees and giant boulder mounds, characteristic of this national park.
But you’ll also see rarities like water in the desert, and have an especially good chance at spotting the wildlife it attracts.
In addition, you’ll see rock art made by Native Americans centuries ago. The trail is mostly level, with only minor rough sections, making it suitable for most abilities.
Kids will enjoy finding bonus adventures by scrambling into the surrounding rocks.
Look for interpretive signs along the way, which explain the nature and history of the area. The trail forms a lasso-shaped loop.
Going counter-clockwise brings you to the water soonest, but you could just as well go the other way instead.
The water collects because of a dam, built more than 100 years ago by ranchers.
The modest reservoir often dries up in summer, however, leaving only a muddy spot among lush vegetation.
In winter and spring, the lake reliably holds water, reflecting surrounding granite and trees on its blue surface. Continue past the lake, the trail squeezes among some boulders, then emerges onto a flat plain dotted with Joshua trees.
Soon you’ll find the smattering of rock art tucked into a little cave along a marked side trail.
View it only from a reasonable distance.
Do not touch the figures or the rock they are on, so they’ll stay preserved.
From there, the final segment goes through another short maze of rock mounds to return to the trailhead. Sources: https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/barker-dam-trail.htm https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/barker-dam-joshua-tree/