If winding your way through narrow canyons is your idea of fun, check out the Hall of Horrors! This small section of canyon in Joshua Tree National Park is becoming one of the coolest places to visit (and get pics) in the park.
The Hall of Horrors is very much worth visiting. But it’s not listed on the official park map, and there are no signs. So you must have precise directions in order to get there.
It’s actually not that hard to find. It requires less than a mile hike from an established parking lot, and it’s short, so you won’t need more than an hour from start to finish. It’s a great part of a Joshua Tree day trip itinerary.
Wondering how to find the Hall of Horrors? That’s where I come in! Read on for Hall of Horrors GPS coordinates, a step by step guide to hiking and climbing there, and photos from the journey.
What is the Hall of Horrors?
The Hall of Horrors is a slot canyon in Joshua Tree National Park. Or, more precisely, it’s two slot canyons next to each other, hidden in a large clump of rocks and boulders in the middle of the park.
It takes its name from the fact that small sections of the canyon are super narrow and require some squeezing to get through.
If you’ve never explored slot canyons, this one is perfect for your first time. It’s easy to get to, and it’s not long at all. So you can get the thrills of climbing over rock formations and sneaking through tight passageways, and still be back to your car in no time.
Some folks refer to the Hall of Horrors as a cave. That’s not exactly true, but it can feel like a cave since the walls are very high and the area doesn’t get any direct sunlight.
It’s not clear who labeled this slot canyon the Hall of Horrors, but the scary name no doubt adds to its appeal for visitors who like a challenge.
The Joshua Tree website has a page about the Hall of Horrors, but unfortunately it’s just a short blurb with no information about what to do or how to get there.
How to Find the Hall of Horrors in Joshua Tree National Park
As noted, the National Park Service does not list the Hall of Horrors in Joshua Tree on the official park map brochure that you’re given as you enter the park.
However, the Hall is shown on the park’s online map. So you’ll want to take a photo or screenshot before going. The relevant portion of the map is shown below. Note the Hall of Horrors on the north side of Park Boulevard, just west of the Ryan Mountain trailhead and Sheep Pass.
First, you’ll want to locate the Hall of Horrors parking lot. The GPS coordinates of the parking lot are:
The parking lot is located in front of three big clumps of rock formation. This is what the area looks like from above, as seen from the top of Ryan Mountain:
The parking lot has space for 25-30 vehicles, depending whether there are RVs or longer trailers taking in the bigger spots.
The lot may fill on very busy days, but other times you won’t see many cars at all. This isn’t a primary destination for most Joshua Tree tourists (remember that it’s not even on the map.)
My last visit was on a Friday in April, and the lot was less than half full. There’s a small bathroom right at the parking lot as well. It’s a glorified porta potty – there’s no sink.
When heading to the Hall of Horrors, you’ll definitely want to take some water. But try not to take a large backpack, because you’ll have to take it off to fit through some of the narrow halls.
Venturing Through the Slot Canyon: Pics and Info
Ok, now here’s the (slightly) tricky part. How do you walk to the Hall of Horrors in Joshua Tree NP from the parking lot?
I recommend downloading Google Maps for the park so you can follow along as you walk via GPS. The exact coordinates for the entrance to the Hall of Horrors are:
This map shows the exact route you’ll walk from the parking lot to the entrance of the Hall of Horrors. Walk around the largest rock formation to get to the smaller one behind it.
This is a short walk that will only take 10 minutes or so. From the parking lot, you’ll see a dirt trail behind the bathroom leading towards the rocks. There are a couple different forks in the path here. Always take the right-hand path when the trail splits.
Follow the dirt trails around the first large rock formation. Then follow the trail that veers to the left behind the first rock formation. You will then be walking between the two large rock formations.
With the second rock formation on your right, proceed all the way to the end of the rocks. Then look back to the right and you’ll see a slight path leading to boulder piles that look like this. Walk to the boulders circled in yellow:
At that point, the Hall of Horrors entrance is in sight. Start winding your way through the shrubs and climbing over small rocks until you reach the entrance. And that’s how to find the Hall of Horrors at Joshua Tree National Park!
You’ll likely see other folks in the area. Some will probably be wandering around, asking strangers, “Do you know where the Hall of Horrors is?”
Once you locate the Hall, proceed on through at your own pace. There it is. Stare into the canyon and ponder life!
The first drop into the canyon is a bit tricky. It’s about four feet down, so you’ll need to maneuver against the rocks to worm your way to the floor. If you’re with a friend, give each other a hand. Watch your step and secure your phone and valuables as you enter.
This is the drop you have to navigate to get down into the canyon:
Once on the ground, explore the hall. It only goes about 20-30 feet deep before hitting a dead end. At that point, you’ll have to turn and come back out the same way you went in. After you get some cool photos, of course.
This canyon was just a warm up. There’s a second canyon to the left of this one, and that one is more fun to explore and makes for better pics. The second canyon is even darker than the first! Here you can see the entrance to both canyons, one on the right and one on the left:
When you get inside this second canyon, you’ll see that this one is not a dead end. It’s also quite a bit narrower than the first. Squeeze your way through the tight passageways and see how far you can go!
Most of this canyon is at least a few feet wide. There is just one section where it gets really tight. My friend and I, both average-sized guys, had to suck in our tummies and shimmy through this short section in order to fit.
This section is no more than a few feet long, so it doesn’t take long to get through. I think that anyone with a waist size of 34 or more is going to struggle to fit through.
Depending how adventurous you are, you can proceed through this slot canyon and climb out the other side to go deeper into the rock village.
Once you complete the two main Hall of Horrors slots, then what? That’s completely up to you. You can turn and go back to your vehicle if you’re short on time. But the better option is to continue exploring the boulders in the area.
There are lots of other fun canyons to explore, and plenty of opportunities for further climbing and bouldering. Much of the area is shaded, so you can easily find a corner or rock outcrop to sit and eat lunch or a snack.
I tried to maximize my time in this area, since it’s such a fun part of the park to explore.
Tips for Visiting this Part of the Park
When should you visit the Hall of Horrors?
As with most desert hikes, it’s best to avoid coming during the hottest hours of the day. So morning is best. That said, since the hike here isn’t very long, and there’s lots of shade once you’re in the Canyon, you definitely could do this hike on a hot afternoon if you’re physically fit and bring sufficient water.
Early evening is also a good time, for the sunset and “golden hour” lighting. Normally, you don’t want to be wandering around unknown canyons at night, lest you get lost and stuck in the dark. But it’s hard to get lost here since it’s a small area, and the main park road is so close you can see the cars driving by.
As for time of year, spring and fall are best in Joshua Tree, for the most moderate temperatures. But it’s fine to come in winter or summer as well, since you won’t be spending all that long at this attraction.
How much time do you need to hike the Hall of Horrors?
Assuming you find the Hall of Horrors easily, you could explore both halls in less than an hour. Or you could take up to 2 hours if you want to do more bouldering and climbing in the vicinity.
What should you bring to the Hall of Horrors?
The main necessity is water. You probably won’t need more than a bottle, since it’s a short walk back to your vehicle. Definitely stay hydrated while you’re here.
You should also bring a charged phone. You may or may not have cell service in this area of the park, but you can use the phone to view your location on a GPS app like Google Maps. That way, you can never truly get lost.
Do people go rock climbing in this area?
Yes, you will likely see folks doing rock climbing on these three boulder formations. Real rock climbing, with harnesses and ropes. Like much of Joshua Tree National Park, this area is great for climbers who want to explore
Are there any dangers in the Hall of Horrors?
Theoretically, you could get stuck in the narrowest section, but that’s unlikely, and you could surely force yourself out. The main danger here is slipping and falling. You could twist an ankle or hit your head against the boulders, and neither would be fun.
As for external dangers, rattlesnakes would be the main concern. They’re not likely to hang around the main Hall area that gets so many visitors, but you could come across one if your boulder exploration goes into more remote areas.
Other Places to Visit inside Joshua Tree and Near the Park
What else should you do while checking out the Hall of Horrors? Well, consult our one day in Joshua Tree guide again for a full list of hikes and tourist attractions. Some of the main points of interest include:
Barker Dam and Wonderland Ranch. Barker Dam is a very popular hike that can be reached via a moderate trail. Wonderland Ranch is an abandoned ranch from the early 1900s with crumbling brick structures that tourists can walk through.
Keys Viewpoint. The best viewpoint in Joshua Tree! This spot has views of the entire Coachella Valley, all the way down to Mexico (if the air is clear!)
Jumbo Rocks. One of my favorite parts of the park, Jumbo Rocks is a section of large boulders that visitors can climb on and around. It’s basically the same as the Hall of Horrors, minus the slot canyons.
Cholla Cactus Garden. A prime place for sunrise and sunset, the Cholla Cactus Garden has a short walking path in a field of cholla cactus.
Once outside the national park border, there are lots of other fun things to add to your to-do list. Check out the quirky and tiny Crochet Museum in the town of Joshua Tree itself. It’s an old photomat hut that has been turned into a mecca of soft and cuddly crochet items.
Then head to Pioneertown, an old west-style village that was originally built as a Hollywood movie set but now has bars, shops, and businesses that cater to both tourists and locals.
Finally, make the one hour drive west to the glitzy city of Palm Springs. Full of swimming pools, fancy restaurants, and celebrity sightings, Palm Springs is a complete change of pace from the rugged atmosphere of Joshua Tree. That makes it a nice complement to the national park. I recommend pairing them together as part of a road trip.
Our guide to the fun and quirky activities of Palm Springs includes unique attractions like the giant Marilyn Monroe statue, the Walk of Stars, statues of Lucille Ball and Sonny Bono, and lots of public art displays.
Our LGBT guide to Palm Springs details the many resorts, bars, and restaurants catering to that community.
In terms of outdoor opportunities, Palm Springs has some surprisingly good hiking as well. Just ride the aerial tramway 10 minutes up to the top of the mountain and Mount San Jacinto State Park.
Up there, temperatures are 30 degrees cooler than down in the desert below, and there are some excellent forested hiking trails in the mountains at 8500 feet elevation.
There’s snow up here in winter and even well into April. So if the desert landscape of Joshua Tree and the Hall of Horrors gets tiring, head to the mountain!
Do you have any other tips for finding the Hall of Horrors?