chasm of doom joshua tree 01

How to Find The Secret Chasm of Doom Joshua Tree Hike

Within Joshua Tree National Park, specifically near the Hidden Valley parking area lies an amazing and secret hike known as the Chasm of Doom. This is a difficult but extremely fun hike that involves scrambling, caving and tight slot canyon squeezes. Having recently done it, I want to show you exactly how to find it, and more importantly what to expect from it once you do, so you can properly complete it and not get into a dangerous situation (which can happen here if you’re not careful).

7 things to know before you do the Chasm of Doom hike in Joshua Tree:

  1. There are no signs for this trail/hike (it’s literally hidden).
  2. It’s isn’t even a trail (it’s a cave you have to navigate to).
  3. It can be dangerous if you’re claustrophobic (you can get stuck).
  4. I would not do this hike alone, especially if it’s your first time.
  5. Chasm of Doom is only about a few 100 yards in length.
  6. Very few people know about this trail.
  7. There’s a lot of climbing involved but it’s a very fun hike if you enjoy this sort of stuff.

Keep these 7 things in mind before you go here and if you don’t think you can do this hike, the good news is that Joshua Tree is full of amazing trails and hikes you can explore, climb on and scramble to.

3 things I recommend you bring on your hike to Chasm of Doom:

  1. Good hiking or trail running shoes. For me, I wore the Salomon Speedcross 5 and for this hike, they performed very well!
  2. Decent shirt and pants (no shorts): You’ll likely get caught in jagged rocks and if you’re wearing good, resilient clothing, you’ll be protected. I just wore a rashguard shirt and sports pants for this.
  3. Some form of lighting: It gets pretty dark in certain parts of the Chasm of Doom. Some people recommend bringing a headlight to this hike. I personally just relied on a phone with a flashlight app on it and that was fine for me.

The Chasm of Doom entrance is near the Hidden Valley parking lot:

chasm of doom map location 08

And the Hidden Valley Parking lot is located inside Joshua Tree National Park (obviously). You won’t find it on Google Maps, but when you enter Joshua Tree National Park, make sure to grab a map of the park (or download it). The good news is that the Hidden Valley Parking lot is pretty large and popular and you will see signs for that as you approach it.

In order to start the hike to the Chasm of Doom, you must first drive to the Hidden Valley Parking lot. Once you get there, know this:

As you arrive to the parking lot, you will see trailheads and signs for hikes nearby. Keep in mind these are NOT the trailheads to Chasm of Doom but for other hikes including a 1 mile one called Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Now that one does have a GPS available to reach and you may want to input that if you plan to go here as it’ll take you to the parking lot.

The next step is to find the entrance to Chasm of Doom:

how to find chasm of doom from hidden valley parking lot map 07

To do that, I’ve attached a Google Map screenshot where you’ll see the parking lot and arrows showing you where to go. The key is this:

  1. The entrance to Chasm of Doom is located to the left side of the parking lot where you see 2 picnic tables.
  2. Once you walk past the second picnic table, turn up (north) and you will see a bush, behind which there is a space to enter into rock formations.
  3. This is basically the entrance to the Chasm of Doom. It’s also completely normal when you find it to wonder if it’s really the right path.

Keep in mind that this hike is NOT official and there are NO signs for it. You will have to follow basic instructions and improvise, but believe me, if you just find the bush and rock opening after the 2nd picnic table, that is the right entrance to it. Here is what it looks like:

locating chasm of doom entrance 04

Hike through the boulders (head up and to your left) till you find a palm tree:

finding the chasm of doom cave after rock scrambling 05

This section of the hike will be tight in spots and very annoying because you will have to scramble in between large boulders (which Joshua Tree is known for). As you make your way through there, again you may wonder if you’re even doing the right hike. Just make sure you are aiming to hike up and to your left as you make your way through these boulders.

There will be a section right before the entrance to the Chasm of Doom (the cave part) with a palm tree right by it (image included). Once you see that palm tree, you will see a small opening right next to it. That is the cave entrance to Chasm of Doom. From a distance you won’t even see that small entrance, but you will see the palm tree. Just note that once you do, the entrance is right by it.

Enter into the Chasm of Doom (and prepare for a serious scramble/hike):

entering chasm of doom cave 01

Once you enter into the cave, it will be pretty narrow (but this is still a picnic compared to how tight it’ll get soon). A good thing to note is that inside this cave, its sandy on the ground and you may wonder if this is even a challenging hike from this point forward.

Don’t worry the tough parts are coming up after that. Once you walk past the initial area of the cave, then you’ll have to climb up, over and in between rocks. As you do, you will slowly be making your way up the cave.

In my estimate, this section of the hike was about 50 meters long which may not even seem like much but considering how slow you’ll be going (especially if you’re filming like I was), it’s going to be a strenuous, but fun experience. But then, once you finish it, you’ll be coming up to what is likely considered the most famous spot in the entire Chasm of Doom:

Entering “The Coffin” section of the Chasm of Doom (scariest part):

chasm of doom coffin crawl 09

As you make your way through the cave, you will eventually reach what is known as “The Coffin” which is a narrow hole in between 2 rocks that you will have to crawl through. It is very narrow there, and if this is where you want to turn back because you fear claustrophobia, this is where you’ll want to do that and just backtrack to the parking lot. If not and you’re ready to keep going further, enter this section of the hike. Now, this part is very important:

Here’s the key to beating the Coffin part of the Chasm of Doom: Make sure you stay to your left when you enter this narrow area! The more right you go, the tighter it gets. That’s what I tried doing when I came here and it was a huge mistake. You risk getting stuck so stick to the left side of the Coffin section as it’s wider there, just enough for you to crawl through.

As you pass through the Coffin area, you will enter into a smaller cave that won’t even seem like it’s part of the hike (much like the other parts of this whole adventure), but there’s enough space for you to comfortably get into that part:

chasm of doom exiting the coffin

 From there, you’ll want to look up, see the light, and climb up/through that. From the bottom it won’t even seem like there’s an exit, but trust me, there is. Just climb out of there, have faith and it’ll become clear.

Getting to the halfway point of the Chasm of Doom:

Once you get out of that small cave, you essentially have 4 choices, and only 2 of them will actually get you out of the Chasm of Doom. Here is how it looks (top view of the 4 options):

how to find the exit from chasm of doom after the coffin 03

Option 1: Your first one is moving to your left which will take you to an overlook of Hidden Valley Parking Lot.

Option 2: Your second choice is moving to your right, over rocks and to a beautiful view of Hidden Valley (it’s a tough, short and a bit dangerous of a hike there).

chasm of doom scenic overlooks 03

Option 3: Your third choice is literally backtracking back through the Coffin, then through the boulders and back to the start of your hike.

Option 4: Your fourth choice, aka the official exit (the one you should do to fully complete the hike) is to head diagonally left (as shown on the map) to an opening in the rocks which will take you into another tight cave.

Exiting out of the Chasm of Doom (option 4):

exiting chasm of doom cave 02

Again, the 4th choice on the list above is where you’ll want to go. This tight cave will essentially take you back out into Hidden Valley’s trail which you will then take to get back to the parking lot, but this part of the hike in my opinion might be the most difficult.

Once you enter into this last cave, you will be met with a rock stuck between the walls and you will have to bypass this rock to continue going through the cave, down and out of the Chasm of Doom. This part of the hike to me was the scariest part because I elected to try it 2 ways:

  1. Go to the right of that nudged rock and try to slip under it (bad idea). I got stuck and barely pulled myself out, so don’t do this!
  2. The second option is to go over the rock and slide on your belly with your legs out so you can feel the rocks underneath you. The height between the top of the rock and the nearest rock is about 6 feet so if you’re short, this is where you may feel very uncomfortable when you can’t feel anything under your feet and you’re continually slipping down on the rock.

However, the second option is the better way to go. This is where you may want to have someone nearby to hold your hand to help you, but once you do feel the rock underneath your feet, you’ll quickly calm down. From that point, you’ll continue working your way down the cave and out of it. There will be one or two more intermediately difficult sections to climb through, but it won’t be anything as scary as the Coffin or the rock part you just finished.

Finishing the hike:

As you exit out of the cave, you will see the trail (and possibly people walking around). You’ll turn right when you hit the trail (it’s literally a few feet by the cave) and follow it back to the parking lot. From there, it’s only about 100 feet to reach it.

And that’s it, you just completed the Chasm of Doom Joshua Tree hike:

I personally really enjoyed it. Aside from the part where I got stuck in the rock and panicked quite a bit, the rest of the hike was very exciting for me personally. I was most worried about the “Coffin” part of the hike but to be honest, that turned out to be one of the least scary and most fun parts of it.

Very few people know about this hike in Joshua Tree National Park and in our case, while the parking lot was nearly full when we arrived, no one was inside the Chasm of Doom as we were making our way through it (but we could hear people there).

Again, if you’re not someone who is an avid hiker or explorer, you may find parts of this hike to be a bit difficult, scary or even dangerous. There’s no shame at any point in turning back and backtracking to the parking lot if you’re not feeling up for it, but if you are and want to test yourself, then I can promise you that this hike will be one to remember!

Other questions about exploring the Chasm of Doom in Joshua Tree:

What is the chasm of doom?

Chasm of Doom is a very fun and unofficial hike in Joshua Tree National Park. It has climbing, caving and a lot of fun elements, but is difficult to find and go through.

How long is the chasm of doom Joshua Tree?

Chasm of Doom is only about 200 feet long, but considering how hard it is to go through it, it’ll feel like a much longer hike.

Related (other places like the Chasm of Doom):

If you have already hiked the Chasm of Doom, I’d love to know your thoughts on how it went and/or have any questions, let me know below!

Similar Posts


  1. Your article is very informative and this hike/scramble is definitely something I’d like to try one day. If you’re ever in NC, you might enjoy:

    1) Hiking the Grandfather Trail at Grandfather Mountain (from the Black Rock Parking Area to Calloway Peak, or the Profile Trail to the main parking lot).

    2) Exploring the boulder fields at Rumbling Bald – remnants from an 1874 earthquake. There’s some sort of hidden waterfall or rushing stream inside those caverns, but you have to go off trail to hear it (best after it rains the night before). I’ve been to the entrance, but haven’t entered that part of the caverns. The history behind the name, Rumbling Bald, is sort of amusing. It’s also near Lake Lure which is a nice area that’s growing in popularity.

    1. Thanks for sharing these other trails and their details. I’m particularly interested in the hidden waterfall because I love to find those types of things. I’ll also add one recommendation in return for that topic and that is the Hidden waterfall in Sombrio Beach. It’s easier to find than the one you mentioned, but it’s extremely scenic and located in Vancouver Island. Hope you get to see it and document it too!

  2. The Joshua Tree National Park looks like a phenomenal place, I would love to go.

    I also like things that are secret and secluded from everyone seeing them, so the chasm of doom would be well up my street for sure.

    What is the terrain of the chasm of doom just so i would know what footwear and clothing to wear when exploring it?

    1. Well firstly, Joshua Tree is basically flat lands with boulder clusters that are basically small mountains and the Joshua Tree itself is like a catcus that is all throughout the park. 

      The Chasm of Doom is one of those many rock clusters that you enter into, so the terrain is mostly bouldering, and crawling through tight spaces within those boulders. 

  3. We are going to visit several national parks in California this summer and Joshua Tree is one of them. Your article is amazing in the detailed directions you offer for the Chasm of Doom. I am not sure that I will be able to hand getting through the coffin, but just finding the cavern and getting that far seems like a great adventure. My wife and I are older but in pretty good shape. Thanks for the suggestion and the directions. Wish us luck.

    1. Yeah give it a shot. The whole hike (Chasm of Doom) is actually VERY short, but extremely fun in my opinion and even if the hike through that spot doesn’t work out, I can assure you that Joshua Tree has tons more to offer. Would love to hear your experiences on the trip after it’s done 🙂

  4. Hmm, the adventurer in me thinks this sounds really exciting, while the name of the destination has me thinking that I should probably just stick to the marked trails. Thanks for sharing all the details, as I’ve enjoyed taking the journey vicariously via your article.

    I agree that long pants are a must in these environments – I’m always surprised at the number of tourists wearing shorts!

    1. There are many hikes with scary sounding names (like this one) that are honestly not that bad. In fact, Joshua Tree also houses another one called Hall of Horrors which is honestly nothing remotely scary or difficult.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *