Sunday Hikes: Lions, Tarantulas, and Giant Hares on the Boy Scout Trail in Joshua Tree NP


I went to Joshua Tree NP in November 2016 with my mom; we only spent a half a day, which only gave me a tiny taste of what the park has to offer! Mom and I drove around and looked for the best hike for our short time! One of the trails we looked at but did not have the chance to do was the Boy Scout Trail. This is an eight mile, one way hike that starts in desert surrounded by Joshua Trees and goes into a mountain, small Valley and ends with more desert. Not really my kind of hike because of the 16 miles round trip. The trail caught my eye because of the “warning” sign that was informing hikers of sick bighorn sheep spotted on the mountain portion of the trail. Rangers wanted hikers to call in if they saw any ill bighorn, so they could get them medical help. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do the hike in November.

When Dad, Josh and I decided to go back to Joshua Tree in March, the only thing I wanted to do was the Boy Scout Trail. Dad and Josh agreed and we were all so excited and anxiously awaiting the small chance we could see a bighorn!

We decided it would be a cool evening hike! Instead of doing the 8 miles in and 8 miles out, we parked our car at ranger station by the exit of the trail and took an Uber into the park to the trailhead. I thought it was a clever idea! Our Uber driver was very friendly and chatty- a little too chatty. By the end of the 30 minute ride, we knew just about his whole life story. We told him we were hoping to see a bighorn and he proceeded to tell us we probably wouldn’t but to watch out for mountain lions and good luck; we laughed as he drove off.

We started the trail around 6 pm. We were having a blast talking, joking and enjoying the scenery. I loved seeing the Joshua Trees in bloom and seeing all the plants in  the desert! About a mile into the hike we saw a couple of jackrabbits, which dad tried to chase down to get a good picture of. I don’t think he succeeded.


The sun started setting around 7 and it was beautiful. The silhouette of the Joshua trees in front of the sunset was very pretty and unique! The sunset was a bright pink and orange and made a glow on the rocks which formed the start of the mountain.


Before the mountain portion of the trail began, we climbed a big rock and brewed some coffee at the top. One of my favorite memories from the entire trip was watching the sunset on top of the rock while making the coffee. It was getting dark quickly, so we took our coffee and snack to-go on the trail!


We hiked the mountain portion of the trail and started entering the valley. There is always some point of a longer hike where everyone is quiet for awhile and you focus on the trail, the views and take in the sounds of nature- or in this case, the silence of nature. We were at that “point” of the hike.

It was quiet when all the sudden, within a few seconds, so much happened. I ran into Dad and Josh who were walking a few feet ahead of me, and there was a loud noise. I had no idea what the noise was, but quickly caught along when the boys started screaming, jumping, and throwing rocks. There was a mountain lion 4 feet away from us. We had startled it since we were being quiet. I quickly joined Dad and Josh, trying to scare the mountain lion away. I was so scared! The lion eventually creeped out of our sight, but did not go far. I grabbed a rock for protection, just in case!  We kept hiking, terrified and confused. We all took turns explaining what we saw and heard to process what happened.

Not long after our encounter, we saw a tarantula. In any other circumstance, I would not be thrilled to see a big spider, but I would choose a tarantula over a mountain lion any day! Josh and I wanted to keep moving and get as far away from the lion, but Dad tried to stop and take a photo. Josh and I were not pleased with that.

We hiked quickly, played music, and talked at a loud volume to insure our “friend” left us alone. The three of us were paranoid and ready to see that car. Thankfully, we never saw the mountain lion again!

We finally reached the car around 9:30 and I don’t think I have ever felt so relieved. We ditched our rocks that we carried the last 4 miles of the hike for protection and hopped into the car to head back to the hotel!