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Joshua Tree is home to some of the best climbing in the United States with thousands of routes. Camping, hiking, backpacking, and cycling are all also superb among the incredible rock formations and rich desert ecosystems of Joshua Tree.
Relevant Guidebooks & Maps
Joshua Tree Rock Climbing Guide
From Claremont take I-10 east past Banning. Turn north on 62 to Yucca Valley. Follow 62 through Yucca Valley. In the small town of Joshua Tree turn right at the light on Park Boulevard. Follow this road to the right and into the park and to your destination. Just before the 62/Park Boulevard intersection is Arturo's - a classic OTL dining spot with great Mexican food. Yucca valley has grocery stores and fast food as well. The drive is about 1.75 hours without too much traffic. For Indian Cove keep driving past the town of Joshua Tree to the Indian Cove entrance. This does not connect with the rest of the park except by a long hike.
Joshua Tree is famous for its climbing. The possibilities are endless as thousands of climbs exist. The climbs are all short, mostly one pitch on sticky quartz monzonite. Some areas are feet from parking lots while others a long hikes into the backcountry. Below are some spots that OTL has gone before that are good for beginner and intermediate groups. Consult the guidebook for exact locations and route info.
Wonderland of Rocks: The Wonderland offers many great climbing localities that are generally not crowded. While the hike is usually longer and more strenuous than other places, the seclusion is worth it. For the most part the climbs on the west faces are easier than the east faces. The west faces tend to be flaky, however. To avoid dirty climbs make sure to stay on route. Sunshine is plentiful on the west sides. Lenticular Dome has two great climbs. "Mental Physics" 5.7+****, is a very classic crack on the right side. OTL leader Brian Cross calls it "the best 5.7 crack I've ever climbed!" Next to it is "Dazed and Confused", 5.9***, a thin face. Both climbs have fixed anchors. South of Lenticular Dome are the Astrodomes. Many possibilities are available on the west faces. On the southeast side of South Astrodome is "Hex Marks the Poot", (aka Lighting Bolt Crack) 5.7 ***, a another classic crack. The hike between the east and west sides of the Astrodomes is not as easy as the guidebook would make it seem, so don't plan on having part of the group on each side at the same time. To the east of the Astrodomes is Nomad Dome, another good spot for intermediate groups. To get to these locations (just the tip of the Wonderland iceberg), take the dirt road from Hidden Valley. At the "T" by Echo Rock turn right. For the west faces of the Astrodomes turn left to the Barker Dam parking lot and hike past Barker Dam up the wash. To get to the east faces of the Astrodomes, Nomad Dome, and Lenticular dome, continue a few hundred yards past the Barker Dam turnoff before turning left and parking at the end of the dirt road. Follow the trail from the lot past "Uncle Willie's Health Food Store" (an old ruined building) and to the left as it enters Wonderland Wash. Follow this wash through some narrow sections until it opens up into Wonderland Valley. At this point the Astrodomes will tower up on the left above Duan Juan Boulder, a huge cube turned on one corner. Nomad Dome will be behind some small domes to the right. Lenticular Dome is the large dome straight ahead in the distance. Do not leave Wonderland Wash early and try to "shortcut" over to climbs. You'll soon find that a straight line is not fastest at Josh - follow the wash!
Dairy Queen Wall: DQ Wall is a classic OTL spot. Located in Lost Horse, the wall is not too far from parking. Head towards the West Entrance from Hidden Valley and park either on the main road or a dirt road that heads south towards the ranger station. Follow the climber's guide to find the wall - its not far. The wall has multiple climbs from 5.6 to 5.9, including 2 *** 5.7's. It is possible to set up four climbs at once making it ideal for larger trips. The climbs are in the shade most of the day as well. The rock here is full of pockets so handholds are easy to find. The routes are almost vertical, which adds to the new climber's thrill. Not recommended in winter.
Headstone Rock: Headstone offers three short but high quality climbs with great photo opportunities. "SW Corner" - 5.7, "South-face Center" - 5.9, and "Cryptic" 5.8 - are all right next to each other. There is no walk-off here so routes must be led and climbers lowered off. It is possible to set up all three climbs at the same time, but it requires some "anchor creativity." This is a good spot for small and medium sized groups, but get there early because it is pretty popular. Headstone Rock is located above Ryan Campground, a few minutes past Hidden Valley.
Hall of Horrors: The Hall of Horrors is reached from Hidden Valley by driving past Ryan Campground. It is on the left before Sheep Pass by a turnout parking area. The climbs are fairly close to the car. The West face of the East Wall has a good 5.7R** ("Lickety Splits"), and a 5.8R ** ("Zardoz"). They are a little run out at the top, but aren't too bad. On the west face of the West Wall are two more good climbs. "Buckets to Burbank" 5.8* and "Ledges to Laundale" 5.10a* are fun bucket face climbs right next to each other. The 5.8 is on the right.
Echo Rock: Located on the dirt road behind Hidden Valley (park at the "T"), Echo Rock is a popular sport climbing area. Almost all the climbs are bolted and popular. Many excellent climbs are on the West Face of Echo Rock proper, a short walk from the "T" parking lot. On the left end "Double Dip" 5.6 ** is a good beginner route (2 5.8 TR's are just left of "Double Dip"). Further right is the classic "Stitcher Quits" 5.7*** and "Stick to What" 5.9***. All these climbs are bolted and have fixed anchors making Echo Rock ideal for leaders who don't want to set pro. Due to the popularity of Echo Rock, it is best not to sit on a particular climb for too long.
Indian Cove: Indian Cove is a good place for a day trip since it is a little closer than the central climbing area in Joshua Tree (see the directions to the Indian Cove entrance). It also tends to be a little warmer than around Hidden Valley. There are tons of climbs for beginners and intermediates and on many you can "belay from your bumper." Pixie Rock and Billboard Buttresses are particularly fun. They can be crowded so arrive early.
Weather in the desert is always a concern. Joshua Tree can be over 100 for much of the late spring, summer, and early fall. In the winter snow is common on the desert floor. Check the weather and plan accordingly. Stick to sunny routes in winter and shady routes other times. Water is especially important. None is found in the park so bring plenty. When camping in the backcountry don't sleep in the washes, especially when rain is forecast. Rattlesnakes and scorpions are common. If people want to explore make sure they go in groups and warm them about the increased difficulty of downclimbing. Monument headquarters - (619) 367-6376.
Also check out our JTree Destination Guide for more info.
Edited by (in order): OTL Staff
Last updated: 05/22/2009