Rock Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park
Located in southern California at the western corner of the Mojave Desert is one of the world’s premier rock climbing destinations, Joshua Tree National Park. For decades, Joshua Tree has been a Mecca for serious rock climbers. The park’s unique range of rock formations and enormous boulder piles attract tens of thousands of climbers each year, from beginners to pros and everything in between.
Joshua Tree has more than 8,000 known climbs, spread over an area of more than 500,000 acres. Its popularity began in the 1970’s after rock climbers discovered it was an excellent place to go when other sites like Yosemite Valley were covered in snow. The winter months at Joshua Tree bring only cool, moderate temperatures with occasional snowfall in the higher elevation areas.
Climbs are typically short, with most rocks being within 250 ft. in height, and easily reachable via hiking trails through the mild desert terrain. And with so many sites in a single accessible region, it’s quite possible to complete a number of climbs in a single day. The majority of boulders and rock formations are made of quartz monzonite (a very rough granite) giving it remarkable traction and making it relatively easy to climb. This is what makes Joshua Tree such a popular place for novice climbers and trainees.
Some of the more popular climbs at Joshua Tree are Trashcan Rock, perfect for climbers of any skill level because of an assortment of routes that range in difficulty; Hound Rocks, which offer a number of great climbs without the traffic of some of the more frequented, nearby sites; and White Cliffs of Dover, a broad area of craggy cliff faces with classic Yosemite-like cracks and corners. But again, there are thousands of great climbs at Joshua Tree, each providing a unique and rewarding experience.
If you’re interested in taking climbing lessons or simply brushing up your skills, there are a number of outfitters in the area that provide private lessons and group training, as well as climbing resources, maps, guide books and gear. But you don’t have to be a rock climber to enjoy the beautiful terrain and experience the scenic wonders of the park—vast areas of Joshua tree are littered with easy-to-negotiate rock piles and scrambles that are perfect for simple exploration and sight-seeing.
There are also a great number if hiking and mountain biking trails throughout the park that will get you up close and personal with all the distinctive terrain and wilderness that makes Joshua Tree one of the most extraordinary places in the world. Some trails lead you to the tops of high-elevation peaks that overlook hundreds of miles of unbroken desert, gentle valleys and breathtaking mountain ranges. Others lead you through vast desert washes with views of towering cliff faces and mile upon mile of enormous, strangely twisted Joshua Trees.
With over 1 million visitors each year, it’s safe to say Joshua Tree is one of the most sought after destinations in the United States—and not just for rock climbers, but for adventurers, campers, hikers and nature-lovers of all kinds. But it’s almost universally agreed that the remarkable and utterly amazing cliff faces, boulder piles and rock formations are some of the region's most enchanting features, making Joshua Tree National Park a true rock climbers’ paradise.