This is a guest post – by Paweł.
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the famous national parks in California. It’s also a world-renowned climbing playground. In February 2018 we went there on a weekend trip to see the joshua trees on the Mojave desert. We seized the opportunity and did some bouldering as well. This post will give you the basic information about organising a trip to this scenic place.
It’s a 2.5h drive from Los Angeles. There is a paved road all the way down to every climbing area, so a normal compact car will do the job. You will need another 30 minutes to get from the town to the Hidden Valley campground. The west entrance gate might be busy on Saturdays, so we were advised to enter through the north gate.
Joshua Tree offers finest quality granite. I think it was one of the sharpest rocks I’ve ever seen. It’s this kind of stone that ruins your hands in a few days. It boasts super interesting features – crimps, edges, slopers, cracks (any size from finger tip to whole body), finger pockets, knobs and more. It’s comparable to the Chamonix granite or the one you can find in Lofoten, Norway. In terms of shapes it’s somehow like the Fontainebleau sandstone.
In JTNP you can do both rope climbing and bouldering. Routes for rope climbing mainly follow cracks, so a typical European climber might have hard time here. On the other hand it’s THE place to finally learn climbing cracks the American way. The rocks are up to 100m high, while most of them reach 50m. None of the routes is protected with bolts, so you need to bring your complete rack of equipment, with many friends doubled. We didn’t climb with rope, so I can’t say much more on this topic.
Bouldering is here as popular as rope climbing. There are thousands of boulders scattered across the whole area, but most of them are unexplored. We climbed in three sectors: JBMFP, Roadside boulders and Jimmy cliffs. While the first one had mostly high and scary boulders, the other two were very nice with problems ranging from 5.9 to V5.
There is plenty of campgrounds in the national park. Some of them have first-come first-serve regime, while the others can be booked in advance. To our surprise, after our arrival on a Saturday morning to the park we were informed by a ranger that all the campgrounds were full. How do they know that a first-come first-serve camping is full? We don’t know. Anyway, it would be smart to book a place in advance when coming on a weekend in high season (from October to April).
Since we didn’t want to sleep outside of the park, we had to find a solution. We went to the Hidden Valley Campground and looked for vacancies. This is a really nice camping placed between gigantic boulders, where everyone gets their privacy. There is a limit of 2 cars, 3 tents and 6 people per spot. We found a place with just one car and asked the guys there to park our car next to theirs and to put our tent behind a boulder. They had no objections to that.
Only on the next day we learnt that every tenant is supposed to display a ticket with her registration plate and number of people. Anyway, I think if you camp like us for one night, you are on the safe side.
We rented a bouldering pad and a guide book at Joshua Tree Outfitters. The rental fee is 15$/day for a large pad and something like 2$ for the book. The shop closes at 5pm, but even if you finish your climbing day later, you can put back the rented gear in a cache.
The last supermarket (Walmart Supercenter) we saw on our way from LA to JTNP was in Yucca Valley, 10 minutes before arriving to the Joshua Tree town (marked on the map below). Btw. it might be the largest shop I’ve ever seen. There is a small liquor shop in JT, so you can get there your stock of IPAs. There are no shops in the national park.
There are two coffee houses in Joshua Tree. When we came there on a Sunday morning, both of them were super busy and we had to wait for at least 30 minutes. We had a breakfast at the Crossroads Cafe and it was delicious. You won’t find any café in the national park.