Climb Like a Local: Joshua Tree

Categories: Climb Like a Local

Joshua Tree offers an almost overwhelming selection of 5-star granite—all in an out-of-this-world desert moonscape.

Rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree © Chris Burkard

Joshua Tree Atmosphere: Expect the locals to be reserved, yet friendly. Joshua Tree is a magical place, which is generally reflected in the mood of climbers. Keep in mind that a trad ethic prevails here—many of the early routes were put up by some of the original Stone Masters, and locals are protective of their traditional roots.

Avoid the Crowds at Joshua Tree: To have the place to yourself, you have to be willing to work for it. Bypass the ultra-popular Echo Rock, right next to Hidden Valley Campground, and hike 20 minutes down the road to the Comic Book Area, where you’ll find good quality rock and a few classics. The Hollywood and Oz areas are also worth checking out, but plan for a 30 to 45 minute approach.

Local Pet Peeve: Unnecessary bolting. Bring your trad rack and bouldering pads, but leave the bolting gun at home. The J-Tree ethic is to use natural pro wherever possible, and there’s an involved permitting process for legally replacing and adding new bolts. You should also review the park's list of Good Climbing Practices to understand its stance on cultural resources, mitigating climbing impacts, dogs, and more.

Joshua Tree Risks!: Camping is at a premium at J-Tree. If you want to camp at Hidden Valley (the climbers’ social hub), arrive by mid-week. The camping here is first-come, first-served and often fills by Thursday afternoon. If you’re arriving later than that, you’ll most likely end up camping on adjacent BLM land.

Plan Your Trip: Check out the park's website or recreation.gov for tips on campsites.

Who Has Your Back in Joshua Tree?: Friends of Joshua Tree represents climbers at J-Tree.

Joshua Tree Pro Tip: While the style of the climbing is old school, you’ve got to embrace the technical funk—it's demanding in a way that more modern styles of climbing aren't. And the thousands of Joshua Trees, stuck in their funny dance poses, are there to remind you not to take yourself too seriously. ~Ethan Pringle

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