The climbing here is short, funky, and scary. After spending more than a month here during the winter of 2017, I still cannot decide if I enjoyed the climbing or not. Ok that’s not entirely true, but It’s sort of hard to explain, and you’ll understand when you get here.
With that said, you can’t beat the surreal landscape and the quantity of classic climbs all within walking distance or a short drive from the campground.
Try to arrive on a day that is not Friday, or there is a solid chance you will not find a camp site. Jtree gets mobbed on the weekends.
A double rack and a 60 will do you good here, the climbs are pretty short and the cracks are variable, taking all sorts of different gear. Tape gloves are key as the granite is very rough and will tear up your skin within the first day.
I really don’t boulder much if at all, but really enjoyed it in Jtree. Problems like Gunsmoke, Stem Gem, and Pigpen are just pure fun. The days I spent fooling around with friends bouldering might have been more fun than rope climbing. A big reason might be that it felt much safer haha. EBGBs scared the EBGBs out of me. Even easier climbs like Heart and Sole and Clean and Jerk, with their hard unprotect-able starts, really made you focus and acknowledge the danger. Maybe that’s just the essence of Jtree, and I’m a big baby.
- Gunsmoke V3
- Stem Gem V4
- Illusion Dweller 5.10b
- Rubicon 5.10c
- EBGBs 5.10d
- Coarse and Buggy 5.11a/b
- More Monkey than Funky 5.11b/c
- Wangerbanger 5.11c
Fall, Winter, Spring.
Joshua Tree is known as a winter climbing destination, but don’t think it’s going to be like Tonsai. Sure, if you’re lucky you’ll get some days that are in the 60s, but once that sun dips below the horizon, the temps drop quickly. I remember many nights crawling into the van at like 8pm because it was just too damn cold and windy.
Hidden Valley Campground is the only reasonable option. Driving in and out of the park every day would take 30-40 minutes each way. Considering the sites are $15 and you can split it with 4-5 other people, it is a pretty good option. The bathrooms are always clean, but there is no water. Make sure you bring plenty with you.
The west entrance station has a spigot, as does the Oasis Visitor Center. Coyote Corner, located in town, also has a spigot. See map for location details.
Pie for the People has some killer pizza. If you’re looking to cook at your campsite, my favorite grocery store was Von’s by Yucca Valley.
Be wary of keeping food out in the open in your vehicles. I stayed in Jtree for a month in December and constantly battled mice breaking into my van while I slept. What finally kept them at bay was keeping my food and cookware in containers with lids, as well as 4 mice traps scattered around the van. Having mice crawling around your head at 3am and then finally hearing a loud SNAP brings a wave of relief, immediately followed by regret, as you stare into their cold, cute, dead eyes, before throwing them outside the van for the coyotes to snack on.
Coyote Corner has showers for $5. It is timed, so no lollygagging.
If it’s the week before Christmas, all your friends have left, the highs are in the 40s, and your hands are covered in scabs, you can take a couple days off and check out Death Valley National Park, just a four hour drive away.
By James Huang