Joshua Tree National Park is a very inspirational, spiritual, and a mecca for rocking climbing. I first became aware of Joshua Tree National Park shortly after U2 released their album called Joshua Tree in March of 1987. Every since then, I have wanted to visit the park and experience the beauty of the desert. Joshua Tree has been inspiring artists and musicians for hundreds of years.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was able to be part of the adventure and visit the park for a day and a half. What an unbelievable and wonderful place! I’m looking forward to returning to the park, spending more time and exploring it further.
The park is located in the southeastern area of California. Approximately a 30 min drive from downtown Palm Springs and about a two and a half hour drive from Los Angeles. Joshua Tree is the closest national park to Los Angeles.
The park is open year around, 24/7. The ideal times to visit the park are during the fall, winter, and spring time months. During the summer time the triple digits temperatures can become unbearable. Joshua Tree National Park was declared a US National Park in 1994 when the US Congress passed the California Desert Protection act. The park was previously a US National Monument since 1936.
The park covers 1,250 square miles (790,636 acres) of rugged desert that’s made up of the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert. The park contains many hiking trails and camping spots. One of the most popular hiking trails is to the summit of Ryan Mountain (5,457 feet). There are nine established campgrounds that exist in the park. Reservations can be made for a few of the campgrounds and the others are on a first come, first serve basis. Several of the sites have water and flush toilets. Backcountry camping is allowed with a few regulations.
The park’s ecosystem is very unique and contains a very diversified collection of vegetation and the park’s namesake tree.
The origin of the name of the park comes from the trees in the desert’s forests that are native to the park. The Yucca Brevifolia the plant species belonging to the Genus Yucca Tree and is also know by the following additional names; Yucca Palm, Tree Yucca, Palm Tree Yucca and of course Joshua Tree.
The name Joshua Tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded the Mormons of a biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Joshua Trees are very unique, beautiful and dominate the open spaces of the park. During the day, one can see lizards, ground squirrels and many types of birds throughout the park. During the night, snakes, kangaroo rats, jackrabbits, mule deer and bighorn sheep can been seen.
A great place to spot wildlife is at Barker Dam. Mule Deer and Bighorn Sheep can be seen at the dam seeking water. The dam is a short hike from the parking area near Hidden Valley.
Be careful! The promenade snake that can be found throughout the park is the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. One needs to watch their step while hiking through the park! In driving through the park during the wee hours ….. I couldn’t believe how clear the sky was and how many stars filled the sky. Joshua Tree is a very popular location for amateur astronomy and stargazing. Joshua Tree is a well known place for its dark skies. The area is largely free from southern California’s extreme light pollution. The park’s elevation, dry desert air, and stable atmosphere …………makes for excellent astronomical observing conditions. The most popular aspect of the park are the bare rock formations and loose boulders that dominant the landscape that were formed 100 million years ago. Rock climbers and scrambling enthusiasts migrate to the park to practice climbing and repelling from the formations and prominent outcroppings that are typically no more than 250 ft high that were created from the cooling of magma beneath the surface. These outcroppings are know as inselbergs or monadnocks and there are thousands of them. The large rectangular blocks and spherical formations have been created over the years through on going erosion. The rocks are all composed of quartz monzonite. Which is a very rough type of granite. Each of these outcrops, are easily accessible from the main road, parking lot or a short hike away. One can hit a number of these formations in a day and do a lot of awesome climbing! Many of these formations contain all kinds of established climbing routes with all levels of difficulty.
The Joshua Tree landscape is one of the most beautiful & peaceful places in the world. I’m looking forward to getting back out to Joshua Tree National Park for some more climbing in 2013!