Top Ten National Parks for Rock Climbing

Joshua Tree National Park, Cailfornia

The early Mormon settlers who came to the Mojave Desert were reminded of the prophet Joshua by the strange yucca that grows there. This "bearded" plant with arms raised heavenward was christened the Joshua tree. The Mormons believed that, like its namesake, the Joshua tree would point the way to the Promised Land.

Ask any local climber and he or she will tell you that the Mormons did indeed stumble upon paradise. This place is climbing heaven. The more devout followers of the rock religion pay homage at places like Jumbo Rocks, where cathedral-like boulders command reverence and—like much of the rock here—are quite fun to climb.

There was a time when Joshua Tree was considered a practice area for the big walls of Yosemite. Though it is still a great training ground, J-Tree has long since come into its own as a premier destination on the rock circuit. Late fall and early spring climbs are a rite of passage for climbers worldwide, and the warm desert climate, spectacular scenery, and quality granite make it especially popular in the winter.

The rock at Joshua Tree is a variety of granite known as quartz monzonite. It varies in quality but is generally solid. Quartz monzonite can be very abrasive and it may take a while for newcomers to the area to develop calluses. Whether you prefer crack, face, or friction climbing, there are literally thousands of wonderful routes available to toughen you up.

Areas like Hidden Valley and Hemingway Buttress are quite popular for both climbers and spectators.Echo Rock, an area that provides a wide array of great climbs for all abilities, is a wonderful place for the more experienced to bring newbies.


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