Updated May 21, 2020
Exploring Joshua Tree Bouldering
Here is an overview of what you’ll learn in this article:
- Joshua Tree Camping
- I’m a new climber, what can I expect?
- What are the best bouldering areas in Joshua Tree?
- Barker Dam Boulder
- Roadside Rocks Bouldering
Let’s do this!
Introduction to Joshua Tree Climbing
Joshua tree is most definitely known as one of the most epic climbing places in the world. Not only does it have well over 8000 climbing routes and 2000 boulder problems, but the environment is like no other. With stunning views, low key vibes, and climbing for days, you can’t go wrong with J-Tree.
You can get a plethora of sport climbing, multi-pitch climbing, along with tons of trad. But in this article, we are going to explore all things bouldering! Newby climbs, intermediate, along with uber advanced. Let’s check it out!
Camping in J-Tree? What’s the deal?
As you may or may not know, Joshua Tree National Park camping is only allowed in designated camp areas. Meaning, you can’t just post up in the desert anywhere, or near climbing spots. You have to go to the campsites, and if you don’t already know… GET THERE EARLY! Or get a person from your climb crew to go as early as possible on Friday’s, because those sites fill up fast, and you will be out of luck.
Keep in mind too, that if you are going around a holiday, don’t. Just don’t. Go somewhere else. Joshua Tree is not only an epic climbing place, but it is also a cool kid spot. People like to throw parties out at the campsites around holidays. I specifically was there for Halloween one year, and I didn’t sleep the entire time because it was so loud from drunk kids. It ruined the overall vibes, and in the end, wasn’t worth it. Lack of sleep does not provide very good climbing skills.
The most common campsite in Joshua Tree is Hidden Valley Campground. There are tons of climbs walking distance from this campsite, which makes it a favorite amongst climbers. This, however, is the site I warned you about, and it can get very touristy. The other favorable campground is Ryan Campground. It’s much less touristy, and can pretty much guarantee quiet nights. You just are more centrally located, and not quite as close to the climbing spots. If you’re taking a quick trip, Indian Cove near Twentynine Palms is good for the nearby climbing.
I’m a new climber, what can I expect?
I’m going to be brutally honest. Climbing in Joshua Tree is hard. Really hard. So expect to experience some extreme learning curves and not a ton of success. To put it in perspective for bouldering, you may climb V3’s fine in the gym, but might not even be able to tackle a V0 in J-tree. I went to Joshua Tree in my first year of climbing, and I had a great time, but only because I enjoyed the sites so much. My hands got shredded and most routes were simply too difficult for my level. It was a great learning experience though!
What are the best bouldering areas?
Though I’m not sure what we would consider the “best” bouldering, as each person has their own opinion, we definitely have some of our own opinions, which we will share. Some are from my own experience, and some are by word of mouth. So check out some of my favorite climbs that can appeal to a wide range of climbers!
Barker Dam Bouldering
By far, one of the most favorite and famous areas in J-tree for bouldering. This area is home to the famous Gunsmoke Traverse. The traverse area is a fantastic option for newer climbers. Not only because the traverse is great practice for newbies, but there are lots of other more extreme climbs that more experienced climbers can also partake in. Let’s break down the area a bit more, and highlight some great options.
- Gunsmoke Wall – There are 4 climbs here (Corner Problem V0, High Noon V5, Shanghai Noon V6, and Gunsmoke V3). You will find this long wall facing south and west. The Gunsmoke traverse is famous here and traverses the entire length of the wall. I personally loved this route as a new climber. You can easily hop on and off, without fear of falling, which allows for technical practice. SUCH a great spot!
- Chube Boulder – 1 climb here (The Chube V2). This large chunky boulder has a solo problem on the west-facing side. The Chube takes a right-slanting crack to a high rounded topout. Descend here by downclimbing on the backside. You’ll find this route by walking 50 meters northwest from Gunsmoke towards larger boulders.
- Streetcar Boulder – There are 2 climbs here (Streetcar named Desire V6-7, Birdman V3). Head towards Gunsmoke and this boulder will be the first large boulder you come across on your right after the valley opens up. Streetcar route is on the North face, which you cannot see during your approach.
- Piano Rock – There are 3 climbs here (Balance Problem V2, Piano Crack V-easy, Retrofit V0). This is a great area for new climbers. Look for a large flat boulder that sits out in the valley, to the west of Gunsmoke.
Roadside Rocks Bouldering
This is a great (large) area that has lots of climbing options with fairly easy approaches (hence the name – ha). To be more specific, you can find about 17 different problems to choose from. You can locate this area from the intersection of the Real Hidden Valley Road and the Lost Horse Road South. Here is a highlight of some of our favorite climbs (from easy to hard) in this area. Let’s check it out!
- A super fun V-easy! It is one of those really fun overhung climbs, that has lots of great jugs. Most climbers complain this route is too short. But what do you expect with a v-easy?! You’ll find this boulder just west of the Main Roadside rocks turnout. If you look for a pinyon pine, you’ll find this route right below it.
- Another v-easy for our newbies! Find this awesome crack climb along the right side of the “False Up 20” route (coming up).
False Up 20
- Working our way up the difficulty ladder, we have found our first V0-. Get ready for a high-ball route, for a newer climber or not. This is right around (south of) the famous JBMFP Boulder (which is the BIGGEST boulder in the area). You’ll find yourself soaring through the first half of the route up a lieback flake on the North face, but trouble comes on the second half, which is the crux of the climb.
- This V3 is another pretty rad climb that you can find to the left of the JBMFP route (don’t worry we will tell you about this soon!) True Grit is one of those epic routes that has it all. In general, it is an arete route, that has epic sloper holds, balance moves, and an ending crux problem where you have a long reach to finish out. Sorry if you’re shorter (like me) because tall people have the advantage on this one.
- This 16ft V5 is known to be painful, technical, and amazing! A “face” climb most definitely, near the False Up 20 boulder. The problem goes straight up the middle of a very large boulder, which faces North across from another climb called Double Cross.
Wait, is that it?
To be clear, there are thousands of different routes in Joshua Tree. So though we have barely scratched the surface, these are our favorites for a wide range of levels of climbing. Check back later for another round of Joshua Tree bouldering!
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