Go Climb a Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

14 years
9 years
7 years
2013-02-25 to 2013-03-01

Rock climbing is not a sport most people associate with children, but have you ever met a kid who did not enjoy scrambling to the top of a boulder or cliff to take in the view or simply feel great about being up so high?  Joshua Tree National Park in southern California is a fantastic place for your kids to get a real desert high.

one of the best rocks for climbersJoshua Tree Climbing School is located just outside the park.  When we called for information the owner set us up with Steve who turned out to be an amazing guide (and a record holder for ascents on El Capitan in Yosemite). Steve was patient and wonderful with our kids, gently coaching them to the top of walls and even climbing right up beside them when they needed more than just a voice coming from ground level.  

A classic Joshua TreeJoshua Tree is something of a climber's Mecca in the southwest and there are dozens of walls and formations and routes to choose from. Steve gave us options and educated opninons but let us decide how much of a challenge we wanted.  He also taught my son and I how to belay another climber so that more than one of us could be off the ground at one time.  Meanwhile, on the desert floor there is so much to wonder at, hop on, or photograph in the form of smaller rocks, lizards, beetles and cacti that no one was ever bored.  

After spending most of the day climbing the traditional top-rope routes, Steve made our kids an offer the could not turn down:  a scramble rhough a hidden tunnel in a huge rock pile.  No ropes, no harnesses, only our hands and legs and his coming down from a 100 foot routeguidance for how to get to the top.   Inside the rocks it was so dark we needed headlamps.  Steve told us how climbers come here on full moon nights and challenge each other to make the summit without using lamps, only their own memories of where to step.  We were happy to have the lamps and we did need ropes for one short vertical pitch where most of us could not reach the hand holds.  We made the top and were rewarded with a terrific view of the surrounding desert. There were fist bumps, high fives, and photos snapped as we basked in the late afternoon sun and the glow of our day's accomplishment.  

Even if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, Joshua Tree National Park is worth the drive from Los Angeles or San Diego.  It is a desert landscape unlike any other, a sort of natural playground for families. With the feel of a living Dr. Seuss illustration and a new jungle gym of rocks around every corner, this is a place kids will love visiting and even returning to in the future.  

A classic Joshua Tree
one of the best rocks for climbers
a family portrait on a natural bridge
coming down from a 100 foot route
our daughter, working her way up the wall
family portrait after conquering the boulder maze
coming back down
late afternoon landscape
sunset silhouette
Article Type: 
In-Person Impressions


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