On the Rocks - Quail Springs Area

Trek Date: January 2, 2015

My first visit to Joshua Tree National Park must have been in the late '60s, (that's 1960s, not 1860s). Friends of my parents took me camping and we stayed at Jumbo Rocks campground. I think what fascinated me about the Monument then and which still does in the Park today, is the same thing which drew in over 1.6 million visitors to the park last year. The Rocks. Put simply, the rocks rock.

J Tree encompasses nearly 800,000 acres. The average rock count per acre is 7.45 million to one. Ok, that may be a wild guess on my part, but there are a LOT of rocks in the park. Big ones. Small ones. In between ones. There are rocks on top of rocks, rocks squeezed in between rocks, rocks embedded in other rocks, rocks with holes in them, rocks with gold in them, rocks where no rocks should be, rocks that look like animals, rocks that make noise, rocks that draw blood, balancing rocks, hidden rocks, geometrical rocks, sublime and mystical rocks and of course, rock climber's rocks.

If you've driven through J Tree, you've probably noticed parking areas throughout the park with odd names -- Hemingway, Hall of Horrors, Oyster Bar -- and perhaps wondered why they are so-called. The names refer to well-known climbing rocks located nearby. Rock climbers have bestowed names on thousands and thousands of rocks in the park. Some of the names make sense, but most seem strangely random to me. It may be a climber thing. But the names are interesting, funny and ofttimes mystifying. And once you start to learn some of the names, locations and shapes of major formations in the park, they become excellent landmarks and reference points useful while hiking and exploring off the beaten path.

I spent the better part of two days wandering through several rock climbing areas with the intrepid 3D photographer and quartz monzonite expert Murbachi as my rockguide. I took a lot of pictures and got to know many of the rocks on a first-name basis. Most were quite friendly. A couple days prior to our visit, the park had received several inches of snow and there was still quite a bit of the frosty white stuff scattered about to add some pizzazz to the photos. 

There are over thirty named "areas" of rock climbing locations in J Tree listed on mountainproject.com and over the next few years I'm going to try to visit most of them and post some pictures of a few of the rocks in each area that grab my attention. By no means will this be a comprehensive study of every named rock and climbing route in a given area, but rather just a general glimpse of what I saw while hiking through the area.

The Quail Springs area is pictured in the map at the top of this post, it shows the general areas of where the following photos were taken.

#1. The Negropolis Hillside contains two main climbing areas, the Negropolis and Pet Cemetery. Each major rock formation will usually have several different routes to the top and each one has a name. A few of the routes located here are: Girls in the Mist, Dance on Fire, Skeleton Crew and Bone Merchant.

#2. Vagmarken Hill is a large, rocky hill with routes on all sides. Intimidator Rocks are located on the left side of the hill, with James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party located towards the right side. In between the two is Vagmarken Buttress. 

#3. AFPA. Now what in the world could that acronym stand for? Across From Parking Area. The parking area referred to is the Quail Springs picnic area parking lot. I liked all the patches of snow splotching the desert floor in this picture. There are quite a few routes to the top of AFPA, some of my favorites being: Zsa Zsa Goes to Jail, Spaghetti Sauce Sunset and Andromeda Strain.

#4. Quail Springs Day Use Area. There are several large climbing rocks located at this spot. The one pictured above is Trashcan Rock. This is a very popular spot with both beginner climbers, more advanced and regular folks who like to picnic here. It's a great spot to park and then head out into the desert to explore.

A climber making her way to the top.

Now you have seen Erotic Dome. The route to the top is called Erotic City.

#5. Hound Rocks is a little walk from the Quail Springs Day Use Area. It consists of two main climbing rocks, Hound Rock and Baskerville Rock. This is also the location of the "Valley of Trash," a collection of desert gold left by whoever used to live out in these rocks way back when. There's evidence of a shelter area, along with old bolts (not rock climbing bolts) drilled into the rock, possibly as support anchors for a shelter of some kind. I spotted quite a few rusty old cans.

Baskerville Rock, with the classic route being Right Baskerville Crack.

Hound Rock is well-known for its crack climbs. A couple of those are Direct Wrench and Over the Hill.

The areas to both sides of the Hound rocks is surprisingly  beautiful. There are a number of small canyons with tall Pinyon Pines, other desert greenery and interesting shaped rocks. With the evidence of there being a camp of some sort located here in the past, this is definitely a spot I plan to revisit, to see what else I can find. After all, the Johnny Lang Mine isn't too far away from this spot. The following images were all taken in this area.


Looking a bit into the sun at the White Cliffs of Dover.

The snow definitely made the day much more interesting and the pictures that much more photogenic. Left click on any of the images to see them at a larger size, right click to save any you like. As with all of my images I post on this site, please feel free to use any of them you wish for your own projects, free of charge. Credit back to Cali49.com would be nice, but it's not required. It's fun to share. And be sure to visit Murbachi's site to see some of these same places in stunning 3D.