Rock Hopping at Joshua Tree National Park

Hop Dates: October 8-10, 2016

I recently had the good fortune to spend parts of several days at Joshua Tree National Park. Without any firm destination in mind, or extensive hikes planned, I used my park hopper pass to hop around the park. An annual pass to JTree is a sound investment.

Even with the crowds that occur on a nice-weather-weekend, a little bit of driving on a dirt road or a few minutes hiking along any number of trails can take you to places where you'd think you had the entire park to yourself.

This post is about some of the rocks I saw during my visit. You might recognize some from previous posts or trips you've taken yourself. As with all my posts, if you see a picture that you'd like to download and use for wallpaper or a screensaver, or for anything else, please feel free to right click on download. A left click on any image will embiggen it. Without further ado and in no particular order: Rock Hopping in Joshua Tree.

I almost always stop and take a picture or two of Pinto Mountain when I'm in the Pinto Basin.

White Tank Campgound seems to have the most awesome rocks per mile as any spot in the park. The Arch Rock trail is maybe about a half-mile round-trip and everywhere you look is worth a photo. This is the famous Arch Rock. To me, it also looks like a goose laying down her head for a rest.

Also along the Arch Rock trail, this Creature is about to gobble up that silly photographer. Hmmm, that might free up a campsite.

There are a number of Whale or other giant fish rocks along the Arch Rock trail. This one is my favorite. However, it is not down on any map; true places never are.

The famous Cap Rock. Provides the opening scene for a new Ford commercial. There's a nice nature hike around this formation.

Beaver Boulder sits at the north end of the Cap Rock formation. And this funny Joshua Tree that seems to be saying, "What? Me worry?"

I spotted this Grumpy Granite Gus while on the Keys Ranch/Desert Queen Ranch Tour. If you haven't taken that tour yet and you get the chance, don't miss it. It's an amazing look at the life of an early pioneer settler, Bill Keys. Make a reservation at one of the Visitor Centers before entering the park.

Hang Loose

The iconic Headstone Rock at Ryan Ranch Campground. It's a lot higher than this shot makes it appear. There's almost always someone climbing this rock, it's one of the park favorites.

This is the rock formation that got me hooked on Joshua Tree. I've called this spot "Hole-in-the-Wall" since the first time I camped at JTree, here in Jumbo Rocks Campground. I must have been around 10 or 11 years old. Some friends and I would hike over to that hole and try our best to climb up into it. One of us eventually made it, the others had to go back to camp to get help and a rope to get him down. Not mentioning any names as to who needed to be rescued. Jumbo Rocks has always been my favorite campground in the park.

The Marble is located at the north end of the Hole-in-the-Wall formation. It's probably one of the most photographed rocks in the campground. There are routes to the top of this formation, but it's been years since I've stood on top.

Jimmy Durante Rock. I believe this rock said something to the effect of, "Be nice to the people you meet when you're climbing up rocks, because you're going to meet them again on the way down."

John's Thumb. Named after the intrepid 3D photographer, Murbachi. This interesting sculpture, and a good number of others, is located in Lost Horse Valley, just a short walk from the Hidden Valley Picnic area.

Porthole Rock. If you've ever been to the Arid Piles, you've probably seen this one. 

If you feel like taking a walk on the wild side, hike out to the base of Saddle Rock, one of the largest rocks in the park. The west face is over 400 feet high and is a favorite in the rock-climbing community. The formation gets its name from its resemblance to a saddle, with portions of the behemoth named appropriately enough after saddle parts: The Skirt, the Pommel, the Cantel and the Saddle Horn. Sometimes, driving by at night, you'll see lights on the face of this big guy. Climbers in the dark.

There are some pretty cool rocks over at the Live Oak picnic area. Towering above the Live Oak that gives the area its name, is the Pope's Hat. If you're hiking anywhere in this area, it's a great landmark to help you find your way back to your car if you've hiked astray, or mislaid your bearings or left your sense of direction at home. All kidding aside, knowing the shapes and locations of well-known rock landmarks in the park could save your life. 

Just a few of the rocks in Rattlesnake Canyon. Just one look at this picture explains why I've never hiked past this spot in Rattlesnake Canyon. Located near the Indian Cove campground, Rattlesnake Canyon is one of the most rugged and difficult hiking spots in JTree. Although those who are up for the task, who know what they're doing, can see some amazing sites and reach some interesting locations the farther up this canyon they hike. For me, I'll just enjoy this view.

Because I don't want to be the cause of any search and rescue operation for JOSAR, who sometimes train in this canyon.

There are a number of rocks like this in the area I was poking around in at Rattlesnake Canyon. I haven't seen anything like this anywhere else in the park. From one geology class many years ago, I believe this is an igneous rock that formed from cooling magma deep within the earth.

When magma cools, crystals form because the solution is super-saturated with respect to some minerals. The size of crystals in an igneous rock is an important indicator of the conditions where the rock formed. An igneous rock with large crystals probably indicates that the rock formed deep within the Earth, since it is typically warmer deep inside the Earth than near the surface. These are called intrusive rocks, and they have a phaneritic texture (from the Greek “phanerous” meaning visible).

I was right!

To wrap this post up, I thought I'd include this photo of the Joshua Tree forest in Lost Horse Valley. I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my favorite rocks in JTree. Stay tuned, there's still a lot of territory for me to wander in, to see what I can find.