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Joshua Tree and the Wonderland of Rocks

wonderland of rocks joshua tree national park
The Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park

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After the gnarled Joshua Trees that give the park its name, nothing defines Joshua Tree National Park more than the weird piles of boulders stacked across the desert. Of all the destinations within the park, perhaps none encompasses this cool feature better than the Wonderland of Rocks: a stunning maze of craggy boulders begging to be climbed.  Even if you're not an expert, and don't own any of the right equipment, this is still a fantastic place to do some freeform climbing without feeling like you are taking your life in your hands.

Located between the west entrance of the park near Twenty-Nine Palms and the ranger station off Indian Cove Road, the Wonderland of Rocks is one of the most convenient backpacking destinations within the park; it's no more than a 2.5 hour trip from almost any part of Los Angeles. Starting from the west entrance, visitors can drive several miles into Joshua Tree and park at the lot located at the head of the Boy Scout Trail.  This trail skirts around the edge of the Wonderland of Rocks before cutting through the tangled mess of boulders, and coming out at Indian Cove. The ease of hiking on a marked trail combined with the proximity to so many awesome climbing opportunities makes the Boy Scout Trail an ideal backpacking location, especially for quick two or three day trips.

In terms of length, the Boy Scout Trail could probably be hiked at a quick pace from one end to the other in a day.  That being said, this area lends itself to lots of off-trail exploring. The boulders here are the perfect size for climbing - think a jungle gym for adults. Furthermore, the views from the tops of these mini mountains will take your breath away. As a result, the Wonderland of Rocks is a terrific place to ditch the pack for the majority of the day (just remember where you stash your stuff since all those rocks eventually start to look the same).

For more info: visit the article on desert backpacking in Southern California for more ideas on winter backpacking trips in the area

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