Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in the world. More than 4,500 established routes offering a wide range of difficulty are concentrated within about 100,000 acres of park land. Over one million people visit Joshua Tree each year, many of them rock climbers. The National Park Service mission requires park managers to provide for the enjoyment of the park by today's visitor while conserving and protecting park resources for future generations. Dramatic increases in the number of visitors engaging in rock climbing contribute to an already difficult, sometimes contradictory, task. Park managers are concerned about trash, soil erosion, vegetation damage, human waste disposal, natural and cultural resource protection, and the quality of each visitor's experience.
Guided by the provisions of its Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan, the park is working with the climbing community to implement a comprehensive approach to climbing management. The park's goals are to restore to a natural condition those areas already impacted by climbing, to mitigate future impacts, and to prevent the cumulative impacts of climbing from increasing to unacceptable levels. A committee comprised of members of the climbing community, conservation organizations, and interested individuals is providing recommendations to the park on a variety of climbing-related issues.
Under the provisions of the Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan, climbers may replace existing unsafe bolts, and new bolts may be placed in non-wilderness areas through a monitored process. You may obtain a checklist of bolting guidelines for non-wilderness areas at entrance stations and visitor centers or download a copy in PDF format (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, available free from the Adobe website). You must obtain a special-use permit to use a power drill in non-wilderness. Bolting in wilderness is currently prohibited. A permit system is being developed for installing new bolts in wilderness with the goal of ensuring that the cumulative impacts of climbing in wilderness not exceed 1998 levels. Placing bolts in wilderness with power drills will not be allowed.
Whether a particular climb is in or out of wilderness is not always easy to determine. Click here for our current list of what is in and what is not, but remember that it could change as we are able to locate climbs with ever more accurate GPS coordinates.
It is prohibited to initiate or terminate a climb in an occupied campsite without prior permission of the occupant of that site.
The use of any substance, such as glue, epoxy, or cement, to reinforce hand or footholds is prohibited.
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Climbing within 50 feet of any rock-art site is prohibited.