Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


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"Joshua Tree welcomes climbers, boulderers, and high-liners from around the   
world. This high desert monzo-granite climbing mecca is famous for its
traditional style crack, slab, and steep-face climbing.
Joshua Tree offers challenges for all ability levels with more than
8,000 climbing routes, 2,000 boulder problems, and hundreds of natural gaps
to choose from. It is truly a world-class climbing destination."
~ Joshua Tree NP webpage re: rock climbing

After completing the hike to the summit of Mt. Ryan and back this morning, I drove a short distance west on the main park road to the parking area for the Hall of Horrors.

Oddly, the spring park guide doesn't even mention this area or the other technical climbing areas within the park, and I never saw the webpage above re: climbing on the park's website until after I got back to the RV park today. I also found an informative MountainProject.com webpage that has detailed information about the Hall of Horrors.

The only reason I knew about this area was seeing it from the Mt. Ryan Trail. It's visible from the whole lower half of the trail on the western flank of the mountain:


I could see the parking area and paths around the long rock formation and they piqued my curiosity:

I wonder what those rocks look like up close?

There is such a difference in perspective from seeing them from above and at a distance . . . and walking around their bases, feeling dwarfed by their height. Here are two examples of climbers to show the scale of the main rock formation. In these small photos it's hard to see the climbers so I used arrows to mark them:


I parked and started reading the trail signs and interpretive panels at the Hall of Horrors parking area. Even though I had no interest in climbing the boulders myself, I had an interest in seeing if anyone was doing any technical climbing. They were!

I had an easy walk around the main rock formations and got to see several climbers going up the steep rock faces. It's about a mile around the two longest formations, more if you circle a couple other smaller ones. Elevation is about 4,300 feet.

Lots of side trails go to the base of the various technical routes for climbing but it's easy to find your way around all of the formations on relatively flat, established trails. Signs encourage visitors to utilize the existing access paths so plants aren't damaged:

I took 87 photos of rocks, plants, and climbers in that one-mile walk! There were lots of wildflowers and yuccas in bloom, which added to the total.

Even though it was about 10:30 AM when I got to the Hall of Horrors there weren't very many people around. I assume that's because this isn't listed with hiking trails in the guide people receive when they enter the park.


According to the Mountain Project webpage cited above, this popular rock climbing area gets its name because the rocks are lined up in parallel fashion forming a series of "halls" between them.

Some are wide enough for people to shimmy through with four-point climbing like I had to do in Maine on the Appalachian Trail in boulder-filled Mahoosuc Notch.

The Mountain Project site describes various types of climbing opportunities within this rock formation and lists 106 different climbs. Signs at the park point climbers to a few of the different climbs and give their difficulty rating but I think folks have to get most of their information about the specific locations online.

Some of the names to give climbers bragging rights are "The Exorcist," "The Real Hall of Horrors" (it's a long, narrow bouldering gap between tall rock faces), "Jaws," "Jane's Addiction," "Hemroidic Terror," "Three Bolts to Divorce," "Wacko Wall," "Nerd's Rump," and "Diamond Dogs."

Following are some of the photos I took while walking a mile around the one very long rock formation and two smaller ones nearby.

I wasn't able to get the entire expanse of the large formation in one shot from the ground, only from up on the Mt. Ryan Trail half a mile or more away (see first two photos at beginning of this entry).







Above and below:  There are people below each red dot.

Even the "smaller" formations offer several climbing/bouldering routes and interesting pictures:






Mt. Ryan is in the distance.

Some people may think these rocks all look alike after a while, but I'm still fascinated by their varying shapes, colors, and arrangements.


There were a lot of different wildflowers blooming here on this date and the largest concentration of  Joshua tree blooms of anywhere I hiked or drove in the park this week.

Here are just a few wildflowers that are new to me:

White Daisy Tidytips, easily identifiable online by its ray florets and hairy stems/foliage

Yellow Tack-Stem, another delicate-looking flower that must be very hardy to live here

Wallace's Wooly Daisy

Above and below:  Here's an example of just one Joshua tree that's loaded with flowers;
I count 16 clusters in this photo and there are probably a few more on the other side.


A Joshua tree flower cluster close up

Several prickly pear cacti had tight reddish-pink flower buds that weren't open yet but will be soon. I got pictures of open cactus blooms on other park trails that I'll show in subsequent entries.

Earlier in the morning, along the nearby Mt. Ryan Trail, I saw lots of lizards but they all scurried into hiding before I could take their picture. This one was happily sunning on a rock in the Hall of Horrors area and stayed still while I got this shot:

He or she is very well camouflaged.

Next entryhike #3 for this morning on a nearby flat, short nature trail at Cap Rock -- and a strange tale about a young rock star's unusual funeral nearby

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil