Contemplating the cruxy corner Right side left side
Gunsmoke is the name of a climbing and bouldering area in the Barker Dam
area of Joshua Tree National Park
I am not sure how Gunsmoke area received its name, but if you are as old as I am, it's likely that you are familiar with the TV series Gunsmoke. It's reasonable to assume that the area may have been used for some of the episodes. Another possibility is that the name was invented by climbers for a place where you can smoke your guns/arms. Gunsmoke is a large open area surrounded by short and convoluted rock formations. The area is not particularly known for its rock climbing potential, but it's very famous for its bouldering, the most famous of which is the Gunsmoke Traverse.
Gunsmoke Traverse is slightly overhanging with varying sizes of handholds and footholds. Your feet are never more than a few feet from the ground unless you decide to climb higher on the two extreme ends. The landing is, for the most part, on sandy flat surface. There are a few places where the small boulders are close to the base making the jump-downs precarious and may be even dangerous. The crux of the traverse is different for different climbers and it depends on the reach and ability. There are no particular rules about which direction you begin or end the traverse. If you are in real good shape, you may try to do a lap or two without jumping down, but that's very rare. During the afternoon hours when climbers are tired from a day of climbing on bigger rocks, Gunsmoke becomes a place to squeeze the last bit of energy out of their arms and fingers. In addition to the traverse, there are a few boulders nearby offering more potential for bouldering.
Loop Trail Map Climbers access trail
The approach to Gunsmoke is short and pleasant. The trail starts at the same trailhead as trailhead to Barker Dam, a very famous point of interest for tourists and climbers alike. There is ample parking and bathroom facilities at this trailhead. The first few hundred yards the two trails are together. Go left at the first fork on the trail where there is a sign reading " Water In The Desert." This sign also shows the map of an easy loop hike that you can do should you decide to visit Barker Dam and Gunsmoke area together. Shortly after taking the left fork you will see a sign reading "Climbers Access to Gunsmoke Area." After climbing up some stone steps and a short hike through a sandy area you will see an open area known as Gunsmoke. Leave the loop trail and follow a much narrower climbers trail forking off to the right. Keep the rocks to your right and within five minutes you should be at the "Traverse" hidden behind trees and bushes.