Split Rock Parking area. There is a bathroom fifty feet to the south of the parking area.
Isles In The Sky is a rock formation in the Pinto Basin area of Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Protecting native plants
With a name like “Isles In The Sky,” it’s easy to imagine that you are in for a treat, and you really are. This beautiful formation is out of the way and sight of casual spectators. In fact, your group may very well be the only one on the rock here. It’s situated behind another formation by the name "Grand Canyon.” It is a mile away from any paved or dirt roads or parking lots. When you look at Isles In The Sky from a distance, it seem to soar into the sky. To top it all, you need to climb a third class slab just to get to the base of the climbs.
How to get to Isles In The Sky:
From the western entrance to Joshua Tree National Park drive on Park Boulevard, formerly known as Quail Springs Road, for about nine miles to a major rock formation called Intersection Rock
. Intersection Rock is a major landmark on the north side of Park Boulevard with ample parking for visitors and climbers alike. This rock, true to its name, sit at the cross roads to “Hidden Valley Campground”, Barker Dam Road and the road to “Day use and picnic” area. From Intersection Rock drive another 9.6 miles on Park Boulevard to it’s intersection with Split Rocks Road. Turn left and drive to the end of the road. This is a “Day Use Area” and it’s open from dawn to dusk. This is the parking where you begin your approach to several famous formations such as Future Games Wall
, Split Domes
and Frigid Tower
. These formations are located to the east of the parking lot. If you look in the direction of southwest you will see a long formation about half a mile away. This is Grand Canyon Rock
’s east face. Isles In The Sky is directly behind Grand Canyon Rock and its tip is just barely visible from the parking lot. Trailhead is obvious and there are more trail markers along the way pointing you to different formations such as Rubicon
Grand Canon formation
After you pass the Rubicon Rock
to your left and come around the corner, you catch an unobstructed view of the northeast face of Isles In The Sky. It’s a good idea to forget about climbing for a few minutes and stop to take in the beauty and majesty of Isles In The Sky.
The approach to the base is obvious and is done from the right side. After climbing over a few boulders, you come to a third class slab with a fixed rope. This single line is mostly for getting down the slab. Being an old timer at climbing, I would not trust any rope on any rock, unless I put it there. Scramble to base of the upper wall; that’s where the real business is.
Select routes of Isles In The Sky
Fixed rope, mostly to assist descent. I would use my own rope and run the risk of having it get caught in the crack than to use a suspect rope.
There are a number of routes worthwhile on Isles In The Sky, but none as famous or popular as Bird of Fire
rated 10a. This incredible route takes you up one of the best 10a cracks in all of Joshua Tree. Bird of Fire is the straight up crack in the middle of the biggest block on the upper face. The climb takes you past face moves to gain the main crack. Plug in as many small and medium pieces as you feel comfortable with. The first part of the crack is less than vertical and it goes as 5.8/5.9. Then it gets more serious when the crack becomes, well, let say at least vertical, with no footholds to rest on. Plug in at least two or three good pieces of protection before reaching the top. The crack becomes too wide for your fists about four or five feet from the top. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself flying through the air.
A personal Note
: I took a fall right near the top of Bird of Fire where the crack gets wide. A Yellow Alien I had placed ten feet bellow held the fall beautifully. When I told a friend who is a 5.13 climber about my fall, he confessed that he had taken a fall right there too. Needless to say that I felt a lot better about my own fall.
There are some easier climbs, as well as much harder ones on Isles In The Sky. For example, you can enjoy another crack to the left of Bird of Fire, called “Dolphin
” rated 5.7. There are also some hard face climbs on either side of Bird of Fire. They are in the 5.11 range and I don't know much more about them. If you have done these climbs, feel free to write a supplement and attach it to this page.
walk left to an anchor and a short rappel will take you to the base of the upper face and your pack.
List of the select climbs
Select Routes of Isles In The Sky
|A||Nectar, 5.4, crack|
|B||dead Bees, 5.9, runout|
|C||Dolphin, 5.7, crack|
|D||Bird of Fire, 10a, standard Rack, lots of small to medium|
|E||Rites of Spring, 5.9, crack|
Camping and environmental concerns
Typical Joshua Tree landscape
Please tread lightly. The Access Fund has gone to great lengths posting trail marker for approaches to many of the more popular crags. Do your best to stay on these trails, and where you are forced to use a different path, choose the ones that rain can mend in time. Drainages make for good trails where there are no established trails.
Avoid stepping on native and fragile plants, and do not feed the coyotes. Coyotes are very much used to people and often hang around picnic areas and camp grounds in hopes of getting a hand out. It’s better to let them live their natural life.
There are nine campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. At the entrance to the park you are always asked if you would care to have a map and a brochure. The brochure will have plenty of information on the campgrounds and the map will guide you to many of the pleasant hikes throughout the park. You may even get the latest information as to availability of campsites. During the peak season (mid winter through spring) finding a campsite may become a major task. It is highly recommended to use the following link to get more information in advance.
Joshua Tree Camping
When you are camping with friends and sitting around the fire, it is easy to forget that there are other people trying to sleep in the nearby campsites. It is important to put yourself in their shoes. Keep the noise and music to a minimum and certainly not too much past 10 p.m. Your neighbors will smile at you in the morning instead of giving you dirty looks.
Fees and Food
My wife and I have had Thai food in many different restaurants and cities. This Thai place beats them all. In November when the number of visitors to Joshua Tree reaches its peak, this restaurant puts on a Thai buffet, all you can eat for 10.95$/person. But, you must get there early, or be prepared to wait by the door for a table. The latest information indicates that the buffet style will be terminated by the end of February and will resume in November of 2010.