Saddle Rocks is a rock formation in Joshua Tree National Park
Situated one half of a mile from a very popular climbing area known as Hall of Horrors, Saddle Rocks sits on the bottom of a hillside visible from many miles away. This very large formation, by Joshua Tree standards, has three distinct yet adjoining summits, Lower Summit, Middle Summit and Upper Summit; Thus it received the plural suffix as part of its name. Saddle Rocks, as far as I know, is the only formation in Joshua Tree with routes three pitches long. In fact, it's possible to climb the first three pitches on the lower summit to reach the base of the upper part where you can climb one more pitch to reach the very top of the Lower Summit. In that case, you have climbed four pitches to reach the top.
During the first two decades of technical climbing in Joshua Tree, route development on Saddle Rocks was quite limited. The tradition was that if you were looking for a long route with easy to moderate difficulty, you would head for Saddle Rocks and climb the most sought after route, Walk on The Wild Side. Or, if you wanted to be more challenged, you'd climb Harlequin. During that period, you were hard pressed to find a great variety of route options, especially on the middle and upper summits. However, with the explosion of popularity in rock climbing in the past twenty years, you now have many routes of all levels to choose from.
The most popular routes lie on the low angle lower summit of Saddle Rocks. A number of face routes have been done on this face, but the easiest route, Walk on The Wild Side remains the most sought after. The biggest problem on these face routes is shortage of protection. For example, the route just to the left of Walk on The Wild Side, Harlequin, rated 10c R, has long stretches of rock between bolts. This is totally understandable considering the ethics of the first ascent party that included Herb Laeger. They did the routes ground up and drilled for bolts from stances, when they could. This route is recommended for competent climbers solid on upper limits of 5.10 difficulty range. These routes are NOT sport climbs by any stretch of imagination.
If you are looking for easy to moderate crack routes, you will find two highly recommended ones located on the north end of the west face slab on the lower summit. These two crack systems are Orange Flake, rated 5.8 and Right On, rated 5.5. There are no easy walk off from the top of these two routes, but you will find anchor bolts to rappel off of to the base.
List of the select routes
Select Routes of Saddle Rocks, Lower Summit
|Orange Flake, 5.8+, Standard Rack
|Right On, 5.5, Standard Rack
|Harlequin, 10c, Standard Rack
|Walk on The Wild Side, 5.8, standard Rack
How to Get There
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 Quail Springs Road 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. Continue driving past Intersection rock to Ryan Campground clearly marked.
Hall of Horrors is a grouping of rock formations approximately one mile northwest of the Ryan Campground turn off on Park Boulevard. Use the same parking as for Saddle Rocks. There are ample parking, bathrooms and marked trails leading to different formations. Looking in the westerly direction from the parking lot you will see several rock formations. This area is known as Hall of Horrors. Looking in the direction of the east you will see a large formation about one half of a mile away. That is Saddle Rocks. There is a great trail leading to Saddle Rocks directly from the opposite side of the road from the parking lot.
Camping, Noise Considerations, 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.