Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 34.09382°N / 116.15454°W
Additional Information County: Riverside
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 3000 ft / 914 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Varnished Wall seen from the approach trail
Select Routes
Jumbo Rocks area
A New Day Begins

Varnished Wall is the name of a rock formation in the Indian Cove area of Joshua Tree National Park's, California.

Most of the formations in and around Indian Cove area are located behind or near a campsite. This fact has caused a number of inconveniences and resentments for both climbers and campers alike. The case with Varnished Wall is entirely different. This formation is located just outside of the campground boundaries. Varnished Wall is located behind Billboard Buttress and across from Pixie Rock. It has a grayish brown color, again different from most of the formations in the area. Varnished Wall is north facing and stays in the shade all day making it an ideal place for warmer climbing seasons.

In contrast to most Indian Cove campground formations that have sandy and flat bases, Varnished Wall has a base filled with large boulders making the approach to the climbs more interesting. On a busy climbing day, you may see a dozen people climbing on Pixie Rock a short distance away, but not a single soul on this wall. Suffice to say, if you want to climb on a formation without waiting for your turn, come to Varnished Wall.

Walking from the campground parking area toward the base, one feature of Varnished Wall will jump out at you. This is a perfectly straight-in crack up the middle of the smoothest part of the wall. This crack is the most popular route on the entire wall. It's called Crank Queenie, rated 5.8. No bolts here, bring your own standard rack. There are a few more moderate routes to the left of Crank Queenie such as "With Malice and Forethought, rated 5.7. This is a crack line slanting to the right located on the left side of the wall. Be careful with the three routes in the 10d and 11a range between these two easier routes.

To get to Varnished Wall:

Enterance station to Indian Cove
Eastern Entrance/Ranger Station
General activities map...

Indian Cove is located roughly nine miles north of the town of Joshua Tree on highway 62. The sign directing you to Indan Cove is obvious. Turn right, going south, here. If you go as far the town of 29 Palms, you have gone too far. It’s about three miles from here to Indian Cove Campground. Drive south on this road to a ranger station and the enterance to the park. You will be checked at the gate for your America The Beautiful card, or will be charged an enterance fee. Driving past the gate will bring you to the Indian Cove Campground. Pixie Rock is to your right just before entering the campground. Varnished Wall is a short distance across the road to the southeast of Pixie Rock.

List of Select Routes

select routes of Varnished Wall
AWith Malice And Forethought, 5.7, standard Rack
BMosaic, 5.8, standard Rack
CCrank Queenie, 5.8, Standard Rack

Camping, Noise considerations, Environmental concerns,

Joshua Tree landscape
Typical Joshua Tree landscape

Entrance station...

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.


Joshua Tree at dusk
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

Noise considerations

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.