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Trashcan Rock: Best Roadside Top-Rope Cliffs at Joshua Tree

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Trashcan Rock: Joshua Tree's Most Popular Cliff
Brian Shelton with Front Range Climbing Company belays Cindy McCaffrey on Trashcan Rock.

The West Face of Trashcan Rocks offers lots of fun top-rope routes like "Profundity."

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Trashcan Rock at Quail Springs Picnic Area is one of the best top-rope cliffs at Joshua Tree National Park. Besides having a good assortment of both crack and face climbing routes, the 50- to 60-foot-high granite cliff is quickly accessed from parking areas almost next to the cliff.

One of JTree's Most Popular Cliffs

A large number of easy and moderate top-rope climbing routes insure Trashcan Rock's popularity so plan on getting to the cliff early to avoid crowds. The National Park Service asks that large groups as well as guided climbing school classes not use the cliff to reduce both crowding and impact. The crag is named for the nearby trashcans at the parking areas. The picnic area makes the cliff a good venue for families, since some can climb while others can picnic at tables, hike, and explore the rock piles. Lots of boulder problems are found on the blocks and boulders north of the parking area on the west side.

Trashcan Rock is Easily Accessed

Trashcan Rock offers almost 25 routes and variations on its wide slabby west face, narrow south face, and short steep east face. Almost all of the routes can be top-roped from gear anchors set in cracks on the top of the cliff. You will need to look around and be creative when setting up a solid toprope anchor. The cliff is just west of the main park road; parking areas on the south and west side of the cliff allow a quick ten-second hike to the base of the cliff. The main west face at Trashcan Rock gets lots of sun, making it perfect for cool afternoons. The variety of routes also make it a good crag for training since you can do lots of laps up both faces and cracks.

Top-Rope Equipment You Need

Many cracks are found on the top of Trashcan Rock that are great for setting up equalized anchors from gear. There are no bolts so plan on bringing a rack of equipment to create top-rope anchors. Bring a set of cams like Friends or Camalots; a set of medium to large Stoppers or other wired nuts; and a few long slings to build a safe and secure anchor. You will need to bring long extender slings, lengths of webbing, or an extra rope to extend your anchor from the gear placements to the cliff edge on some routes. A single rope, either a 165-foot (50-meter) or 200-foot (60-meter) rope, is fine for top-roping at Trashcan. Remember to always follow SECURE to build a safe and sturdy top-rope anchor.

Finding Trashcan Rock

From the west entrance to Joshua Tree National Park southeast of the town of Joshua Tree, drive southeast on Park Boulevard, the park's scenic drive road, for 5.7 miles. If you're coming from Intersection Rock to the southeast, drive 2.8 miles on the park road from the Real Hidden Valley junction at Intersection Rock. Turn west into Quail Springs Picnic Area and park either in a lot on the south side of Trashcan Rock or a larger lot with restrooms, a dumpster, and a recycling center on the west side (GPS: 34.040298 N / -116.197701 W). The described routes begin on the left or north side of the west face of Trashcan Rock.

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