6551 Park Boulevard
Photo by Lisa Corson, AFAR Media
Cliffhanger GuidesNever mind if you’ve never snapped on a climbing harness before. The sole prerequisite for a private climbing experience with Cliffhanger Guides in Joshua Tree National Park is a willingness to try something new. After speaking with you at length about your comfort level and goals, one of the outfitter’s pro guides will custom-tailor an expedition around the area’s 9,000 rock climbs. Instead of visiting crowded tourist-frequented areas, you’ll wind up on lesser-known paths that often lead to blond domes of gritty quartz monzonite that you’ll have all to yourself. Slab climbing—a style valuing balance and fine footwork over forearm strength—usually prevails, giving you the stamina to handle a five-hour half-day or unlimited-time full-day trip. The expedition includes all necessary technical equipment, along with a less-than-rugged picnic lunch—hummus, fresh vegetables, wine-soaked cheese—but climbers should bring their own water. The guides are friendly and approachable, happily pointing out rare desert plants and giving you a local’s perspective on the area (ask about their favorite trails and juice bars). The region’s popularity continues to explode, with weekends and holidays filling up weeks out, so book in advance.