Peak 4,330ft P300
South Split Dome CS
Peak 4,733ft P300 CS
Peak 4,822ft
Negro Hill P300

Jan 14, 2024

With: Tom Becht
Iris Ma
Tom Grundy

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


We headed back into Joshua Tree National Park for an easier day, with plans to pick up some minor LoJ summits on the north side of the park road, in the Split Rock area. Once again, we carpooled in my Jeep from our campsite along Gold Park Rd outside the north side of the park.

Peak 4,330ft

This summit is located about a mile north of the park road, above the Johns Camp (Site) shown on the topo map. Several nearby Jeep roads depicted on the map are no longer driveable and barely discernable in the satellite view. This mattered little since cross-country travel is pretty easy here. We headed northwest from our parking spot along the roadway, low-gradient terrain crossing two washes to reach the base of the peak on its south side. The final quarter mile is a moderately steep slope with decent, but not great footing, all class 2. We spent about 35min in reaching the summit. While taking a break there, I suggested the others could head cross-country to the southwest for Split Rock, about 1.4mi away, while I went back to the Jeep and drove it to the Split Rock parking area. There was some indecision back and forth before they all decided to take me up on the offer. We all descended back down the South Slope before parting ways. I was back to the Jeep by 9a, then barely 5min of driving to move the Jeep.

South Split Dome

Split rock is a rounded, 25-foot boulder immediately adjacent to the parking lot. As the name suggests, it has fractured as two pieces though still fairly close together. Randy Vogel's Rock Climbing Joshua Tree says the rock is off-limits to climbing, though no explanation is given (The NPS does not list it as closed online). LoJ had placed the location to the east on a much larger rock formation called South Split Dome, so it was to this I headed after parking (LoJ has since split these out as two separate features). There is a class 2-3 passage between North and South Split Dome, and it was through this I traveled in search of a way up the south dome. On the east side of the low passage, I found a class 3-4 way up from the northeast side, the crux coming with a ramping set of grooves cut into a rounded edge. I was at the summit in less than 15min from the parking lot, and a little nervous about reversing the crux. I walked around looking to see if there were other, perhaps easier ways down, but found nothing I thought better. I spied my companions coming from the east about 10min later, and once they were close enough, directed them to the route I had used. Iris and TomG danced with their shadows before making the cruxy moves, quickly joining me at the summit. TomB got to the base of the crux before thinking better of things and retreating. I reversed the crux slowly without incident (and it felt better than I'd expected), while TomG and Iris found an alternate way past this just to the south involving some reachy stemming. Back down at the parking lot, I suggested the others could again continue to the next peak on foot while I moved the Jeep a second time. Peak 4,733ft was only 3/4mi to the north and it seemed certain they would get to the summit before me.

Peak 4,733ft - Peak 4,822ft - Negro Hill

It was a longer drive to get to the Pine City Trailhead, and it wasn't until 10:20a that I started out on the Lucky Boy Loop, about 1.3mi from Peak 4,733ft. Though not very direct, the use of the trail would get me within about 1/4mi of the summit marked on LoJ. The trail is really just a sandy wash, not all that helpful, but pretty standard for many of the trails in the park. I took a shortcut where the trail makes a wide bend to the north, eventually leaving it when the trail turns south and veers away from the peak. I found my friends lounging at the summit when I arrived after half an hour, waiting around 15min. As we left a register, it was commented that another point about a quarter mile to the northeast looked higher. TomB was of the opinion that a visit was unnecessary, while TomG and myself thought it should be checked out. We got TomB to change his mind.

After leaving the summit, we first checked out yet another point immediately to the north that seemed of similar height. It turned out to be challenging little scramble problem most easily aided by an oak tree against the rock. The GPSr measured it to be slightly lower. We then spent the next half hour working our way over the northeast summit. This one proved much more challenging and an instant classic, in my opinion. It was a tough scramble across terrain similar to the Wonderland of Rocks. After getting close to the summit, I backed off on what was a very airy step across at the crux. Less than a minute after I'd back down and started looking for an alternate route, I could hear TomG's voice coming from the summit - damn him! I think I shouted "Fuck!" or some such annoyance, but TomG had skillfully crossed the gap as though it were no big deal. My continued exploration bore fruit as I dropped down into a tunnel on the north side of the large summit block and worked my way around and through to the south side where I could find some class 3-4 scrambling to get me to the summit a few minutes later. It was a very improbable route, and Iris and TomB soon joined us. The final block is a class 3-4 slab climb on its south side, and within about ten minutes' time from the base on the north side, we'd all gotten to the top. I measured it to be about 10-12ft higher than the LoJ summit on my GPSr, but sadly we'd left the register at the lower, far less interesting point. Perhaps the next visitors could move it? Later, I reported our findings to LoJ's John Kirk, who verified with LiDAR data that the point was indeed higher. And though it even came in 5ft higher than the spot elevation on the topo map, its saddle with Negro Hill proved to be more than 150ft higher than that based on the topo map, and it was demoted for not having 300ft of prominence. Still, a most worthwhile scramble.

Next up was Peak 4,822ft about a mile a quarter to the NNW, with a drop down to the main wash running between the summits. The hardest part of this was the scramble down the north side of Peak 4,733ft. We could have jumped on the Queen Mine Loop Trail that would have taken us most of the way down, but I thought it would be more fun to scramble down the gully to the east of the trail. This was a fun little exercise, the only real scrambling save for the summit rocks on Peak 4,733ft. We were very glad we did, because shortly after starting the scramble, we came across an old mining cabin carefully crafted using the large boulders found at the site, complete with fireplace, sleeping cubby, shelving, roof, entryway and a paned window. It does not appear on the park or topo maps, but there is a way to get to this from the previously mentioned trail and there is an NPS sign found nearby. After exploring the homestead, we continued down the gully to the wash. The terrain changes across the wash, generally easier hiking like we'd found on the first peak, all class 2. We reached the summit of Peak 4,822ft about an hour and twenty minutes after leaving the previous one, nothing special about this one.

In fact, the rest of the outing became your more standard class 2 desert fare. After leaving a register on Peak 4,822ft, we turned west and southwest towards Negro Hill, our last stop. Not long after leaving Peak 4,822ft, we picked up an old road, following this down to another road that has become the Old Queen Valley Historic Rd. This road/trail goes south back to the Pine City Trailhead, but we only followed it for a quarter mile before turning more westward towards Negro Hill. It was a pleasant walk through sandy washes and rocky desert landscape, all easy cruising. We then climbed to the summit of Negro Hill from the northeast and north, arriving about 45min after the last summit. A register in a fancy tin was left in 2018. TomG and Iris had visited the summit a year earlier, making this their second ascent. We took a longish break here to snack and enjoy views before dropping back down to the parking lot, only half a mile to the southeast. It was 2:40p by the time we returned to the Jeep.

Junction BM

We had expected Negro Hill to be the day's last summit, but as we were driving back through the park I suggested we stop for Junction BM. It's a PB-only summit that I would normally shun, but as the saying goes, "It's right there!", and we had some extra time, to boot. This minor summit is located adjacent to the junction of Park Blvd and Pinto Basin Rd. We parked at a turnout just north of the junction and took all of 15min to reach the highpoint and find the benchmark (which is located west of the highpoint). Any easy class 2 effort, all in the name of turning a red dot to green on the peakbagger app.


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Thu Jan 25 13:08:37 2024
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: