Indian Cove

Main Index

Including Indian Cove Campground

(2D images exclusively on this page. Links to 3D Galleries below. Click Photos to Enlarge.)

Moosedog Tower. This impressive tower of dark-brown granite is the largest chunk of granite in Indian Cove Campground. At 140ft tall, it is located several hundred yards west of Dos Equis Wall.

Moosedog Tower ♦ Dos Equis Wall

Trek dates: 2017 Sep 24 & Oct 12

Featured on this 2D-only Introductory Page

  • Indian Cove Campsite
  • Group Campground Area ♦ Forgotten Canyon Area
  • Campground Entrance ♦ East Formations
  • King Otto’s Castle ♦ Moosedog Tower
  • Nature Trail ♦ Western Wilderness
  • Johnson & Rattlesnake Canyons

Wonderland of Rocks near Moosedog Tower

3D Galleries

Group Campsites ♦ Part 1 Part 2

Forgotten Canyon Area

Camp Entrance ♦ Part 1 Part 2

King Otto’s Castle Area ♦ Part 1Part 2

Moosedog Tower

Nature Trail

Johnson Canyon

Rattlesnake Canyon Picnic Area

Western Wilderness ♦ Part 1 Part 2

Google Satellite Images

(Click to Enlarge)

Campsite Map, click to enlarge

Individual campsites #1 to #4 nestled below Billboard Buttress (dark varnish tower) and Bilbo Buttress (at center)

THIS LARGE CAMPGROUND  has campsites around the bases of rocky formations and smoother inselbergs, tucked away in rocky coves, with some even rising on the edge of wide-open plains.

The grounds offer both group and regular occupancy sites. Two miles south of the ranger station is Indian Cove Campground. Just before the main campsite entrance, on the right, is the turnoff for the group campsites (with 13 sites). The regular campground has 101 camp sites and lies straight ahead.

Rattlesnake Canyon picnic area requires you to veer left and take one of several junctions that eventually join the road that leads (east) through to Rattlesnake Canyon.

Rattlesnake Canyon wash, view south into the canyon. The slabby area at top center is Rattlesnake Buttress. Left, and higher on up the hill in that jumble of pillars are the spiky Corrugated Wall, Trad Crags and the Slatanic Area.

West to East, the area comprising Indian Cove to Rattlesnake Canyon picnic area is about 2.25 miles. Beyond (south) is the high rampart where the mostly impassible Wonderland of Rocks ends. The campgrounds and formations are divided into several areas, including the Group Campground, Campfire Crags (nearest the amphitheater), Billboard Buttress area, King Otto’s Castle, and the Moosdog Tower-Dos Equis Wall formation.

Distant areas, for those who like exploring off the beaten track, include Grain Central Station, Valle de Duck, Big Top, Forgotten Canyon—with its extremely challenging The Gossip Column pillar. Seven hundred yards beyond Big Top (north) one encounters Little Top and The Monkey’s Paw straddling the Boy Scout Trail. Closer to the Campground Entrance is little Morbid Mound. The Mound is on your left hand side, at the T-intersection with the Group Campsites road. Sixteen climbing routes are on the south side.

Grain Central Station

Grain Central Station from Group campsite 8 public parking area. Grain Silo pillar lies just to the east (right) of the main formation.

As was noted above, to the east of Indian Cove campground is a large wash, identifying the outflow point from Rattlesnake Canyon. The rocky wash drains the North Wonderland. There are picnic tables around and just above the parking loop, with a restroom facility. Impressive views of the Wonderland of Rocks wall stretches upward and away in a southerly direction. Along the face of this portentous rampart are several rock climbing walls and individual climbing boulders.

At the western edge of the Indian Cove Campground the Park Service has made an easily navigable, half-mile loop Nature Trail with informative signage all along the path. Also approached from the road’s-end loop parking circle found by the Nature Trail are two somewhat difficult loops, Gunsight Loop (described in Patty Furbush’s “On Foot in Joshua Tree National Park,” pp. 88-89) and the shorter Sneakeye Spring trail listed as “moderate, difficult,” pp. 90-91.

2D Preview Galleries

1. Group Campsites

Group Campsites 3D Galleries ♦ Part 1 Part 2

Featured in the 3D Galleries

  • Group Campsite 1 & 2 Walls
  • Hodgepodge Rock
  • Group Campsite 8 Wall
  • Africa Face ♦ Empire Wall
  • Wall of Absurdities
  • Valle de Duck
  • Grain Central Station ♦ Grain Silo


Group Campsites #1 & #2 with Grain Central Station beyond, on the plain

Group Campsites 1 to 6

Hodgepodge Rock at center of Group campsites 4, 5 and 6. The taller Campfire Crag beyond. Shot from the Grain Silo out on the plains

North-facing Campsite #8 Wall is almost always in shade. Left of center, the sunlit west face of Campfire Crag.

Valle de Duck ♦ Morbid Mound


2. Forgotten Canyon Area

Forgotten Canyon 3D Gallery

Featured in the 3D Gallery

  • Big Top
  • Forgotten Canyon
  • Defender Block ♦ The Gossip Column
  • Little Top

Forgotten Canyon area as viewed from Valle de Duck. The canyon’s entrance is at the far right dome.


3. Campground Entrance

Camp Entrance 3D Galleries ♦ Part 1 Part 2

Campground entrance with camp billboard, Billboard Buttress and Varnished Wall

Featured in the 3D Galleries

  • Varnished Wall
  • Billboard Buttress ♦ Bilbo Buttress
  • Pixie Rock
  • Amphitheater
  • Circle Crag ♦ Jaime’s Rock
  • Campfire Crag, South & North Faces


Campground entrance with north-facing Varnished Wall

Lonely little Morbid Mound is 350 yards from the base of Varnished Wall

The paved road into the main public campground passes between Varnished Wall on the left and Pixie Rock. This is the center of activity. The Indian Cove entrance area covered in the current Gallery spans a distance of about 360 yards north to south and 800 yards east to west when you include Morbid Mound, which sits all alone on the desert plain.

The most easily identifiable formations are Pixie Rock, Billboard Buttress (with the camp billboard at its western base), and the complex rock pile known as Campfire Crag that has a southern face and a very unusual and attractive northern face. At the upper extreme of this area, past the right end of Campfire Crag, can be found the campground’s amphitheater. Directly west across the road from Billboard Buttress is Center Crag (the north-facing edge of a large crag whose south side the rock climbing community terms King Otto’s Castle).

Rock Climbing Formations

(Hover mouse over photos to see caption. Click to Enlarge.)

4. King Otto’s Castle Area

King Otto’s Castle 3D Galleries ♦ Part 1 Part 2

King Otto’s Castle at campsites 28 to 39

Featured in the 3D Galleries

  • Bilbo Buttress ♦ Willit Pillar
  • Indian Palisades Corridor
  • Dark Shadows Rock
  • The Feudal Wall ♦ Short Wall
  • Chipped Wall (a.k.a. N00b Rock)
  • King Otto’s Castle
  • Condor Rock
  • Wonder Bluffs Hillside


There is a lot happening around the castle. King Otto’s Castle, for those who are wondering.

Did you learn in school that Bilbo Baggins from the Hobbit series has his very own Buttress?

There is also an imposingly tall Indian Palisades Corridor and wall nearby. Easy to spot is the prominent Willit Pillar, diminutive beside the corridor unless one stands right up close; even less prominent but a sturdy-looking wall just off the road is Dark Shadows Rock in the next shot.

How dull would life be without a whopping jumble of utter confusion that the often-muddled rock climbing people label the Feudal Wall? And lost in the rocky maze, a Short Wall sprouts a few paces south.

While still in the same vicinity, we direct your attention to a crappy little Chipped Wall—or nowadays called N00b Rock—off by itself, and usually overlooked, at the eastern end of the campsites, #15-18. (Hint: N00b is spelled with zeroes in place of the letter ‘o’. Why? Silly question: This is Joshua Tree!)

Many many millions of readers will be amazed to learn that Chipped Wall, crappy though it may be, once played a cameo role in a Hollywood B-Western. 1948’s “Adventures in Silverado,” a film-flick few have seen, and starring nobody most younger people reading this have a clue about. That’s it there down the road, Chipped Wall. N00bies can easily miss it unless you know where you’re looking. In the second scene, the King’s Mighty Chariots (okay, standard prop-department stage coaches) go racing neck and neck along the bottom of Otto’s turret. (Betcha can’t guess which chariot belongs to the good guys!)

Scenes from the 1948 Movie “Adventures in Silverado”’s Page on the Silverado-Joshua Tree Shots

(Click Photos to Embiggen)

A hop, skip, and a stroll across the way from Chipped Wall a few hundred yards—pressed against the massive north Wonderland of Rocks hillside—can be found two highly inviting features: Condor Rock, and, way back up in a rocky, hard-to-get-to bolder-scrabble gorge, the wonder of all wonders, Wonder Bluffs. (I suppose because one wonders how on earth anyone can reach there without cracking an ankle.)

Those who have a notion to engage in complete confusion, though, should concentrate on King Otto’s Castle.

And to stir the soup kettle further, Otto’s place is confined exclusively to the southern extremity of this mixed-up crag. Campsites 28 to 39 encircle the base. (The north side of the same inselberg—oh, all right, pile of rocks—has an entirely different nom de guerre, Center Crags.)

Otto’s chief draw is its tony, voluptuously formed and suitably photogenic prominence. A turret rock as it were, rising at the forefront as you round the bend. This monolith is accoutred with many cracks. This fortress has nearly a dozen climbs staked out on its east, south and west sides.

“Don Genero Crack”

While we are on the subject of cracks, in the middle of Otto’s multitudinous other crags can be found a fine-looking dark brown lump coated in millions of years’ worth of old “desert varnish.” On it, “Don Genero Crack.” An angled gash/crack on the left end, it gets climbers salivating like Pavlov’s Dogs in the experiments. Located at campsite #33.

Read how one contributor remembers Genero Crack: “You’ll find this route 150′ or so to the left of King Otto’s Castle. It’s an obvious left leaning crack. Your stomach should be empty before you head up. I had difficulty getting decent pro in to start. A tri-cam finally worked. Back up whatever you place; getting started will get your attention; and it doesn’t let up.” (Rated 5.10a.) (No, I haven’t the slightest idea either what he means, but that’s okay.)

When you visit Indian Cove Campground, you will find much to see now that you know exactly who is what and what is where. As for the why-fors, I’m leaving it up to others to explain.

De Turret, De Turret!

5. Moosedog Tower

Moosedog Tower 3D Gallery

People do the strangest things. Moosedog Tower Descent from the route “Half Time,” photograph by “Blitzo”

Featured in the 3D Gallery

  • The Clump
  • Clump Canyon
  • Palmreader Wall
  • Dos Equis and Corona Walls
  • Moosedog Tower
  • Apparition Rock Hillside


This large formation is 700 yards long (640m), east to west, with a slow 80ft elevation gain to the west. It is bounded by Group Campground road on the north and the upper campground road on the south. The ramparts of the main named-walls and towers jut up from the various campsites which are arranged at their bases. It is an easy hike around this large formation.

Moosedog Hill, west side

6. Nature Trail

Nature Trail 3D Gallery

Summer thunderstorms at Joshua Tree National Park provide a brief few weeks of returning color when plants like the hearty creosote sprout tiny leaves and the bushier plants fill out. But all too soon, the harsh winter returns to the high desert. The Nature Trail (3350ft elevation) passes through a brush-filled sandy wash that drains the Western Wilderness highlands of this large alluvial plain.

It then returns past the western edge of the Group Campground/Moosedog Tower formation, providing stunning visuals. To the south rises the palatial wall where the northern Wonderland ends. Too much for the eye (or the photographer’s lens) to capture in all its natural majesty.

This sandy wash drains the North Wonderland down to Highway 62. Several miles below is the rural high desert 29 Palms township

Subsoil Notching

Subsoil Notching

Inselberg at the north end of the Nature Trail (and immediately west of Group Campsite end loop). This formation showing ancient subsoil notching, with rock-varnish-coated surfaces above and nonvarnished surfaces below the notch. Such exposures reveal the lowering of soil levels in recent geologic time, “probably within the last 20,000 years,” according to Richard Hazlett in his Joshua Tree National Park Geology pp.41-42.

“At Joshua Tree and other desert regions underlain by granitic bedrock, evidence of ancient soil horizons that existed some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago may be seen as linear dissolution marks and subsoil notches from which these soils, previously moist for long periods of time, have long since been eroded. The acids produced by living organisms or biological processes active in moist soils are especially corrosive to granite. There is an enormous contrast between subsoil (moist) and subaerial (dry) weathering rates of granitic rocks.”

7. Johnson Canyon

Johnson Canyon 3D Gallery

Highlights in the 3D Gallery

  • Distant Upcountry Views of the Campground
  • Johnson Canyon Wash
  • Split Boulder ♦ Euhedral Wall ♦ Left Entrance Wall
  • Cove Canyon Dome ♦ Shuttle Rock

This large drainage lies just south of the Short Wall, across the road. Johnson Canyon (formerly Cove Canyon) wash continues east and north where it merges with Rattlesnake Canyon wash. A well-worn trail leads to the rim above the brush-filled sandy wash that leads out of the canyon. Rock climber Robert Miramontes says that it is best to enter the canyon high on the right side, walking across ledges instead of dropping down into the wash. “Continue into the canyon, staying to the right.”

8. Rattlesnake Canyon Picnic Area

Rattlesnake Canyon 3D Gallery

9. Western Wilderness (Pending)

Western Wilderness 3D Gallery ♦ Part 1 Part 2

Featured in the 3D Galleries

  • The Western Wilderness
  • Nature Trail Wall ♦ Jailhouse Rock
  • Sneakeye Spring Approach
  • Gunsight Canyon Area

This is the area west of Indian Cove Campground. Drive to the end of the road past Moosedog Tower and park. Follow the old road south from the parking area passing Nature Trail Wall to Jailhouse Rock on the next formation (behind) whose main routes face south. West of the parking area, follow the Nature Trail, hiking down across the sandy wash, and start hiking to the west. The hillside and crags with several staked out climbing routes are all on your left. “There is a lot of rock in this area,” but according to, “only a handful of climbs have been done.” Beautiful scenery and panorama of the western edge of Indian Cove campground areas and inselbergs.

Nature Trail Wall ♦ Jailhouse Rock

Wonderland of Rocks provides this formidable stage for Nature Trail Wall

Thank you for visiting the Indian Cove Galleries and those for Rattlesnake Canyon Picnic Area at Joshua Tree 3D.

John Murbach

Temple City, California


Posted 2017 Oct 1

Updated 2018 Feb 23