Wonderland Valley Main Index images are all 2D
Links to the 3D Galleries immediately below
Trek dates: 2012 Nov 5; 2013, Feb 6 & 22, Aug 30, Sep 26, Oct 13.
3D Galleries Included in This Group
Central 2: Diarrhea Dome Area (pending)
Wonderland Valley View from Above
(Additional images can be found in Wonderland Hillside ♦ Far East)
HIKING THE WONDERLAND OF ROCKS and Wonderland Valley is akin to strolling through a big city: you feel like an ant surrounded by towering granite formations. Fortunately, there is one area of the Park—concealed from tourists and casual visitors—where it is indeed possible to scan across this Crown Jewel of JTNP while getting a beautiful raven’s eye view. And you do not have to be a rock climber risking life, limb or future Starbucks lattes to attain it!
(Click to Enlarge)
South Wonderland Approach ♦ “The Creature”
← The trail passes the ruins of an old house (once owned by a woman named Signe Ohlson, d.1986 at age 100), and sometimes referred to as “Wonderland Ranch” or more humorously as “Uncle Willie’s Health Food Store.” Signe did, in fact, own an herb and health food store in Joshua Tree at the time she was living here. Painted pink, the remains of her house are swiftly crumbling back into the earth. (Note: Signe Ohlson’s house residue will be featured under the Queen Valley section of this website under the title “Uncle Willie’s Health Food Store.” Apologies to Signe’s ghost. Hopefully she will understand today’s humor and will want to haunt hikers who tromp all over her beloved property!)
Once in the main wash the trail leads 800 yards north to where Wonderland Valley begins. The path is easy to follow. Almost immediately you will see an old water catchment dam, which you will have to bypass. Now and then you will leave the wash and travel a few yards to either side when rubble or thick brush blocks the way. →
The only rock scrambling you may need to do is this simple flat, easy to navigate stretch of about 100-200 feet along the right side of the wash. Follow the well-worn footsteps of previous hikers and you cannot miss it.
Just prior to entering Wonderland Valley proper, you will see on your immediate right this unusual erosional remnant known to climbers by one of two sobriquets as The Creature or (less often) The Walrus. From this south view from where I am framing it the form looks more like a Creature. Climbers begin inside the scooped-out opening, putting their foot in the eye-hole to leverage up and around to the top. Like a boy confronting a 350ft redwood tree, it just has to be climbed!
The Creature: South & North Angles
(Click to Enlarge)
West: Astro Domes Area & Don Juan Boulder
Once you have arrived in Wonderland Valley, after approximately 800 yards hiking through the wash, the trail splits below Foolproof Tower, with a more westerly path leading below the Astro Domes and down a small wash to Lenticular Dome.
As you enter the west-side trail, the two Astro Domes dominate your view, with South Astro Dome seeming to dwarf its northern neighbor; however, the North Astro Dome is partially hidden from this perspective and is actually also quite large. These domes are Joshua Tree’s most famous formations, and are probably the most sought-after rock climbing crags in the area.
To approach the Astro Domes (and Don Juan Boulder which lies beneath them), go a short distance on the trail and then go left off the trail and head straight for the domes. An easy scramble (more like a stroll up a smooth granite slope) leads you through a small rocky notch, then you drop down the other side to reach the giant boulder.
Some of the routes on the South Astro Dome include “Primal Flake,” “If You Really Loved Me, You’d Buy Me a Turkey.”
Next we have: “Hex Marks the Poot,” “Strike it Rich,” “Mamunia,” “Stone Idol,” “Such a Savage” (rated five stars), and one of the most popular, “Solid Gold.” The last route climbs an obvious orange-gold colored streak on the northeast face.
Featured Climbing Formations
(Hover mouse over images for Caption)
East: Freak Bros. Dome ♦ Punk Rock ♦ The Weenie
Having finished your inspection of Astro Domes, return to the Y in the trail and this time take the right branch which traverses the east side of Wonderland Valley. The trail/sandy wash heads more or less due north. Plenty of shade trees for resting your tootsies under, or grabbing a bite to eat. Do not let the jumbled appearance deceive, there are plenty of open spaces as you ascend the valley’s gentle slope:
On the left is Punk Rock with its fancy boulder-decked crown, while on your right, a line of uniquely shaped domes and piles, starting with The Greenhouse and Surprise Rock, followed by the triple-topped dome known as Freak Brothers Dome.
Next to Freak Bros., The Weenie, with a sly reference to its shape. In a side canyon (Wonderland Wash, which drains the area east of Freak Bros.), facing north and west can be found the photogenic Red Obelisk, with two fairly large domes known as Fat Freddie’s Cat, which lies immediately behind Freak Bros., and Pea Brain.
Wonderland Wash drains from the east and divides the rock climbing areas. Beyond Wonderland Valley lies the Central Wonderland (see next section) including three tall formations (left-to-right): Duckwaddle Domes, Disneyland Dome, and Thrutcher Dome, and Vicinity, as it is rudely called. I am sure Mr. or Mrs. Thrutcher would deeply object to “Vicinity” playing second fiddle when Thrutcher is an imposing feature in and of itself. The Duckwaddle area is covered a separate set of Galleries, described under the heading Central 1, below.
Punk Rock ♦ Freak Group ♥ Red Obelisk
Other Representative 2D Shots
Central 1: Duckwaddle Domes ♦ Disneyland Dome
Wonderland Wash is the dividing line between Wonderland Valley and Wonderland Central rock climbing areas. The wash drains the Far East of Wonderland of Rocks, where Garrett’s Arch can be found. Central 1 comprises three tall formations: Duckwaddle Domes, Disneyland Dome, and Thrutcher Dome, and Vicinity, as it is rudely called. I am sure that Mr. or Mrs. Thrutcher would be mortified to have “Vicinity” playing second fiddle when Thrutcher is an imposing feature in and by itself.
The Duckwaddle comprises three sets of towers, with the main rock climbs being on the eastern side away from Wonderland Valley. What you see below are primarily west-side and south-end shots.
Next to Duckwaddle rises the tallest of the domes. Popular routes on Disneyland Dome include “Mental Bankruptcy,” “Fantasia,” “Mr. Todd’s Wild Ride,” “The Mad Hatter,” “Jungle Cruise,” “Enchanted Stairway,” “Brass Monkey” (a toughie), “Stereo in B Flat,” and “Walt’s Frozen Head,” which you will be happy to learn intersects with the “Brass Monkey” at one point.
Three difficult Thrutcher Dome routes are: “Life without Principle,” “Whales on Ice,” and “Desert Storm” with several lesser ones available that are far more mundane.
Central 2: Diarrhea Dome Area (pending)
Far East: Wonderland Wash ♦ Hike to Garrett’s Arch
Not for the faint of heart, the main pathway leading to Garrett’s Arch starts at Uncle Willie’s Health Food Store, and heads north up the wash-approach to Wonderland Valley. Once in the Valley, make reference to Astro Domes (on your left) and Punk Rock (dead ahead).
It is at Punk Rock, which lies across from Freak Brothers Dome and The Weenie that you encounter Wonderland Wash merging from the East. Take a 90° right turn and head past the imposing Red Obelisk which sits in the gully below Fat Freddie’s Cat and Pea Brain on the right, from whence you will enter a smaller valley.
Read all about it on Cali49’s website HERE. A marvelous adventure. Much to see. Eye-opening rock formations (it helps a lot if you are able to name the main ones, making it easy to familiarize yourself with the direction you must go). Enjoy these sample 2D galleries laid along the path we took. (Hover mouse over image for caption. Click to Enlarge)
Near East ♦ Wall Street Mill Formations
The Near East section of Queen Valley from “Uncle Willie’s Health Food Store” to the Wall Street Mill comprises the mill site itself surrounded by a variety of photogenic rock piles. Hikers traversing the southern edge of Wonderland of Rocks have an easy approach to the crags and other interesting features. Moreover, the Mill hike is among the most popular in Joshua Tree Park, and is an easy three-quarter mile walk along an old dirt road. The Wall Street Mill proper will be covered in a future 3D Gallery.
View from Queen Valley
I visited this area on three separate occasions: once in November 2012 with Cali49, where conditions were dry; a second trip in September 2013 with “Bucko” after summer thunderstorms had brightened the foliage and sprinkled the ground with a vivid golden carpet; and a third solo trip in October 2013 after the summer blush had been baked away.
On two of the trips, I took photographs from a hillside immediately to the east. Wonderland Hillside ♦ Far East. This provides a stunning look into the rock climber’s curiously named formations. The light-colored rocks and piles are White Tank monzogranite, while the darker-shaded hillside you see in some of the backgrounds is from the Queen Mountain monzogranite “pluton.” Geologists guesstimate the monzogranite is between 85 and 150 million years old. It eroded during wetter conditions. In the last several million years, as the local conditions changed (due to the rain-shadow effect of swiftly rising mountains to the north and west), the granite inselbergs were left as you see them today.
Boots on the Ground
Scenes from Far East Hillside
Thank you for visiting the Wonderland Valley 2D introductory page. There is more to see in the 3D Galleries. Links available at the top of the page.
Posted 2015 Jun 15
Updated 2017 Nov 7