Journey into the Chasm of Doom

Journey into the Chasm of Doom in Joshua Tree National Park

When you enter Joshua Tree’s Chasm of Doom, your fate is sealed. Your life becomes an experience of mystery, steep climbs, steeper drops, chimneying, and death-defying squeezes. What could be more fun?

From the entrance of the slot canyon in Hidden Valley, you first make a steep climb up the chasm—a tight squeeze that is not for claustrophobes and requires a fair amount of bouldering. Upon reaching the top, you’re greeted with a view of Hidden Valley’s magnificent rock formations. Don’t get too enamored with the open air, though. It’s time to backtrack to a seemingly endless black hole off to your left. It appears to lead to nothing, but you continue down it blindly, following your guide’s lead. The space gets tighter and tighter, closing in on you as you chimney downward. When your feet at last touch the ground, you lower yourself onto your hands and knees. You’re face-to-face with The Coffin (aka the Birthing Canal), a small slot where you have to lie completely flat to wiggle through. You shimmy, feet first, the rock above you only a few inches from your body. But you’re committed. And, thankfully, you’re almost through. When you slide out of The Coffin, the space is still extremely narrow. Continue to descend the boulders until you reach daylight. You’ve made it! Climb out of the chasm and embrace the daylight you never thought you’d see again. You have officially conquered the Chasm of Doom!

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TIPS: If this is your first time attempting the chasm, you _must _go with a guide. Otherwise you are likely to get off track, lost, or stuck. Rock Climb Every Day will guide it seven days a week as long as you book by 9 p.m. the night before ($75, two-person minimum). It takes about an hour to complete the chasm, even though it’s only about 100 yards long. The route is dark, steep, and involves tight squeezes, so it’s not recommended if you are claustrophobic. Headlamps, grippy shoes, and helmets are recommended; hats are not.

In Joshua Tree National Park, take Park Blvd. to the Hidden Valley Parking Lot. After you ascend a few steps on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail, you will reach a junction. Heed the arrow that points you to go left, taking about 20 to 30 steps on the Nature Trail. Look off to your left where you will see a bunch of boulders. Venture off the trail toward those boulders and you will probably hear people inside the chasm. Crawl back into the boulders and you will spot the Chasm opening. Again, we strongly recommend going with a guide! No dogs.

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