Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Chasm of Doom" cave system, Joshua Tree National Park

Real Hidden Valley, click image to enlarge

More to tell from a brief weekend in JTNP. Down by Real Hidden Valley there is a cave/tunnel/chimney that long ago earned the name Chasm. This system starts on the outer, eastern side of Real Hidden and runs over, under, and through a large rock formation, exiting inside Real Hidden. In other words, in it's 100 yards, it transits through a "mountain". Chasm is so cool to go through at night, and if the moon is out, some of the light beams through various cracks in the passage. It's a way shroomy passage.
Chasm requires a bit of nerve, some modest climbing skills, and a willingness to get dirty. Some sections are a pretty tight squeeze (The Birth Canal comes to mind), but a good wiggler can find a way through. 

To find Chasm start at the parking for the Real Hidden Valley loop trail and head west towards Loose Lady. If you reach Saturday Night Live you have gone too far. At the first set of picnic tables on the right there is a use trail angling up into the rocks. This path becomes a scramble over and under large boulders, ascending until one reaches an obvious crack/cave system.

Finding the start of it is no small feat. I have had trouble every time I've looked for it, mostly due to the memory retardants I'd ingested on prior excursions, years ago. But I re-found it in broad daylight. To twist Van Morrison, "I can see clearly now, my buzz is gone. I can see all the obstacles in my way..." and climb over them like a Range Rover Defender. I'm out.

Start by negotiating this pile of enormous boulders. 

To pass Chasm you intermittently squeeze, scramble, and crawl.  Don't wear your bestest clothes.
Above and Below: entering, and standing in Chasm's largest vault.

Squeeze & Scrape.
Chimney, dirty chimney. 

Light beams through numerous gaps in the rock, which makes Chasm especially fun on a full-moon night.  This part, with the huge overhead cap-stone is called The Cathedral and is best enjoyed on a moonlit night.
The exit crack, which ends inside Real Hidden Valley.


  1. May 27, 2017 my 9yr daughter and I found it the old fashion way, plus with your help of course. 3rd time's a charm. She loved it. it took us 4 hours to cross thru, she was a trooper. I was concerned for her since she's only 4'5" and I had to help her in some spots. Irony is that we've always had our picnics at the other entrance without knowing it. When we came out of the Chasm we were "we know this spot" We also have found The Iron Door Cave. Actually she did LOL. Loved Barker Dam. Adventures await us, more exploring to do...

  2. Wall Street Mill is next... Rattlesnake Canyon... daughter can't wait to get there this weekend.