Regional Guide

Climbing - Southeast Utah and Canyon Country

The Windows area in Arches National Park holds both Tonka Towers and Owl Rock. The 150-foot Tonka is flanked by two other prominent towers southwest of Turret Arch. Owl Rock is one of the most popular climbing routes in Arches, a squat, 100-foot spire that sits near the Garden of Eden parking lot. Both routes are rated a 5.8.

Just past the Arches' Visitor Center along the main road you'll find Three Penguins, yet another odd Utah rock formation. Right Chimney—which is neither a real chimney nor a real penguin—offers an excellent free climb. The two bona fide chimneys will put the squeeze on claustrophobic climbers (one route is called Anorexia).

The Wingate sandstone in the Island in the Sky district offers some of the best climbing routes in Canyonlands National Park, including Moses, an impressive tower. Some consider this route to be the finest in the desert Southwest. The most common way of ascending Moses puts climbers up against long, difficult (5.10) finger and hand cracks and dramatic liebacks.

One of the most famous towers in Canyonlands is Standing Rock (a.k.a. Totem Pole or Candlestick Spire), a slender column rising 300 feet above the desert floor. Though located in the heart of the Maze district, this formation is visible from the Island in the Sky's Grand View Point.

Capitol Reef National Park is dominated by rock—including cracky, flaky Wingate sandstone—but it remains off the radar of most climbers. You'll find most of the routes in Utah's least-visited national park along the Scenic Drive, an eight-mile paved road that runs on the west side of the reef. For an easily accessible classic route, try Capitol Roof (5.11) in Cohab Canyon.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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