The long reach down low of Dope Lounge. Pic by Mud...
A peaceful ponderosa-forested canyon with tons of bouldering on cliffs and boulders of Coconino sandstone. Dramatic curving slashes stripe the walls, the result of lithified sand dunes deposited 260 million years ago. These slashes birth many slopers and incut rails, lending to a unique and distinctly technical sort of climbing. Rock quality at Kelly is notoriously variable: bullet-hard in some places, horribly sandy and crumbly elsewhere. Tread carefully, especially on less-trafficked problems, and don't forget to bring a soft-bristled brush. Many of the problems here are moderately to seriously highball and most have committing, sloping topouts so multiple pads and spotters are pretty much essential. The prime season for Kelly Canyon is September through November when it's cold and dry. Summers can be toasty, though it's easy to find shade. However, winter is generally a bust - the road typically closes by late November, and the canyon's east-west orientation blocks out most sunlight, meaning large snowdrifts and deep pools that won't dry out. Unless it is an exceptionally warm and snow-free winter, don't plan on coming between the first heavy snow and perhaps the middle of April. This is a good place to forget about names and grades, to just find some rock that inspires you and throw yourself at it. Having said that, here are some names and grades.
From downtown Flagstaff, follow Milton Rd. south until it becomes Interstate 17, then continue about 8 miles to the Kelly Canyon Rd. exit. Turn right (west) at the overpass and head through the gate, then immediately turn right (north). This dirt road (FR 631) is passable in most vehicles if you drive carefully. Drive a couple miles staying right at all forks, passing a big shooting pit full of garbage (yuck), until you see a fairly obvious parking area with a fire pit on the right. An obvious trail leads quickly to the bottom of the canyon - this is the Trailer Park. Please stay on the trail.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Kelly Canyon:
Sustained flowing moves all the way, with a high crux and a sketchy topout. From a pocket and sidepull around chest height, make a move to a slopey "jug," then trend up and right with pumpy moves until you can throw for the good right hand rail near the top of the wall. Match it, then push through the tenuous sloping mantel at the top, resisting the urge to grab the clods of grass! Excellent, though unfortunately a bit chossy. Repeated breakage has nudged up the difficulty a bit....[more]Browse More Classics in AZ
I'm not sure what the rules and regulations for camping or accessing the canyon, but I thought I would throw out this heads up to other out-of-towners. I camped at Kelly Canyon last Thursday night (5/10) with no problems. Bouldered at Kelly Friday morning, then went to the Draw for the afternoon. Exhausted from a good day of bouldering, I grabbed a slice of pizza in town and drove back to Kelly. The forest road was closed, gates locked. I had to hike in, take down camp and hike back out to the highway.
Might be a good idea to check with Coconino NF or some locals before camping at the canyon...