Elevation: 1,522 ft
GPS: 36.084, -121.401 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 24,313 total · 131/month
Shared By: Kristin McNamara on Jan 11, 2004
Admins: andy patterson, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes


It was a warm and sunny spring day. My partner and I were looking to tick off every area in the Slater guidebook, so we decided that today would be the day to check out Wagon Caves. The drive was beautiful, fields full of washes of green and purple, red and yellow . . . the approach to this area is wonderful.

When you get there you'll find this amazing outcropping of sandstone and hueco features. But don't get excited!! Many of the routes you'd find in the guidebook have been chopped! You'll find some TR anchors if you look hard enough, some hangerless bolts, and a few routes who have been untouched. It's a crap shoot.

But it sure is pretty! Bring picnic supplies and your significant other for a good time!

Update: All the climbs listed have Top Rope anchors that are in good condition. The only leads in the area currently are Mavericks, Talking Tower, and Back Talk (on The Talking Tower). The lead bolts on New-tist Colony are hangerless.

If you visit this area please tread lightly. It is an awesome wilderness climbing area. Your actions reflect on others and speak volumes to land managers. If you bolt please camoflage the bolts and use low profile Rap anchors if you place them.

Update 2: (T. Slater, 1/23/06)
There is a bolting ban at Wagon Caves. Current anchors can be maintained, but that is it. Newtist Colony has hangers now, and the beach has TR anchors. I have been working with Brenda at the FS. It IS a sensitive site (she has been working between me and the tribe) so we need to be cool while out there. It is what it is, and nobody should go out there with a drill.

Getting There

From Highway 101 going north from San Luis Obispo, exit at Jolon (country road G-18). Head west under the overpass toward Fort Hunter Ligget. You'll go about 20 miles to the Mission road junction. There may or may not be a sign. Turn left onto this road and you'll reach the military's gate. Show them license and registration and head into the area.

Once you pass through the front gate you follow Mission Rd. Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd. will branch out on the left but keep going straight through the main part of the base. Look for Del Ventura on your left after you pass the Recreation center (large white building) on your right. It is a five way intersection. Del Ventura is the second one going left. The Mission shouldbe strasight ahead just before you turn left. There will be a sign indicating that you need an National Forest Adventure Pass and within a mile you will ford the San Antonio River. Keep traveling on Del Ventura.

After the second ford it will become Milpitas Rd. This will lead you all the way to the Wagon Caves. You will pass a guard shack on your right (empty) and cross a cattle guard. This is the boundary of military property. The Wagon Caves are less than a mile from the boundary of the Base. You will see them on your left as you approach. There is a spacious turnout to use.

If you would like to camp you can drive another mile and take the dirt road on your left to some primitive/unimproved sites. There are no facilities here. Or you can travel another 5 miles to Santa Lucia Memorial Park (aka The Indians). The only facilities here are a pit toilet and picnic tables. No water is availible. Designated Campsites.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Wagon Caves

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Sport, TR
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Mavericks Mavericks
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a Sport, TR
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Kristin McNamara   SLO, CA
From Jody Langford:

About a year or so ago i spoke with Slater's wife about it. She said it was not the Indians, but a very old-school climber that didn't believe in bolts. She said that the climber has since left the area and that she would be thrilled if someone re-bolted it. I also spoke to a FS ranger and they said they didn't believe it was an "Indian Sacred Ground" issue. I was up there a few months ago with Ronnie Miller on Mavericks and the bolts seemed to be in pretty good shape on that climb...maybe they were too hard for the old-school guy to reach and chop.:) Jan 21, 2004
In response to the question about access through FHL with the 9/11 security etc. At the gate you have to tell them where you are going, each person 18 years and older in the car must have I.D., and the driver must have valid registration and insurance for the vehicle he is driving.Not much climbing has been going on there so the place is in pristine condition, although some cleaning might be needed. TRanchors along Beach Wall have been replaced, bring a fairly long runner as they are back from the edge. Jan 31, 2004
John Dalbey
John Dalbey   California
Wagon Caves and all the rocks in this vicinity are known as "The Indians" and have special historical interest. I don't know the "official" policy on climbing at these sites, but because other visitors come here to view the native american artifacts, I recommend climbers keep a very low profile. In particular I would discourage any bolting at all.Also use extreme restraint about "cleaning" routes as in some places the sandstone is very delicate and it's easy to create ugly scars.Also, be on the lookout for rattlesnakes which are abundant around here. Feb 8, 2004
Theron Moses and I have been climbing at Wagon Caves quite a bit lately since we live in Paso. We're looking at putting up some new routes (primarily for top rope to minimize the impact). The rocks are so accesable that its easy to TR most climbs. The potential for new routes is vast, probably because it's such a remote location. It takes me an hour from Paso. We rarely see other climbers out there. Feb 19, 2004
"Wagon Caves and all the rocks in this vicinity are known as "The Indians"

The Indians is a completely different area apporxiamtely 5 miles up the road, near the trailhead to Junipero Serra Peak. Feb 28, 2004
Frank, I wouldn't even fel too bad about putting up lead routes, especially on the the west facing wall that drops down to the lowlands. In other words, if you are at the left side of The Beach you would be at the top of it. there are only a couple of places that hikers generally go and they usually follow the well-worn trails. Anything else would likely not be noticed, especially if you use colored hangers. the Indian artifacts are mostly in the cave underneath and to the right of Wagon Caves Wall. I don't think a couple of hikers a week should prohibit climbers from developing the place, within reason, of course! Feb 28, 2004
Is there a real issue out there? No beta on the web available for what real issue is. Feel free to email me directly.

Two active Beehives as of 4/8/07, one on small dome's south face that is in front of Tiny Bubbles (The Beach). The other is on the approach trail to The Beach, but can be skirted by going left and around the hive. Apr 9, 2007
Was at Wagon Caves today, had a good time once we found the beach (1 hr. of wondering). 100 yards from the gate go right at the old tree stump if you want the 5 minute rout. Other post's I've read said lacked bolts, but found a few routs with them, although spaced too far apart for my skill level. Bring bug repeltent if going in November!! Nov 16, 2010
kewl, thx for the bug beta. My old lady is allergic and we are thinking of going here over the holidays. Nov 24, 2010
Note: one of the anchor bolts on top of "lost in the clouds" is sloppy Feb 15, 2011
Went to Wagon Caves a few weeks back, camped 6 miles north at The Indians. Climbed the beach, mavricks, newt wall and FOUND the lost boulders - which was not an easy task - had a cool little 5.8 lead on the back side. The more I go out there the more I enjoy it, no people, beautifyl sceenry and better sand stone then Santa Margarita Lake. If your looking for the "lost boulders" go south of the spire and over a creek, good luck! May 7, 2011
John Knight
John Knight   Sedona
Anyone been out to Wagon Caves recently? I have a few friends looking for a fun, Beginner area to climb at and I don't want to give them wrong directions. I had heard the road in no longer requires the 2 creek crossings.

I haven't been out there since 2008 or so.

If the directions have changed, maybe we can get the above directions corrected.

thanks, John Mar 5, 2013
The best and easiest way to the wagon caves it to cross San Antonio creek twice. At a moderate level this is safe for any car. You can find the stream gauge here
waterdata.usgs.gov/ca/nwis/…. I know 30 cfs is a safe level. There is an alternative route that involves red grade road and one other ( I can't remember the name) both ends of this "alternative way" have signs that they are for authorized vehicles only. I haven't tried it but I've heard rumors of others who have. The base seems quite busy right now, I don't think I'd chance it until things quiet down. Mar 8, 2013
Update May,3,2013:

Getting there: You will have cell service and (surprisingly) 3G coverage at Wagon Caves and throughout the whole drive out there. With that said, I suggest typing in the coordinates for wagon caves and following that:


Approaches and trails: Ambiguous at best. Trails getting into the main section were scattered and sporadic. Best bet: track. We followed shoe prints in the sand to get inside wagon caves. Once inside, we used major land marks to get to where we needed to be I.E:

The talking tower spire:
very easy to see once inside, towards SW.

The pine tree in front of mavericks:
there are few pine trees inside the crag itself, thus making this an easy waypoint, towards the NW.

the meadow behind Newt Wall as the center to get to all the crags.
It is centrally located and wide open. From there you can access the beach, mavericks, and newt wall within 5 minutes.


Crag: Newt Wall
Anchors in great shape, there is a bolted (hangers) assent up Newtist Colony (5).
Overall a great climb.

Crag: Talking Towers
Strange climb, but still worthy for the hike and for a 5.8 lead. There are no rings at anchor(s), only ONE larger hanger that can support a rope running through it!

Crag: The Beach
BRING LONG SLINGS TO TOP ROPE!!! Anchors are at least 12 feet from nearest lip. We were all bummed that we couldn't climb this crag as we did not have the equipment. There is however a bolted (hangers) route up "Submarine Tango" (4). Newer looking bolts; I thought there was a ban?

Crag: Mavericks
Awesome, amazing, and hard. There are anchors at top, thus allowing one to clean, or to set draws (and hang the long sling to over the lip for protection to get over the roof). The only worrisome factor is hanger #3. It is a rusted state.

Overall a great trip. It is possible to camp, have campfires, and operate a stove at wagon caves if you have the permit. I, however, suggest camping at Lake San Antonio North Shore before heading out there ($20-30). Taking a dip in the lake is a great start to your adventure. as far as wagon caves goes, bring bug spray, plenty of sun screen, and the mindset to climb strange new features (huecos galore!) on the poorer rock that is sandstone.

May 4, 2013
Jon Hanlon   SLO
There is no camping at Wagon Caves. You can camp at Santa Lucia Memorial Park, approximately 5 miles down the road. May 4, 2013
A Johnson
A Johnson   Atascadero
The approach to the climbing area is still what it always was; Jolon Rd to Del Venturi and all that way out. There are two low water crossings on Del Venturi rd that will be blocked off with a gate if the water levels are too high. It is common for water to be running over them, and usual to just drive right through it. If it isn't safe, they will be closed. DO NOT BY ANY MEANS LEAVE DEL VENTURI RD WHILE WITHIN THE INSTALLATION BOUNDARIES. I work at Ft Hunter Liggett and every weekend people are getting cited for leaving the road to take pictures, play in the river, setting up camp..... Good Luck, and Happy Climbing. Jul 17, 2015
Jeff Siefman
Portland Oregon
Jeff Siefman   Portland Oregon
Is there still a bolting ban in place? Who's ban is this? There seems to be conflicting information in this thread! Mar 23, 2017
A Johnson
A Johnson   Atascadero
I have been in contact with the lead Archaeologist on post at Ft Hunter Liggett as well as the Assistant Director of Recreation for the Los Padres National Forest-Monterey Ranger District. Both were surprised to hear about the ban. They are of the mind that as long as it is limited to responsible bolting and obviously not running afoul of any historic sites this shouldn't be a problem.

I have read over the Milpitas Special Interest Management Plan and "rock climbing" is listed as a known and accepted use within the area.

I have also looked through the Los Padres National Forest Management Plan and climbing is also listed as "acceptable" in that document. I looked through and ran searches on the Los Padres management plan documents and found multiple instances where rock climbing was mentioned as an acceptable use of areas within the National Forest. There were no instances of "bolts", "bolting", "drill", or "drilling" mentioned with regard to rock climbing in ‚Äčthe ROD for the 'Los Padres NF Management Plan' nor in the 'Los Padres NF Land Management Plan Part 2-Strategy'.

I have also contacted the Access Fund regarding any ban they may be aware of. They have nothing on record about it.

As of my last correspondence with the Assistant Director things were looking up. I will update further when I hear anything. Mar 28, 2017
Jeff Siefman
Portland Oregon
Jeff Siefman   Portland Oregon
A Johnson: good to know. Maybe starting to replace the chopped bolts is in order. Do we know how they came to be chopped. Apr 13, 2017
A Johnson
A Johnson   Atascadero
Jeff, not sure which bolts you're referring to. Most all the bolted routes are being kept in more or less good order. The ban was on new bolting, not maintenance. And it seems someone has been making sure the existing bolts were maintained. That being said, there is plenty of room for new routes to go up, whether that's installing top rope anchors or sport bolting. I do not have the gear nor the know-how but I am willing to learn and help pay for the hardware. Apr 13, 2017
Jeff Siefman
Portland Oregon
Jeff Siefman   Portland Oregon
Haven't been before, going saturday. But what I am referencing is mountain project says that most of the bolts on most of the routes have been chopped thus rendering them un-leadable. I am saying the bolt lines should be restored. Apr 13, 2017