Mountain Project Logo
To save paper & ink, use the [Hide] controls next to photos and comments so you only print what you need.

Utopian Vistas

New Mexico > Taos Area

Description and Geology

A nice collection of quality climbing on iron hard pocketed basalt. There is something here for everybody and a few more to come. From vertical to overhanging jug-hauls, to technical corners, powerful roofs and thin fingers. Mostly sport, some mixed and a few classic trad pieces in sound, clean stone. Set above the "Rock Garden" of the Rio Grande Box, this area is surrounded by climbing areas, rafting, fishing, camping, and mountainbiking all about 20 miles from the town of Taos. Expect solitude, which means low traffic and no chalk marks.

Celebrating the spirit of escapism, independence and defiance many of these route names honor the visionaries, artists, authors and crazies that saw a Utopia in Northern New Mexico's Vistas.

These are new routes and they might still give up a hold or two so a helmet is recommended. Yearly freeze thaw can be severe on New Mexico's basalt, climb with caution.

The geology of the Rio Grande Box is largely volcanic. Olivine tholeiite basalt forms the three main layers of the Servilleta Basalt. The middle basalt unit is separated from the upper and lower tiers by layers of sediment forming the benches. These horizontal basalt layers of dark-gray, pahoehoe (ropey), vesicular (air pocketed) lava compose the main climbing walls in the gorge (Vista Verde, Utopian Vistas, Dead Cholla, John Dunn area, Horse Thief, etc.). The rock we climb in the upper Box area of the Wild and Scenic is more dense, can be red to light brown and was not from the lateral Servilleta flow. These remnants of volcanic plugs are more appropriately termed dacite, and it may contain crystal inclusions known as phenocrysts. The middle box or La Junta section has several examples of swirled volcanic rock from old low relief dacite volcanos. Miners' crag is a nice example. The wall across from Miners' is also a remnant.

Star ratings are relative to this area.

Getting There

See Dead Cholla Wall under Taos Area or click the Aerial Photo link above for driving instructions toDead Cholla Wall parking area.

In the past, climbers had used an old two-track from West Rim Road to drive closer to the crag. However, vehicles are not prohibited on this old road. Please respect the rules of land managers and do not use this approach. Instead, access Utopian Vistas from the Dead Cholla Wall parking.

From the Dead Cholla (trailhead for the West Rim Trail) parking, it's about 15 minutes along the West Rim Trail to the wash on the rim -- if you continue past there to where the power lines cross the gorge, you've gone too far (maybe half again too far).

If you time the walk -- at 6 minutes from the car, the trail makes its first significant bend east toward the rim before bending back north; there is a second one of these at 9 minutes. When you hit the third such bend at 15 minutes, you are there -- look for a pullout on the right just as you come over a rise (the rim of the wash).

Drop southerly (right) along the wash to the rim, and follow cairns left (north) along the base of the Upper Tier, then, as Bob says, pretty much straight downhill from Black Mamba, the pretty black-streaked corner. The trail goes down past the juniper and deposits you at the south end of the lower cliff.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

The beautifully scenic Utopian Vistas
[Hide Photo] The beautifully scenic Utopian Vistas
New trail signs along the West Rim Trail.  Approach from the Dead Cholla parking area.
[Hide Photo] New trail signs along the West Rim Trail. Approach from the Dead Cholla parking area.
Utopian vistas.
[Hide Photo] Utopian vistas.
Taking in the view with Ron Olsen and the late, great Jack Roberts
[Hide Photo] Taking in the view with Ron Olsen and the late, great Jack Roberts
View Looking West.  Shows relative locations and approaches to Dead Cholla and Utopian Vistas
[Hide Photo] View Looking West. Shows relative locations and approaches to Dead Cholla and Utopian Vistas
View from the rim at the parking spot above the crag. Upper tier climb anchors are right off the lip in the foreground.  The descent is a 100 ft further along this rim to the south (right in photo)
[Hide Photo] View from the rim at the parking spot above the crag. Upper tier climb anchors are right off the lip in the foreground. The descent is a 100 ft further along this rim to the south (right in photo)

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
[Hide Comment] Oooh! We can't wait for the TBA! Looks like a great basalt area. How long you gonna keep us waiting... :-) Apr 1, 2007
Jason Halladay
Los Alamos, NM
[Hide Comment] Fair enough, Bob, thanks! R. Rumsey said he heard from you recently and you mentioned the potential here. Nice work! Looking forward to it.... Apr 3, 2007
carlos
Taos, NM
[Hide Comment] Thanks again, Bob. If you need any help with any of this development, I would be more than happy to help. Otherwise can't wait to climb it when it's complete. Apr 21, 2007
carlos
Taos, NM
[Hide Comment] Great work...can't wait till it cools down again so I can enjoy these crags some more. Thanks again! Jul 14, 2007
[Hide Comment] Much better directions Matt, and thanks for the "Viva!", we were pretty inspired by the locale and Taos history as well. Can I quote you in the directions? Glad to hear you enjoyed it. Bob and Jay should take the credit for the vision, I just drill holes where they point. Joel Tinl and Thor Husted were also fruitful out there and there is some more to do. Ask Jay about some of the other things he has been working on. Bueno-bye, Mike May 17, 2008
[Hide Comment] Not true Mike! This area was very much Mike and Bob's vision and hard work. I was handed a route or two on a silver platter. Matt, glad to see you've been back in the 505/575. Let's hook up soon. May 18, 2008
[Hide Comment] Great to hear. We have been extending the area to the North and put up some great (IMO) climbs on the next shorter (50-60 ft) wall. Yeah, that numbering thing can be a PIA, particularly if you keep adding routes in between. But, the rock does climb well, certainly has that outdoor gym feel. And the location is classic New Mexico. Although it's not 15 minutes out the back door I think you'll agree it might warrant the carbon. Thanks for all the comments/help. Bueno, Mike Dec 8, 2008
Mick S
Utah
[Hide Comment] Not much traffic on these routes I assume, there is still a fair bit of loose rock, bring a helmet. Oct 11, 2010
Bowe Ellis
Taos, NM
[Hide Comment] I returned to UV today and have to say that this area really is fantastic. The rock is superb in most places, generally the great varnished reddish basalt similar to Dead Cholla, but with more holds. Mike and Bob did us a great service to put this crag up, all 130+ routes! Some routes are the best sport routes in Taos. May 18, 2014
[Hide Comment] Motor vehicles are not allowed on the West Rim Trail. Also, the dirt road near the West Rim Road and 567 intersection is on private land. Please access from Dead Cholla parking lot. Feb 8, 2018
[Hide Comment] some friends and I are planning on heading out here this weekend! does anyone have any camping suggestions or know of any BLM land nearby? May 16, 2019