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Areas in Volunteer Canyon

North Side 33 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 33
South Side 47 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 50
Elevation: 7,000 ft
GPS: 35.12, -111.935 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 34,689 total · 354/month
Shared By: Jed G on Dec 27, 2009
Admins: Greg Opland, Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick


Northern Arizona basalt canyon, near Paradise Forks. Up to 300ft routes. Lots of Adventure. This place is Worthy and the camping is the best part.

"Volunteer Canyon does host some of the tallest columnar basalt in NAZ, but probably not in a way you would like to imagine. Compared to Paradise Forks, Volunteer Canyon is wild, blocky, unkempt, often loose, dirty, and seldom visited. Though there is a growing number of neo classics to be found, It is still a place to get away from the crowds and explore your sense of adventure. The scenery and the over all vibe of the place is worth the visit. And for some, will lead to many more. It is an amazing canyon which intimidates, invites, and inspires.

For decades Volunteer Canyon was known by local climbers as The Cwm, which is a Whelsh word for a steep cirque. I believe it was Scott Baxter who first started calling it The Cwm.

Surprisingly, this area was climbed at before the discovery of Paradise Forks. After that fateful finding of the Forks however, Volunteer turned into a ghost town, back water area which was known for having terrible road access, hard to find established routes, and poorly maintained lines due to neglect. The easily accessed Paradise Forks eclipsed Volunteer, and development here came to a grinding halt. More modern development through the 80's and 90's continued in the form of infrequent, short bursts by folks who worked in quiet, and did not leave much of their coming and going. Volunteer is now receiving the proper attention it always deserved with modern classics being born or rediscovered every short season."

Most of the routes listed here require rapping into specific belay points or ledges. Bringing an ascender and a grigri down to the belay is prudent in case the need arise to retreat up your fixed line. This canyon is known for moving wind around, and the belays can take a while, so dress accordingly. You can always haul stuff out on the fixed line.

THE NORTH SIDE is home to such age old classics as Tralfamadore 5.9+, and Beautiful Day 5.8+. It is a stunning series of columns and quite a lot to take in the first time you see it. New age classics such as The Lost Highway, Green Knight, and White Hawk should keep you happily dancing in the sun.

THE SOUTH SIDE is a collection of unique walls, with routes scattered about in the folds of it's teetering columns. Home to the Canary Cracks which were first lead in the 1970s, as well as some more modern endeavors which certainly expand the scope of NAZ basalt, and it's classic lines. While having to rap into specific belays is time consuming, it does allow one to clean the route on the way down. This side sees regular dirt runoff during seasonal rains. A tooth brush will do wonders.

CAMPING- The South Side hosts the camping on off roads that parallel the canyon, and eventually will lead you to a beautiful open point. The camping is as good as it gets, but please keep it clean, and haul out your trash, drown your campfires, and dispose of waste properly.

Getting There

From Flagstaff head west on Interstate 40 towards Williams. Exit at the Parks Exit, and head south on FR 141. Follow that until the junction of 527 (also looking for "Boy Scout Camp" signs at this point), and take a left. Stay on 527 for almost two miles where there will be another junction (FR 530), take a right. In a half mile, take a left back onto FR 527. Follow this for two miles and eventually you will literally cross over the very top of the canyon. After you go through the wash, look for roads on the right for parking on the South Side.

That being said, these roads see a lot of abuse, seasonal closures, are choked with boulders, and are of otherwise I'll temper. A 4X4 will be needed in anything but perfect dry conditions. A high clearance vehicle minimum, and expect to drive pretty slowly. With a good vehicle it takes about 45 minutes from Flagstaff and is roughly 30 miles, however the bad section is only a three mile final stretch.

83 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Volunteer Canyon

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Lost Highway
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Rusted Rapture
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Pig Iron
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Experimental Forrest
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Green Knight
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c
Drop the Hammer
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Cash, Grass, or Ass
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Iron Potato
5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b PG13
Jade Feather
5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b
Death Dealer
5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c
Like a Shadow in the Night
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Lost Highway N Side > Tralfamadore Wall 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad
Rusted Rapture S Side > E End Wall 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad
Pig Iron S Side > Iron Wall 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad
Experimental Forrest S Side > E End Wall 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad
Green Knight N Side > Middle Ages 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad
Sindarete S Side > Memorial Wall 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Drop the Hammer S Side > Memorial Wall 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c Trad
Phantasm S Side > W End Wall 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Trad
Cash, Grass, or Ass S Side > W End Wall 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Trad
Bertilak N Side > Middle Ages 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a Trad
Iron Potato S Side > Iron Wall 5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Trad
Nyctophiliac S Side > W End Wall 5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Trad
Jade Feather S Side > W End Wall 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b PG13 Trad
Death Dealer S Side > E End Wall 5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b Trad
Like a Shadow in the Night S Side > W End Wall 5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c Trad
More Classic Climbs in Volunteer Canyon »

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Caitlin Mac
Caitlin Mac   Tempe
Hi- I was just at Volunteer canyon last weekend and we left a metal "U" shaped leg that goes to our cot at the first campsite to the right from the road. If anyone is planning on going here, could you keep an eye out for it? I could pay you to mail it to me, or just tell me where it is so I can plan a trip out there to retrieve it. Muchas Gracias! Aug 17, 2016
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
Hating is what haters do best Darren.... Feb 16, 2015
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
I am pretty sure it falls under the counties authority. Grants would most likely be needed, as I don't think there is government money for such things. But if we get some of the climbing community, and maybe other user groups it could be a possibility. It is also one of only two roads that access the rim trailheads too, the other is Woody, which we all knows sucks almost as much. It would be a bureaucratic project for sure. Feb 16, 2015
Kevin Kent
Flagstaff, AZ
Kevin Kent   Flagstaff, AZ
I'm fully in favor of any improvements to the road, but it needs a lot more than a once over with a grader. It needs needs to be raised for flood managemnt and have culverts added which will be a lot more expensive. Feb 16, 2015
Flagstaff, AZ
JacobD   Flagstaff, AZ
Fixing the road is a great idea! This could be a great project, as Darren mentions, for multiple groups to come together and work on. Jeff S. is organizing a movie night at Firecreek coming up here soon to bring folks together. That'd be a great place to rally people around the idea.

If people were into it, and the USFS was supportive, we could probably apply for some grants through the Access Fund, and other orgs to help pay for the improvements. Feb 16, 2015
Robbie Brown
Flagstaff, AZ
Robbie Brown   Flagstaff, AZ
Then I wouldn't scrape a hole in my exhaust when I try and drive my van out there. Again that is.... Feb 15, 2015
Darren Mabe
Flagstaff, AZ
Darren Mabe   Flagstaff, AZ
I'm with you JJ. A better approach road would add a star to the already 4 star routes. There will be haters who would not want better access. But this could be excellent for the NACC, FCC, and GNAR to rally with the appropriate channels to work on this. Feb 15, 2015
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
What we really need is a campaign to fix that road. I mean how is that monstrous, multi diverted, 60' wide in sections, riddled with ruts, boulders, etc, taking care of our natural resources? It might be my most hated road in NAZ. But just imagine if you could cruise out there on maintained gravel roads. At least to the canyon itself. After that it gets pretty no mans land. I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.... Feb 13, 2015
Robbie Brown
Flagstaff, AZ
Robbie Brown   Flagstaff, AZ
With some work this place could be one of the best crags around! For anyone attempting to put up routes here use caution as there are literally deathtraps everywhere. Feb 13, 2015
Ben ZH
Flagstaff AZ
Ben ZH   Flagstaff AZ
Found a pair of Miuras sitting near the edge of the south side of the canyon yesterday. Give me a holler with your name and the size of the shoes and they're yours. Jul 13, 2014
I got within 1.75mi with my Accord but had to hop into a friends Subaru to make it the rest of the way.

The area in general is perfect for those with adventurous tastes in trad climbing but it's not way out there either by any means. May 28, 2012
ryan albery
van world
ryan albery   van world
This is such a cool place to go climbing. Canyonphobia atomized here. Who added the bolted belay on the south rim, with a couple of now rusted looking lead bolt into that thin archning crack? Looks fun. Apr 30, 2012
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
Right on Rusty, maybe see you out there this summer. Feb 7, 2012
Jed G  
I am aware that this place has a long history. There is evidence of that in several places around the canyon. Thanks for directing me to that other conversation. I appreciate what you said there. I posted this page because I am of the same mind-set as you. We all could benefit from seeing this place become more established as a local climbing resource. I even wanted to see routes put up in the exact style in which you are doing them and know that I will never do it myself. Thanks for your ethic and your work. The routes look awesome. I am not a total purist when it comes to bolts in wilderness. Particularly in this situation where you can dangle into this "wilderness" literally anchored to the frame of your car, 100 vertical feet away. I think the general danger, and the existing "juju" will keep this place wild enough. Feb 7, 2012
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
Rusty Pipe,
Folks have been climbing out here for over 40 years, and it was published 20 years ago in a Cheap Way To Fly. I don't think you let the cat out the bag, and I wouldn't worry too much because the place, while stunning, only seems to appeal to a select few, especially with the Forks so close by. There's no taming this beast, and I'm not trying to. See Phantasm comments if you haven't checked it out. Feb 7, 2012
Jed G  
Wow...seems like there's some stoke about this place here. I was the one who initially posted this page, woops. Hope it was a good idea.

I have known that it was amazing since the first time I ever laid eyes on it. I got lost up there on the forest roads years ago, and ended up at this glorious basalt canyon. I took some friends up there that fall and we were scared, but some dabbling showed us that the climbing there can be awesome.

I'm pretty sure there are over 100 routes here, maybe even more...and lots of them are really, really good, despite all of the death blocks, as people seem to be aware of.

And it seems that bolts have been added to the mix, which ups the potential for incredible, creative routes to appear. I trust that an ethic will stay in place here that keeps people from bolting lines that are perfectly protectable with trad gear. This is technically a part of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, and I believe that law has it that once you drop below the rim of Volunteer Canyon you may not alter the stone, or attatch gear to it. I'm not saying that I wouldn't use your bolts, but It's worth being aware of. Feb 7, 2012

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