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Areas in Johnson Shut-Ins

Lower Cliff 4 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Lower Wall Boulders 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1
Upper Cliff 6 / 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 6
Elevation: 822 ft
GPS: 37.54, -90.844 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 8,215 total · 131/month
Shared By: Marcus Floyd on Nov 19, 2012 with updates
Admins: Marcus Floyd, Dave Hug
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A direct quote from Jim Thurmond & Joe Reidhead's book Rock Climbs of Johnson Shut-Ins State Park:

"During the climbing season, Johnson Shut-Ins is an excellent place for beginner climbers to get off the ground outdoors. It is an equally excellent crag for the expert who wants to shred tips and get a good pump. Often, more then one route can be climbed using the same top rope. The density of the routes allows beginners and experts to climbs side by side."

Johnson Shut-Ins is Missouri's old school traditional crag. The wall cut out by the Black River offers great possibilities for traditional leads. Much like Vedauwoo or Joshua Tree, Johnson Shut-Ins is a great destination for all.

Note: The permit states this is a top rope crag only, but the potential for great lead climbing exists.
State Park Permit Required Details

Getting There

From Hwy 21, follow Hwy N to the state park entrance, then head to the park office. next, go down stream to the cliffs and find a good warm-up.


The Shut-ins brown, pink, and purple porphyritic rhyolites generally face south, providing plenty of sun during a fall day. Rhyolite deposited over the area as ancient eruptions sent volcanic debris down the mountainous area of the time. Slowly, the landscape again exposed the igneous rock as a result of plate tectonics, general uplift of the Ozark Plateau, and weather.

11 Total Climbs

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Is it still accurate that the climbs here are only available after Labor day with a permit? Jul 24, 2016
Dave Hug
Carbondale, Illinois
Dave Hug   Carbondale, Illinois  
Hey Aaron, I have spoken with the author of the the guidebook and I have learned that you can. The only problem is that most leads tend to be bold and not well protected. Personally, if I am going to climb at this area, I am most definitely seeking to lead some of these great/tall granite faces. Im not really that interested in top rope climbing. As a person who began climbing in Vedauwoo, this is the closest thing I can find to re-living my old granite days.

Some of the the leads I posted can also have an anchor set on them to top rope fun face climbs. So I guess at the end of the day its up to you on how you want to climb. If your interested, maybe we should meet up and climb there sometime. Nov 2, 2015
Saint Louis, MO
AaronJ   Saint Louis, MO
Sorry, what I meant to ask was whether or not lead climbing was allowed by the park. The permit agreement seems to suggest that lead climbing is not allowed.
Thanks for all the routes and info. Nov 2, 2015
Dave Hug
Carbondale, Illinois
Dave Hug   Carbondale, Illinois  
The climbs that were added are the few that can be obviously and easily protected. Make your own choice on whether or not you want to top rope. Nov 2, 2015
Saint Louis, MO
AaronJ   Saint Louis, MO
It was my understanding that climbing at Johnson Shut-ins is top-rope only (as per the permit in the photos section). Has this changed? Nov 1, 2015
A guidebook for Johnson Shut Ins is available at Old Mountains Gear Exchange in St. Louis, or direct from the publisher here: sentinel.sotinapublishing.c… Sep 21, 2014
Made my first trip to Shut-ins last weekend and while I was somewhat disappointed by the length of the climbs (too short) I found the rock to be very pleasing to the touch and a pleasure to climb. I had never climbed on volcanic rock before and I understand now why granite and the like is so desirable.

Looking for the highest routes we could find, my partner and I headed down to the lower cliff. The routes were somewhat dirty and there is not a whole lot of room to belay next to the diving pool but we got a few enjoyable climbs in.

If you climb during swimming season hopefully you do not get stage fright. Nearly the whole time climbing we had an audience watching us from the diving pool. Some kept quite but others tended to make annoying comments.

My only other complaint would be the guidebook. I understand the limited beta given in the route descriptions but I would appreciate if it had a runout rating for some of the climbs. We found that some routes just stopped taking gear halfway up.

All and all it was an enjoyable time. I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars. Sep 11, 2014

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