McLoughlin Canyon (Tonasket) Rock Climbing
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DescriptionMcLoughlin Canyon is the jewel of the Okanogan - it doesn't always have the best quality rock in the region, but the combination of variety of routes, easy access, beautiful scenery and wildlife habitat (still stunning even after the devastating fires of 2007 and 2015), and colorful history (site of the 1858 Caribou Trail Indian ambush and skirmish - with BC bound gold miners) make for a great all round experience.
It has wonderful opportunities for hiking and climbing, and although much of it is private land with the boundaries on the ground mostly unmarked, it is an easy place to explore and do some great climbing. (Consult the drawn map in the photo gallery here, and also it is recommended to look at the aerial photo of property boundaries on the Okanogan County Assessors map, especially when heading for the Northern Crag.)
The canyon cliffs are gneiss, and over 400' tall in areas. Most of the rock on the north and east sides of the county road is private, although there are small sections of cliff around the trailhead, as well as an extensive section of cliffs to the far north which are public. There are also several good bouldering sites on both public and private lands.
All the rock south of the road is public (BLM), and there are many cracks and corners that can be led with gear (and if local legends are to be believed, most have been 30 or more years ago). These old school trad routes have no publicly shared beta and so provide a true sense of adventure. But be careful, especially if you plan to explore these lines ground-up; be aware of the abundance of dirty, brittle and loose rock, bring a full rack of cams and nuts, some long slings, a wire brush, helmet, and trusted partner!
Also, be aware that the few remaining snags along the valley floor sometimes fall over, and no matter where you hike or climb here be alert for rattle snakes (especially from early April to late October).
- Note to all climbers, this is both a rural neighborhood (lots of locals drive through the canyon daily), and a popular public hiking destination, so please do your best to minimize your impact and presence; pack it in/pack it out, and leave no trace. Potential route developers, please follow BLM guidelines and don't place bolts next to possible gear placements, or crowd routes too closely together, make any bolts or top anchors camouflaged, use stainless steel hardware as much as possible, and don't mix your metals, and of course, don't place permanent anchors on private property. Any comments and input on existing or new routes is much appreciated.
- Note - a key to route descriptions;
The various areas open to the public and covered here include (from north to south);
Northern Crag - SE Face - The northernmost SE facing cliff, which is quite impressive. About a two mile (40 minute) hike in from the county road, this area is best approached from the west via the dirt track across private property along the open western flats.
Northern Crag - North Central Slab - This is a smaller low angled cliff in the middle of the Northern Crag area.
Northern Crag - SW Buttress - The west end of the northern crag.
Parking Lot Rock (aka Corral Wall) - The small south facing cliff to the north of the main BLM parking lot on the north side of the county road. The left and right ends of the cliff are on private lands.
West Wall - The small west facing cliff on the east side of the county road directly across from the south parking area. Only the first couple of faces and corners of this cliff are on BLM land.
Main Canyon (aka Main Wall) - The deep east facing canyon south of the county road. Includes three subsections; Near Wall (first series of walls on the right as you enter the Main Canyon south of the small parking turnout to the huge Dihedral corner), Main Wall (the huge wall on the right beginning at the Dihedral and continuing to the first large gully), and Far Wall (the large face at the south end of the Main Canyon to the SE Buttress).
Little West Canyon - The very small canyon on the slope west of the Main Canyon, has some short climbable east and west facing rock.
Main Canyon - SE Buttress - The huge S and SE facing wall where the Main Canyon opens up.
South Canyon (aka Last Wall) - The long east facing cliff at the south, shorter and more open, end of the Main Canyon provides some excellent climbing. Not as intimidating as the Main Canyon, and more removed from the county road, includes several subsections as well; Upper West Side, The Mid West, and Lower West Side.
South by SE Face - This is the long south facing cliff that begins at the SE end of the South Canyon and runs east for half a mile or more.
The Far South - Not really part of McLoughlin Canyon, this is an isolated crag about a 2 mile hike (50 minutes) south of the Main Canyon parking area, or 3/4 mile (20 minutes) from the river road on the W side. This rather extensive and distinct area now has its own MP area with over 2 dozen established routes ("Chewiliken Creek Crags").
Getting ThereFrom "The Junction" in Tonasket travel south on Hwy 97 for 4 miles and turn left just before the Janis Bridge. Follow Janis Rd for 0.3 miles, and turn left up McLaughlin Canyon Rd. Park on the right after 1.6 miles (elevation 1450'), and enjoy the gentle mile long trail down the main South Canyon, which was devastated by fire in 2007, but still makes for a beautiful hike.
Classic Climbing Routes at McLoughlin Canyon (Tonasket)
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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Prime Climbing Season