McLoughlin Canyon (Tonasket) Rock Climbing
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McLoughlin 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 of, and skirmish with, 160 gold miners bound for British Columbia) make for a great all round experience.
It has wonderful opportunities for both 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, esp. if you're planning new route development.)
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.
Note: with a few exceptions ALL the rock north of the county road is private and thus off bounds for climbing. All the rock south of the road is public (BLM), and there are many cracks and corners that can be led with gear. Most of these old school trad routes have no publicly shared beta and so provide a true sense of adventure. Although a number of bold ground-up ascents were done in the past, given the nature of McLoughlin rock, with its abundance of dirty, brittle and/or loose rock and debris, this is NOT recommended. Until these older routes can be restored, pre-scouting of unbolted lines is advised. Most of the new face climbs (many bolted and scrubbed) are concentrated in the more remote south end of the canyon and other lesser surrounding crags, leaving the Main Wall for the trad inclined...
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;
NAME; grade and quality (* - good, ** - very good, *** - great, **** - world class/classic); length; type of pro. used - G = natural/gear, F = fixed (b - bolt, p - piton, fn - fixed nut), M = mixed; TR = toprope, R = ("runout") potentially dangerous, PG 13 = ("pucker grade") scary/risky; Route description;
The various areas open to the public and covered here include (from north to south);
Lower West Wall - The first small cliff visible on the right on the drive up McLaughlin Canyon Rd from the Okanogan Valley, has several bolted routes.
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. Most of the bouldering area below is on BLM land.
Wall of Cracks - The west facing cliff on the east side of the county road directly across from the south parking area. There are old tad lines and a few new bolted routes here now. Only the first couple of faces and corners of this cliff are on BLM land.
Main Wall - The main east facing canyon south of the county road, includes both lower and upper sections as well as the large southern section. Many old trad lines are on these walls as well as some recently developed mixed and sport routes.
Little West Canyon - The very small (and isolated) canyon on the slope west of the main canyon, has several bolted routes on both the east and west facing rock.
South Buttress - The huge S and SE facing wall where the main canyon opens up, home of some excellent new multi-pitch sport routes.
Last Wall - The half mile long east facing cliff south of the main canyon provides some excellent climbing, most of it bolted. More removed from the county road than the main canyon, this area includes several subsections; NW End, The Mid West, and SW End.
S 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. So far it has received minimal attention.
Chewiliken Creek Crags - 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 west side. This rather extensive and distinct area now has its own MP area with over 2 dozen established routes ("Chewiliken Creek Crags").
From "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 and a half long trail down the canyon to its south end. Devastated by fire in 2007 and 2015 it still makes for a beautiful hike.
Classic Climbing Routes at McLoughlin Canyon (Tonasket)
Days w Precip