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Big Chief

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Big Chief Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 6,984'
Location: 39.2496, -120.1907 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 68,271
Administrators: Aron Quiter, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: M. Morley on Sep 22, 2012

69° | 34°

71° | 36°

74° | 36°

74° | 36°

69° | 33°

72° | 33°
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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Big Chief is in a beautiful location!


The Big Chief area is best known for a collection of sport bolted volcanic crags, roughly centered around the namesake formation on a ridge above highway 89. Much is developed, and much more awaits. It is on National Forest Land.

Most of the routes on the main walls were developed in the early 1990s, but new lines continue to be put up there and on other scattered crags nearby.

Reasonable public access does not currently exist during winter, when forest road 06 can be closed from first snowfall to early spring (even when the national forest website hasn't been updated accurately compared to conditions on the ground). Past winter access routes are now signed specifically as closed.

Getting There 

Exit the central Truckee exit and take a right. Go into the traffic circle, and take your first right, which will wind down to West River Street, where you should take a left. Follow this about 1/2 a mile to Brockway Drive (the sign MAY still say highway 267), where you should go right.

Less than a mile later, turn right on Palisades Drive. Go over the hill, and turn right on Silver Fir, and shortly afterwards turn left on Thelin Street.

Within a block, hang a right onto the dirt road just after a gate, which is set back from the road about 30 feet.

Drive 5.2 miles on the main road, which is numbered as National Forest Road 06.

Parking area GPS coordinates:


The GPS coords above take you to the right turn into the parking area. There is currently a cairn on a large tree stump indicating entrance.

Stay straight on the road past the turnoff to the ranch (which has a sign stating "horseback riding" or something like that), and you will see a large dirt turn around inside the most prevalent right turn, which actually has a full right turn, and also sharper right turn 30 feet later in case you miss this first one.

This leads you about 100 feet into a traffic circle type thing, which is the parking area for the Big Chief area.

Climbing Season

Weather station 5.8 miles from here

77 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',3],['3 Stars',33],['2 Stars',37],['1 Star',3],['Bomb',1]

Classic Climbing Routes in Big Chief

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Big Chief:
War Path   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Center Wall
War Paint   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Center Wall
Times Up   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Honeycomb Wall
Festus   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   South Wall
Route Stealers From Hell   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 40'   Center Wall
Half Baked   5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   North Wall
Mohawk   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 40'   Center Wall
Too Light to Wait   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 30'   Center Wall
Witch Doctor   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Center Wall
Sweating Bullets   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Honeycomb Wall
May Cause Drowsiness   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   South Wall
Flamethrower   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 130'   Center Wall
Pow Wow   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 30'   Center Wall
Head Rush   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Center Wall
Pain Killer   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   South Wall
Big Chief Arete   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 120'   Center Wall
Flying High Again   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   South Cave
Raindance   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 30'   Center Wall
Totally Chawsome   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 35'   Center Wall
All Guns Blazing   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch   Center Wall
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Big Chief

Featured Route For Big Chief
Rock Climbing Photo: Raindance from below, with bolts.  The first bolt ...

Raindance 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a  California : Lake Tahoe : ... : Center Wall
This route is in the less overhung (comparitively) cave in the center section of the Big Chief center area. It's still really overhung, but not as much as the other overhung area about 150 feet uphill and left. This route is 5 routes to the left of War Paint (5.9), which always has people on it in the mornings. It also shares the first bolt with the overhung and very juggy Mohawk, which moves up and right, while Raindance moves straight up.Sustained overhang has an excellent section to the fi...[more]   Browse More Classics in California

Comments on Big Chief Add Comment
Show which comments
By Marek Hajek
From: Reno, NV
Jun 5, 2017
07/01/17: I drove up to the second gate and it is open. Big Chief season is on!

06/27/17: I just called the Forest Service and was told the second gate to Big Chief is still closed.

06/05/17: I just called the Forest Service to check on when the gates on Route 6 to Big Chief will be open this year. The Forest Service employee said that the road is open all the way to the North Star property 3 or 4 miles up, but there still are large snow patches in the shady areas past that, so the second gate is closed. He suggested to check back in at least a couple more weeks and that it may be a few weeks before the road thaws out this year. This means the road to Big Chief is still closed, unless you want to walk for several miles over snow patches.
By Caliza
Jul 6, 2017
Sweet. Thanks for all the updates!
By Nicole Copti
Aug 30, 2017
Anyone know about free camping near Big Chief? It seems that maybe you can camp legally in the parking lot if you hike in a little ways. If not, know of any free dispersed camping within 20 minutes or so?

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