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Desolation Canyon

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Desolation Canyon Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 4,500'
Location: 39.8397, -109.9114 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 4,566
Administrators: Andrew Gram, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Andrew Gram on Apr 29, 2011
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Mushroom Rock Petroglyphs


Desolation Canyon is a beautiful and remote canyon carved by the Green River. The rock is very unusual - layers of excellent Wasatch formation sandstone is interlaced with good to awful Green River formation sandstones, limestones, and siltstones. Fortunately, the most appealing part of the canyon is mostly Wasatch formation, and the Green River bands are short, easy, and clean up after trundling hundreds of pounds of rocks.

Aside from the spectacular towers and large walls in the canyon, there are numerous shorter walls that would make for good cragging. The potential here is vast.

Getting There 

This is where climbing in Desolation Canyon gets tricky.

The only practical way to climb in this extremely remote canyon is via raft. The trip is 84 river miles between the Sand Wash put in south of Myton Utah and the Swasey's Beach take out north of Green River Utah. The first 25 miles are very slow flat water, but after that there is near constant class II and III whitewater. A flash flood in 2008 changed Joe Hutch Canyon rapid from an easy class III to a Grand Canyon style big water class III rapid. Most of the whitewater is pretty easy, but new boatmen may have some trouble with Joe Hutch, Three Fords, and Coal Creek, particularly at high water.

April and May are the best months to climb in Deso since spring runoff high water makes the river trip go much faster. Summer is much too hot and the bugs are notoriously awful, and ice dams block the river from December to March. Fall would be beautiful, but low water rock dodging makes rowing heavy cargo difficult, and you would really want a motor for the flat water sections. I did a 13000 cfs April trip in 3 long and 1 short day of rowing. A July 1500 cfs trip took 7 hard days of rowing.

BLM permits are required year round - has information on the permit process and river regulations. The river left bank is on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation from Sand Wash to Coal Creek, and permits from the Ute tribe are required for access -

The USGS gauge for Desolation Canyon is located at

Climbing Season

For the All Locations area.

Weather station 20.7 miles from here

3 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',2],['2 Stars',0],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]

Featured Route For Desolation Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: Leading the last pitch on the FA.  Photo by Dan Ga...

Shake Wait 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b A2  Utah : Desolation Canyon : The Siren
Pitch #1: Start with a big undercut move to reach a good jam and feet. Then follow the crack system up and right. Climb through the crux corner and mantle onto a ledge. The ledge is a Basalt layer and takes some interesting movement to move above. Near the top climb an undercut, wide crack through brown limestone. Some really cool face holds on the right ease the difficulty. Finish on a big brown ledge at 2 good(1/2inch) bolts. 5.10+.Pitch #2: Continue up the line left of the belay. ...[more]   Browse More Classics in Utah

Photos of Desolation Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Rapid in Desolation Canyon
Rapid in Desolation Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: Lighthouse Tower.
Lighthouse Tower.
Rock Climbing Photo: Camp near Red Point, Desolation Canyon
Camp near Red Point, Desolation Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: Floating Deso
Floating Deso

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