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Kelly Canyon

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Kelly Canyon Rock Climbing 

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Elevation: 7,000'
Location: 35.0661, -111.6999 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 30,260
Administrators: Greg Opland, Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Andrew Ryder on May 3, 2008

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Old school bouldering ladder driftwood.... Kelly C...

Fragile Sandstone: Don't Climb Wet Rock MORE INFO >>>


A peaceful ponderosa-forested canyon with tons of bouldering on cliffs and boulders of Coconino sandstone. Dramatic curved slashes stripe the walls, the lithified remnants of sand dunes deposited 260 million years ago. These slashes birth many slopers and incut rails, lending to a unique and distinctly technical sort of climbing. Many problems here are moderately to seriously highball with committing, sloping topouts so multiple pads and spotters are pretty much essential.

The rock at Kelly is notoriously variable in quality: tacky and bullet-hard in some places, sandy and crumbly elsewhere. Rain and snowmelt seep can render the stone filthy and breakable. Tread carefully, especially early in the season and after storms, and don't forget to bring a soft-bristled brush. (A broom isn't a bad idea, either.)

Fall is the prime season here: it's cool, dry, and colorful. Summers can be toasty, though it's easy to find shade. However, winter is a bust - the roads usually close by late November and the canyon loads up with snowdrifts and deep, icy pools. Unless it is an especially warm and snowless winter, don't plan on visiting between the first snow and perhaps the middle of April.

Like any wild place, Kelly Canyon is special and irreplaceable, and I urge you to be attentive, tread lightly, and appreciate the peace and sanctity of this area.

Rock Climbing Photo: Mudd, clamping.
Mudd, clamping.

Getting There 

Most of the developed rock is in east Kelly Canyon, which is accessed via Kelly Canyon Rd. off I-17 a few miles south of Flagstaff. Several problems exist near the confluence of west Kelly Canyon and Pumphouse Wash, accessed from FR 237 off 89A heading south to Sedona. Check subpages and/or PM for specifics.

Climbing Season

Weather station 2.3 miles from here

84 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',9],['3 Stars',39],['2 Stars',26],['1 Star',9],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Kelly Canyon

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Kelly Canyon:
Aloha Left Arete   V1-2 5     Boulder, 12'   East Kelly Canyon : Trailer Park
Aloha Arete   V2 5+     Boulder, 12'   East Kelly Canyon : Trailer Park
Icy Mike   V2-3 5+     Boulder, 15'   East Kelly Canyon : Donkey Punch Area
Huck Finn   V3 6A PG13     Boulder, 18'   East Kelly Canyon : Donkey Punch Area
Hot Carl   V4 6B     Boulder, 15'   East Kelly Canyon : Trailer Park
Jack and the Beanstock   V4 6B PG13     Boulder, 20'   West Kelly Canyon : Water Front Area
Dope Lounge   V5 6C PG13     Boulder, 18'   East Kelly Canyon : Donkey Punch Area
Donkey Punch   V6 7A     Boulder, 15'   East Kelly Canyon : Donkey Punch Area
Cleveland Steamer   V6 7A     Boulder, 15'   East Kelly Canyon : Donkey Punch Area
The Slab   V6 7A     Boulder, 15'   East Kelly Canyon : Donkey Punch Area
The Traverse   V7-8 7B     Boulder, 30'   East Kelly Canyon : Arkansas & Traverse Wall
Green Mile Direct   V9 7C     Boulder, 15'   East Kelly Canyon : Donkey Punch Area
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Kelly Canyon

Featured Route For Kelly Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: The Slab - V6  Photo Credit: Brad Shorb

The Slab V6 7A  Arizona : Northern Arizona : ... : Donkey Punch Area
Start with a decent pocket and edge on the layer below the slab proper. A smattering of miserable holds separates you from usable features near the top. Unforgiving....[more]   Browse More Classics in Arizona

Photos of Kelly Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: The long reach down low of Dope Lounge. Pic by Mud...
The long reach down low of Dope Lounge. Pic by Mud...

Comments on Kelly Canyon Add Comment
Show which comments
By Andrew Ryder
From: Flagstaff
Jun 9, 2009
One of the good lip holds on Dope Lounge was broken off recently during a week of rain. Please DO NOT climb here shortly after heavy rain or snow. The rock is soft and easy to break when it is soaked.
By J. Snyder
From: Flagstaff, Arizona
May 25, 2011

Enjoy the stone!
By m.qaden.everett
Jul 24, 2011
fun choss.
By Joe Kreidel
From: San Antonio, TX
May 13, 2012
I'm not sure what the rules and regulations for camping or accessing the canyon, but I thought I would throw out this heads up to other out-of-towners. I camped at Kelly Canyon last Thursday night (5/10) with no problems. Bouldered at Kelly Friday morning, then went to the Draw for the afternoon. Exhausted from a good day of bouldering, I grabbed a slice of pizza in town and drove back to Kelly. The forest road was closed, gates locked. I had to hike in, take down camp and hike back out to the highway.

Might be a good idea to check with Coconino NF or some locals before camping at the canyon...
By David Arrasmith
Oct 7, 2013
Found some climbing gear left by the group with the person who hurt his ankle. If this is your stuff please call (916) 956-0674.
No spammers pls, I will request details of the stuff left from all callers.
By JohnniMo McMullin
From: Las Vegas, Nevada
May 12, 2014
The last right fork before the parking area is now blocked by three big rocks. Park above the shooting pit and hike to the old parking area with the fire pit on the right.
By Andrew Ryder
From: Flagstaff
Jun 25, 2017
A couple reminders for the upcoming holiday weekend and summer climbing season.

- Kelly Canyon is sandstone and the rock is very fragile when wet. Monsoons are coming, meaning frequent soaking rains are likely. Please, do not climb here if it has rained in the past 24 hours. There are dozens of other places to climb within an hour's drive. Don't be selfish. Broken holds don't grow back. (You are welcome to PM me or call a local gym about conditions if you're unsure.)

- Please respect the Forest Service closure and do not attempt to drive around the rock barrier at East Kelly. The added walk is under five minutes.

- Leave the yelling and loud music at the gym. If you use tick marks, be tasteful and scrub em when you're done. Help keep it nice out here.

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