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Mill Creek

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Mill Creek Rock Climbing 

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Location: 38.47684, -109.38133 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: slim, Andrew Gram, Perin Blanchard, grk10vq, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Josh Janes on Nov 19, 2001
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RAIN, WET ROCK and RAPTOR CLOSURES: The sandstone around Moab is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. Also please ask and be aware of Raptor Closures in areas such as CAT WALL and RESERVOIR WALL in Indian Creek MORE INFO >>>


Mill Creek is a great little climbing area in close proximity to Moab. The place is special and feels untrodden even though climbers have been visiting the area for decades. If you choose to visit this little gem, please make sure to treat the area gently. That includes hiking your ass out of the canyon if you have to take a dump!

The canyon is located high in the La Sals and consists of very compact sandstone/quartzite. This lends itself to good face climbing and offers a welcome respite from both the relentless splitter cracks and the hot temperatures of the Moab area. The area is predominantly bolted, but there are trad lines and even the bolted routes often require the occasional gear placement. Bring a light rack and don't leave it on the ground if you're unsure about your climb.

It should be noted that if you are visiting Moab from out of town, Mill Creek is probably not the best destination or rest-day distraction. The area is mostly undocumented, and almost entirely established ground up. Ratings are very stiff, there are often big runouts on non-trivial climbing, and holds are rarely well-chalked and frequently adorned with sand or cobwebs. There is also very little climbing below mid 5.11. Because of the magazines, Mill Creek has a reputation for being Moab's "sport climbing" area, but this is both a disservice to Mill Creek and to climbers as well.

Getting There 

Mill Creek is located midway along the La Sal Loop Road, a scenic drive that runs from Castle Valley up through the La Sals, and back down to 191 just south of Moab. The loop road actually crosses the creek just above the Hydro Crag on an obvious bridge.

The area is actually quite vast, and in keeping with the tradition of the area, it demands a willingness to explore. For that reason, there are no formal guidebooks and other very specific directions are not available here, but with the right attitude and a bit of time, there is a lot of great climbing and adventure to be had. Good luck!

Climbing Season

Weather station 3.7 miles from here

50 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',22],['3 Stars',22],['2 Stars',5],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',1]

Classic Climbing Routes in Mill Creek

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Mill Creek:
Magic Carpet Ride   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   The Sunny Side
Mother Hen   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Sunny Side
Black Hearted Woman   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Sunny Side
Grateful He's Dead   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Sunny Side
Petrified Feline   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, 4 pitches, 400'   Lower Mill Creek
Going the Distance   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Other Mill Creek Areas
Black Widow Arete   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   The Sunny Side
Ferns Have Feelings Too   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 65'   The Wicked Crag
Sexy Beast   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Sport, 3 pitches, 400'   Lower Mill Creek
Techno Christ   5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   The Wicked Crag
Flaming Groovy   5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b     Sport, 50'   The Wicked Crag
The Trad Warrior   5.12+ 7c 28 IX 27 E6 6b PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 150'   Lower Mill Creek
Scavenger   5.12c/d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Wicked Crag
Reckon So   5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b     Sport, 70'   Horse Creek
The Buzzcut   5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   The Wicked Crag
Crush the Skull   5.12d 7c 28 IX 28 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   The Wicked Crag
Jolly Roger   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 75'   The Wicked Crag
Bowsprit   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   The Wicked Crag
The Paper Crane   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 140'   Lower Mill Creek
Tiki Man   5.13c 8a+ 30 X- 31 E7 7a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Wicked Crag
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Mill Creek

Featured Route For Mill Creek
Rock Climbing Photo: Topo Wild Kingdom

Wild Kingdom 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b Utah : Moab Area : ... : Lower Mill Creek
Climbs out the steep and exposed arete/ bulge climbers left of porch feature. This route has some heads up climbing, 2nd pitch is wild.P1: 5.10 R Same start as "Fox Trot". But continue up into chimney. Finish with a exposed scary traverse left inside chimney to the belay, marginal small nut up and right may help.P2: 5.12 R Make a couple moves straight up then head out left on cool rail feature. The pitchs boulder problem crux is next. After regaining a cool head climb left via wildly exposed cli...[more]   Browse More Classics in Utah

Photos of Mill Creek Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: One of the few 5.11's at the wicked crag. Photo by...
One of the few 5.11's at the wicked crag. Photo by...

Comments on Mill Creek Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 14, 2017
By Anonymous Coward
Feb 5, 2002
Mill Creek Canyon is indeed a beautiful and special place to climb, however it is worth the while to consider a few important traits of the area before setting out on a visit to MCC.

On an access and conservation note: And these are absolutes... PLEASE drive the speed limit or slower and park carefully and considerately in MCC. This may mean you'll need to walk a bit, but the land manager has concerns about speeding and parking. DO NOT S*&T IN THE CANYON! Walk the 5 minutes up to the road and care for waste disposal in a environmentally friendly fashion!

Climbing: It is wise to understand before going to MCC that it is not in entirety a sport crag - especially in the common (ie. Rifle, Red Rocks) definition of the term (more like Smith's older routes or Tuolome -sp?). Though there are "sport routes" in MCC, more often than not the routes tend to be "sporty" to "run out" - many sport climbers consider routes at MCC to border on terrifying and there are some routes w/ ground fall potential; most have long fall potential, so know before you go. All but about 5 routes in the canyon are accessible from the top and can be previewed or climbed on TR (bring a length of rope to access the anchors from trees). If you can not see bolts all the way to the top of a route, do not assume that they exist, and top rope if you are unsure of your ability or the presence of gear.

It is also wise to carry a small rack to many of the routes as quite a few are "old school", bolts where you need 'em, gear supplementing. In addition, many routes in MCC are harder than they appear (bouldery technical cruxes), so again, if you are unsure, TR. In general, MCC is not a super area for beginners - like most of the dez, for what ever reason, life tends to begin at 5.10 and the easier routes tend to be more run than the harder routes (13a and up). But if you are keen on "adventure sport climbing" do come and give it a try! The area described above is known as "The Wicked Crag" and has some of MCC's finest hard routes.

Season: April/May-Oct./Nov.

Enjoy, but be safe and conscientious Lisa
By Anonymous Coward
Jun 1, 2005
There is now an outhouse located in thefield about 250 feet north of the Geyser Passturnoff.

Use It!
By Brendan N
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Oct 7, 2009
Keep an open mind and a sense of adventure and millcreek will deliver some of the best climbing experiences of your life.
By Josh Janes
General Admin
Oct 7, 2009

I'm sorry you're disappointed that my description for Mill Creek doesn't live up to the standards of my other contributions to Mountain Project, but I'm not going to change it and here's why:

First, I should note that I'm not the one who submitted the Mill Creek area - it was a terrible one line description which I adopted in order to actually improve upon. After discussion with locals and other admin-type folks on the site, rather than spell out every detail of Mill Creek, I chose to instead attempt to create something more balanced that would uphold the tradition of the area.

That tradition harkens back to respecting an area and the style in which it was developed, right back to Royal Robbins' vision of climbing during the "golden age" in the Valley. In much the same way you wouldn't retro bolt a classic trad line, spelling out directions to every route in Mill Creek would be a real shame. Rather than call me malicious, you could have contacted me (or anyone else who's climbed there) and asked for more info (as someone did just last week as a matter of fact), which perhaps I could have provided.

As Brendan said, keeping an open mind and sense of adventure and investing a little time and energy in exploring this area will pay back in spades. Spend a rest day hiking from the Wicked Crag out the mouth of the canyon (wear Carharts, trust me), talk to the locals, read the stories in the old mags... I guarantee you'll get a lot more out of the experience. If this isn't your thing, don't worry, the climbing isn't so mindblowing that you're missing out on much - go to Rifle, the climbing is way better, it's closer to Boulder, and you won't have to waste one bit of precious redpointing energy on finding your route.

Best regards and good luck on Tiki Man!
By Evan Stevens
Jan 14, 2010
Josh, I agree with your a former Forest Service employee and new router in the canyon, I must say, that is the nature of this place and it will help preserve it, or it will get over run and get restricted. That said, the climbing is NOT for everyone. There are a few sport pitches around, but it is way more of a cerebral adventure then a day at Rifle. Maybe one of these days I will submit some topos/descriptions for the tons of single pitch lines in the upper canyon and tons of multipitch lines down lower!
By roundhead
Mar 4, 2010
it is nice to see that the spirit of mcc is still alive. the place has always been magical. i remember climbing on the sunny side while watching bears forage in the canyon below me. or falcons hunting from the cliff tops. cougars stalking the tree lines of chain drags as we packed out at dusk. any large group of users is a nasty lot. just look at what mountain bikers did to slickrock or indian creek for that matter. if protecting something special means frustrating people who need a guide book to climb, so be it. unfortunately, it is just a matter of time before someone decides their need to make money, or advance their ego will override a concensus of climbers who want to keep something as pristine as possible. it has always been the battle over the canyons ethic. i think it is pretty obvious which side i come down on. as i always told people asking about mcc, you can top rope everything. just bring a pair of jugs.
By karcbr
Aug 26, 2010
Hey Roundhead, long time no see! You should give me a call!! Its been a while since our Rumble in the Bronx days. Its only been arond 20 years. SAME BAT TIME-SAME BAT CHANNEL Et tu Brute
By Chachi
Sep 29, 2010
What did mountain bikers do to Indian Creek?
By roundhead
Jan 28, 2011
there used to be lots of juniper and pinion pine trees as well as the accompanying wild life. you didnt have to pay to camp, and when it was developed by the land managers the area was designated as a "national sacrifice area". i am not picking on mountain bikers per se, my point is that any large user group impacts enviromentally sensitive in a negative fashion. i remember having to explain to a group of mntbikers that the tree they just pulled out of the ground for firewood was not "about to die" but had been growing that way for the last couple of hundred years.
By rockyourface
Jun 4, 2011
go north of Moab, cross the Colorado River take the next main left by the tailings pile, drive about 4-5 miles and you'll see climbs all to the right hand side. Oh wait that's potash.... just go there anyways
By Chad Wagner
Jul 26, 2012
Adventure sport climbing at its best. This place is an amazing piece of geography. Honestly I hope to never see a guide book, it would turn into a zoo. Good Luck.
P.S. I liked the old description.
By Cowboy Roy
From: SLC, UT
Apr 24, 2014
is it possible/ at all pleasant to climb in Mill creek in the dead of the summer if you avoid sun?
By justino
Aug 5, 2014
Watched a cinnamon black bear huck carcass down the rope ladder near Pete's crag today! Luna's nose was going wild but she stayed put as the bear headed upstream along the climbers trail. We found some prints in the mud along with scratch marks in the dirt. We stayed downstream :)
By Mike broad
From: Flagstaff, AZ
May 16, 2015
That's pretty crazy... huck carcass would be a kool route name.
By Gaar
From: Springdale / Zion UT / Moab
Apr 15, 2016
By Nate Sydnor
From: Moab
May 14, 2017
Dear Mill Creek climbers, both locals and visiting folk alike;

I generally stay away from giving unsolicited beta, and this is only my personal opinion, but I'm hopeful that folks will agree. Also, before launching in, I'd like to recount a useful allegory;

Shunryu Suzuki used to say to his Zen students that rules are in place to free us, not limit us. If we are familiar with the rules, and know how to act accordingly, then we can go on more effortlessly. We don’t have to wonder if we’re doing it right, or think about what we SHOULD be doing. We can just do it. Additionally, we don’t develop the psychological residue of knowing internally that we are not behaving in a respectful way that benefits others.

The use and overuse of chalk is an issue that is rising in relevance all over the desert, but most recently my attention has been directed up the hill, so I’ll utilize this time to address Mill Creek specifically. Over time I have seen chalk impacting into many of the holds up there, both on easier warm-ups as well as hard classics, and this season seems to be starting off “worse” than ones past. The rock there is varied and “porous,” and excess chalk can build with sweat and shoe rubber to essentially form a new layer much like calcite, filling in the subtle spaces in the holds over time. This “degrades” the holds, and is the same process that is occurring at Big Bend, leading to the slick-ification of damn near everything.

Please bring some form of climbing brush with you whenever you climb at Mill Creek, and clean excess chalk off of holds after you climb on them. Also, from the egregious amount of chalk I’m seeing on warm-ups, there are obviously some newer folks who have poor chalking technique. After dipping, don't go straight to gripping. Always shake, slap, or blow the excess chalk off, or else you are impacting the chalk into the hold every time it is used. Additionally, chalk decreases the coefficient of friction between your fingers and the rock, so if you’re hands aren’t dampening, you don’t need a drying agent and it’s actually a hindrance. When the temps are prime up there, please consider; do I even need chalk right now? So many of us just dip out of habit, and being a more mindful climber will ALWAYS make you a better climber.

Also, absolutely brush off tick marks if you must use them. They interfere with the climbing experiences of others, and in my opinion are an unnecessary visual aid; the colored tape that leapt out of the gym world and into what feels like wilderness where it doesn't belong. In my estimation, part of the spirit of climbing has always been to FIND the way. It is my personal opinion that tick marks lower the bar and go against the grain of this tradition. Raise the bar for yourself and see what it’s like when you use your mind/eye coordination to find the hold, not a visual aid.

Also, and this is a really easy one; CLEAN UP YOUR TRASH. There is an abundance of little bits of tape, fruit labels, etc. building up up there as well. I have seen folks that are there with locals who are guilty of this. Please be proactive. Locals, you are stewards of Mill Creek and it is your responsibility to keep track of your guests if they can't do it themselves. Mill Creek is a small, fragile area, and at this point it is simply rude and thoughtless to leave trash behind. Be mindful.

Again, I don't think these principles are too far out, and I'd like to think that this kind of beta is common sense, but it appears as though it’s not. I understand that climbing is rapidly catching on in popularity, so we all need to do our part now that more and more people are flooding outside. If you see someone doing something dangerous, or something that is not a best practice, please speak up. None of us like getting in other people’s business, but I’ve found if it’s done in a respectful and calm manner, it’s usually beneficial to all involved. Speaking only for myself and my own OCD, the lack of mindfulness in the climbing community can at times feel overwhelming. If we all do our best to be mindful, respectful, and thorough, the places we utilize will benefit, and the new generation of climbers coming up under us will have a good example from which to learn. This is but one issue, regarding one specific area. I know this has been a lot of words, but I’m hoping they will reach some folks.

Thanks to all, and enjoy the tiny holds! I think we can all agree that they feel much better without the chalk buildup, the problem solving is more enjoyable without someone else's distracting visual aid, and the area is more beautiful without bits of trash lingering about.


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