Northern Arizona (NAZ) is a vast and varied landscape of rolling ponderosa forests, high elevation plains, and sculpted sandstone deserts. Home to the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Mogollon Rim, the San Francisco Peaks, and some of the best whitewater on the Colorado River, Northern Arizona is quite literally a sacred land to the Navajo and Hopi, as well as many a rock climber.
Climbing in Northern Arizona began in the late 1950's with the first ascent of the Mace in Sedona, done by visiting climbers, Bob Kamps, TM Herbert, and Dave Rearick. In the years to follow many of the major formations and summits throughout Northern Arizona would be pioneered, and an age of vast exploration was set in motion.
As Tim Toula writes in his classic guide, A Cheap Way To Fly, "I entered thru the historical gate of the Flagstaff climbing scene in the fall of 1978 when climbing was still much more of an underground sport than it is today. There was a mystique about climbing then that was hard to grasp. Perhaps it was because there were so few climbers then. Names like Baxter, Coats, Davidson, and later, Murray, Gault, and Mattson floated thru the air like phantoms. Their names heard often, but their talents seldom seen". Check this book out for a more comprehensive slice of the early history of Northern Arizona climbing. At twenty some years old, this is still one of few sources for local areas.
Now a days that list of names has grown tremendously as a constant stream of talent pours out of Flagstaff, which is the heart of the Northern Arizona climbing scene. With all the development of the last couple decades, Flagstaff is now poised to start turning out some world class climbers. The age of exploration that began in the late 50's has not only continued to this day, but has blossomed into a collective energy that really defines the community here. There is always something new to check out, and hidden gems are still being discovered in surprising numbers. Take a look at Joel Unema's, grassroutesclimbing.com/. for stories and photos about local areas, and interviews with local route developers. It's a cool project and will hopefully turn into a means to record and revel in the colorful history of Northern Arizona rock climbing.
Steve Grossman (during his Royal Robbins phase) turns the Tralfamadore Roof on the second ascent in 1976. Paul Davidson belays. Volunteer Canyon, AZ
Northern Arizona has long been held as a bastion of traditional climbing, and for good reason. With the sumptuous single pitch basalt crags like Paradise Forks
, Oak Creek Canyon Overlook
, Volunteer Canyon
, and *The Waterfall*
, Northern Arizona is a hard rock trad climber's dream with easily accessed four star routes. Add to that the gritty, character building back country adventures of the GCNP
, the mysterious quartzite Hualapai Wall
, and the soft stone spire paradise, the Sedona Area
, you might just find yourself slipping into a heart pounding state of trad daddy nirvana.
If you are looking for sport routes in Northern Arizona, you won't have to look too hard. To the east lay crags like the Winslow Wall
and Jacks Canyon
south of Winslow. Around Flagstaff you will find great crags like The Pit
, The Doctor's Office
, the Mt. Elden areas Solitude Canyon
and Red Dragon
, as well as, The Peaks Crag
and the Hobo Jungle
on the San Francisco peaks. Way up north are the unique limestone crags the Virgin River Gorge
and the The Arizona Strip
. Sport climbing is alive and well throughout Northern Arizona. Whether you are looking for steep pockets, or off vertical crimps, the list of fine crags and excellent routes is sure to keep you happily swinging through the air. One way or another.
Keith Ladzinski photo of Whitney Boland climbing Vesper. Lime Kiln Canyon.
And then there is the bouldering. Flagstaff is world renown for it's pocketed limestone roofs, with Priest Draw
being undoubtedly the most famous. But these roofs are tucked away in folds all over Northern Arizona. A committed core of local boulders are establishing breath taking hard lines around Flagstaff and ineed all across Northern Arizona. While the list of hard problems continues to grow, a moderate boulderer is going to find a slew of classic lines at crags like Buffalo Park
, Lake Mary Areas
, and Turkey Tanks
. From the Fontainebleau like slopers of Kelly Canyon
, to the sharp dacite crimps of Gloria's
, Northern Arizona is a boulderer's paradise.
Matt Gentile at one with his environment on Renegade Roof.
Photo Ken Etzl
Northern Arizona has some of the most pristine and unpolluted crags of anywhere I have been in the US. Please help us keep them that way.
We tend to take care of our crags, and most of the routes listed here have adequate anchors or other fixed hardware, if they have any at all. However, one may encounter a few old, rotting pins in places like Sedona and in the Grand Canyon. Much of the original hardware in Secret Canyon on Mt. Elden is old and suspect. Crags that see a lot of action like Jacks Canyon, The Winslow Wall, and The Pit also have aging fixed hardware that wasn't all that great to begin with. I believe an era of route maintenance with glue-in bolt replacement looms before us.
Many of the anchor systems on single pitch routes throughout Northern Arizona employ the "fixed carabiner" style anchor which is specifically set up for easy, safe lowering. If one of the two carabiners is worn past the point of common sense, please leave one of yours in place and take the old one home with you. They make great conversation pieces....
And while a lot of the routes listed here are well traveled, it can be said that Northern Arizona is full of adventurous climbing. Always check your holds, especially on the softer stone.
Leah Sandvoss on Moonjuice (5.11c), Upper Beach, Church Spires, Sedona, AZ
Photo by Andre Kiryanov
Flagstaff, AZ is a fairly small college town and liberal capitol of Arizona, though it also has an undeniable blue collar cowboy flair. Sitting at 7000' it is tucked in between the Mogollon Rim to the south, and the San Francisco Peaks just north of town. Flagstaff is draped over historic Route 66, and has everything a visiting climber may need.
Rest days can be filled with excellent hiking and peak bagging, miles and miles of world class mountain biking, or deep and narrow canyoneering adventures. Or just take it easy and wander about the historic downtown which is filled with gear shops, art galleries, brewpubs, and a few good restaurants.
There is plenty of free camping to be be found on both Coconino and Kaibab National Forests. Essentially unless you see signs saying camping is prohibited, or restricted to designated sites (like at the Peaks Crag), you're good to go.
Danny Mauz on the FA of Shaman School 5.13-, Middle Area.
Here's a short list of local rock types and corresponding crags or areas which are either right around town or within an hour and half drive from Flagstaff. Basalt-
The Waterfall- trad
Paradise Forks- trad
Volunteer Canyon- trad Sandstone-
The Grand Canyon- trad
Winslow Wall- sport/ trad
Sedona- sport/ trad
The Doctor's Office- sport/ trad
Pump House Wash- sport/ trad
Kelly Canyon- bouldering Limestone-
The Pit- sport
Priest Draw- bouldering
Lake Mary- bouldering
Cherry Canyon- bouldering
Jacks Canyon- sport
The Arizona Strip Dacite-
Mt Elden- sport/ trad
The Hobo Jungle- sport/ trad
The Peaks Crag- sport/ trad
Bill Williams Mt- sport/ trad
Darren Mabe on the FA, accepting the Green Knight challenge, down in Volunteer Canyon.
Photo: Wade Forrest
The weather in Northern Arizona can change on a wind, although Flagstaff sees an average of 266 days of sunshine per year. Flagstaff also sees an average of 100" of snow a year.... Yes despite most folks impressions of Arizona, we represent the winter months quite well here in Northern Arizona. Good winter climbing can be had throughout Northern Arizona at the Arizona Strip crags way up north, as well as, The Pit and Higher Solitude Canyon right around Flagstaff, and Jacks Canyon to the east. Winter is also the season for Sedona climbing. If the cold has really set in many retreat to the Central Arizona crags.
Springtime is notoriously windy, and has been known to drive people mad! Especially in the high deserts. Luckily, this is really the only detracting element of the season. Otherwise it's prime time for crags like The Waterfall, Paradise Forks, The Overlook, The Red Dragon, The Solitude Wall, and many, many more as perfect temps can easily be chased down.
The summer months bring about an average high of 88 degrees during July. Then it's Monsoon Season to the rescue! Flagstaff itself receives an annual 21" of rain a year, and much of it comes during the Monsoons which are powerful storm systems. Monsoon Season typically lasts through September. Attractive areas this time of year include The Hobo Jungle, The Peaks Crag, West Elden, The Winslow Wall, and more.
And of course, our favorite season Fall, does not disappoint in Northern Arizona. With usually sunny, moderate temperature days, most of our premiere crags are in perfect conditions. Whether you are chasing around the fall colors on the San Francisco Peaks, or marveling at the otherworldly dryness of the desert crags, Fall in Northern Arizona should not be missed.
Anne Mariah mid crux on Blow Before Throws. Oak Creek Canyon.
The ever changing and often daunting landscapes of NAZ are a true sight to behold and climb in. The often expansive or tight horizons makes it difficult to capture with a lens. However, these brave local photographers and videographers have been capturing the essence of these wild and untamable lands for years or even decades. If you enjoy excellent photos, climbing and so much more, then you may want to do some clicking here. John Burcham johnburcham.tumblr.com/ James Q Martin jamesqmartin.com/photography/i... Tamara Hastie tamarahastie.com/ Blake McCord blakemccordphoto.com/index.htm... Pernell Tomasi Grand Canyon
Lisa climbing Panza Roja, Paradise Forks.
Drive Times Approximate drive times from Flagstaff to...
Cochise Stronghold- 6.5 hours
Mt. Lemon- 6 hours
Hueco Tanks- 10 hours
Indian Creek- 5.5 hours
Yosemite Valley- 10 hours
The Needles (CA)- 10 hours
Joshua Tree- 5 hours
Red Rocks- 5 hours
Gyms- Flagstaff Climbing Center flagstaffclimbing.com
205 S. San Francisco St. Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Flagstaff Climbing Center (climbing gym, retail shop and guide service) is located in historic downtown Flagstaff. The center features over 7000 square feet of widely varied climbing terrain to suit all abilities and climbing styles including 40 tall top rope and lead walls and bouldering area. Flagstaff Climbing is here today because of its commitment to support the climbing community though quality training facilities, expert instruction, informative equipment sales and a friendly atmosphere for all climbers. Main Street Boulders flagstaffclimbing.com
1519 N. Main St. Ste 107, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Main Street Boulders (owned and operated by Flagstaff Climbing Center) is located on Main Street in Flagstaff. The bouldering gym features over 2000 square feet of widely varied state-of-the-art bouldering terrain, built by Vertical Solutions, to suit all abilities and climbing styles and a first-class training area to build strong climbers. Main Street Boulders is here today because of Flagstaff Climbing Centers commitment to support the climbing community though quality training facilities, expert instruction and a friendly staff. Beta Bouldering Gym betaboulderinggym.com/
495 s. River Run Rd. Suite 104, Flagstaff AZ 86001
Beta Bouldering Gym, Northern Arizonas largest bouldering gym, is located just a few blocks from downtown Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University. Beta is a 6,000 square foot bouldering facility built by the local climbing community in 2012 to house the growing demand for a place to train, get strong and socialize. With climbing terrain carefully built for all abilities and two separate workout areas, Beta strives to provide the best indoor bouldering experience in Arizona.
Flagstaff Climbing Center has a good selection of everything you need. rei.com/stores/flagstaff.html
REI Flagstaff Store flagstaffusedsports.com/
Flagstaff Sports Exchange is another local, climber friendly shop. babbittsbackcountry.com/
Babbits Backcountry Outfitters is right downtown, and covers the basics as far as climbing gear. aspensports.com/
Aspen Sports is right downtown, and covers the basics as far as climbing gear. peacesurplus.com/#
Peace Surplus is also right downtown, and covers the basics as far as climbing gear.
Joel Unema pulling hard on Picture Me Rolling, Winslow Wall
Photo - Blake McCord
Flagstaff sits at the junction of Interstate 40 and Interstate 17 in north central Arizona.