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The Emeralds

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The Emeralds Rock Climbing 


Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 4,500'
Location: 39.31876, -120.65678 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 149,016
Administrators: Aron Quiter, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Aron Quiter on Oct 7, 2002
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Deep water soloing on a great boulder problem at t...

No overnight camping on PG&E property MORE INFO >>>

Description 

If you are looking for an area where you can climb without crowds and be in a beautiful mountain setting, this is the place. There is even a huge world class swimming hole that is emerald green (expect beautiful people here with little on in the hot days of summer). Most of the climbs in the Benches section are westerly to northerly facing so you can chase shade all day in the hotter months. When the temperature is 110F in Sacramento, head for the gorge where you will need a sweater.

The Emeralds are on a mix of PG&E (Pacfic Gas and Electric) and Tahoe National Forest land. The exact boundaries aren't easy to see on the ground. Dispersed or primitive camping is permitted in many areas of the national forests, but since specifics change frequently, contact Tahoe NF for more information before setting up camp, and as always, make an effort to leave no trace. Established campgrounds are also available in the national forest along Bowman Lake Road, and just upstream at PG&E's Lake Spaulding campground.

Getting There 

This page's location shows the usual parking area. Here are driving directions there:

  • From I-80, exit onto Highway 20 and drive four miles toward Nevada City.

  • After 3.5 miles, turn north onto Bowman Lake Road (forest service road 18) and drive for 1.3 miles. Have no fear, this section of the road is all paved.

  • Just before the bridge that crosses the Yuba River, there is a dirt access road. It is now gated and locked, so park across the bridge, then continue on foot.

For an overview map of walking directions to the climbing areas, with GPS coordinates, see the Emeralds Guide page 1 thru 6 below in the Photos.

Climbing Season



Weather station 1.3 miles from here

102 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',6],['3 Stars',37],['2 Stars',48],['1 Star',6],['Bomb',2]
['<=5.6',1],['5.7',1],['5.8',8],['5.9',8],['5.10',33],['5.11',38],['5.12',13],['5.13',0],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in The Emeralds

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for The Emeralds:
Cast In Stone   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 2 pitches, 200'   The Benches : The Negativity Cave
Bushmaster   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Benches : The Dollar Store
Closed for lunch   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 60'   The Benches : The Dollar Store
Ghost Town   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Right
Little Buddy   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   The Benches : Negativity Slabs
Push to Open   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   The Benches : The Dollar Store
Rebirth   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Right
If the Shoe Fits   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Right
420 Club   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 80'   The Benches : Chalkporium
Where's The Beef   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 100'   The Benches : Fast Food Wall
Solar Winds   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 50'   The Benches : The Fortress
Step into the Light   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Left
Charlee and the Stick Factory   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 70'   The Benches : The Fortress
Super Size Me   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   The Benches : Fast Food Wall
Sun Burn   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 55'   The Benches : The Fortress
Shadows on the Earth   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 70'   The Benches : The Fortress
Duppy Conquer   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Left
In and Out Urge   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   The Benches : Fast Food Wall
Radio Static   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a     Sport, 70'   The Benches : Steel Monkey Wall
Steel Monkey   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 70'   The Benches : Steel Monkey Wall
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in The Emeralds

Featured Route For The Emeralds
Rock Climbing Photo: peer pressure .12a

Peer Pressure 5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a  California : Lake Tahoe : ... : The Bear's Lair
bouldery start then traverse left to overhanging slot and up head wall (crux)....[more]   Browse More Classics in California

Photos of The Emeralds Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Negativity Cave, Emeralds. CA.
Negativity Cave, Emeralds. CA.
Rock Climbing Photo:  5 Minute Hero .12- Emeralds, Upper Gorge.
5 Minute Hero .12- Emeralds, Upper Gorge.
Rock Climbing Photo: Emeralds old map
Emeralds old map
Rock Climbing Photo: The mega classic Resurrection .11c. Emeralds, Uppe...
The mega classic Resurrection .11c. Emeralds, Uppe...
Rock Climbing Photo: Josh heading up Whirl Pool .12a. Need a 70 meter r...
Josh heading up Whirl Pool .12a. Need a 70 meter r...
Rock Climbing Photo: Map of the Emeralds (Rev. 10/2/16) Mostly of the B...
BETA PHOTO: Map of the Emeralds (Rev. 10/2/16) Mostly of the B...
Rock Climbing Photo: Tons of water boulders in Emerald Pools. You can b...
Tons of water boulders in Emerald Pools. You can b...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pg 1 - Guide to the Emeralds (revised 4/16)
BETA PHOTO: Pg 1 - Guide to the Emeralds (revised 4/16)
Rock Climbing Photo: Peter Mayfield on an early ascent of the steep and...
Peter Mayfield on an early ascent of the steep and...
Rock Climbing Photo: I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in ...
I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in ...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Emeralds trailhead warning sign.
BETA PHOTO: The Emeralds trailhead warning sign.
Rock Climbing Photo: I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in ...
I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Hansi sending 3 Minute Hero .12a. Emeralds Upper G...
Hansi sending 3 Minute Hero .12a. Emeralds Upper G...
Rock Climbing Photo: Super Alpine Route Direct .11a. Emeralds, CA.
Super Alpine Route Direct .11a. Emeralds, CA.
Rock Climbing Photo: Hansi - third ascent of Drama Queen .12a. Emeralds...
Hansi - third ascent of Drama Queen .12a. Emeralds...
Rock Climbing Photo: Dylan on Separation Anxiety .11d. Wishing Well. Em...
Dylan on Separation Anxiety .11d. Wishing Well. Em...

Comments on The Emeralds Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 7, 2017
By Cave Man McElroy
From: auburn
Jun 25, 2012
(Before accepting the following comments regarding the flooding potential of the Emeralds, please read the Emeralds "Description")


There are several climbing locations in and around the emeralds area. The (sort of sketchy/often flooded area (upper gorge etc)) is more easily approached via lake spalding (i.e. park on HWY20 and ride bike down and over the lake spalding dam...better for end of the summer/when it's been dry for a long time.

Some other (more safe/non-flooded) climbing is more easily appraoched via bowman lake road. This area includes a climb called "Steel Monkey" '12a' epic 4/5 star sport climb on a slightly overhanging wall.
By mike carville
Feb 16, 2013
Great new climbs by Brad Johnson and John Robinson at the Kudos/Fast Food cliff. Walk another 15 minutes northeast and you'll find the old Emeralds' Gorge. A new Tahoe Guide book from Josh Horniak will have all the routes in the Emeralds/Bowman Area (fall 2013).

There are now 27 newly bolted lines in the Gorge ranging from .10-.13. The greatest concentration of routes is in the .11 range. Some of these routes require a 70 meter rope. Dam Release/high water in spring is a very dangerous issue here. Other than that the Gorge climbing is great and the Wishing Well remains cool even in July/August when the rest of the Emeralds is hot.

Cheers, Mike
By mike carville
Mar 30, 2013
Emeralds is bone dry and in season as of 3/30/13!
By Alan
Aug 25, 2014
Went to the Emeralds area for the first time over the weekend. One note on the approach - we were trying to follow the hand-drawn maps posted in the photos sections and ended up on a mystery trail that goes up the ridge above the benches area. The primary reason for getting lost was seeing a trail break right into the woods that was Cairn-laden (as well as the map comment that says "trail starts uphill"). Maybe this trail is to help guide people to the top of the cliff for TRing or maybe it's leading to new areas in the gorge on the other side of the benches? In any case, do not follow this first trail if you are looking for the "high trail" to the benches area. You'll be looking for a very large pile of Cairns a bit past that. You'll know you're on the right track if you walk through a campsite in the woods with a makeshift bench made from a few logs and a long piece of steel.
By tosh forrence
From: mcminnville, or
Aug 28, 2014
So, if heading to the benches, make sure you take the right turn that has a metal bench about 100 feet down the trail. People have been putting confusing cairns on paths that just lead you into the woods. Look for the metal bench or you're going to be hiking for a long time.
By Kelley Gilleran
From: Sacramento, Ca
Aug 28, 2015
The parking at the emeralds has been crazy this year. With the popularity of the pools and the climbing area increasing make sure the gate does not get blocked to the pg&e access road. Also think about the best place to park to allow as many cars in the limited space as possible.
By Kelley Gilleran
From: Sacramento, Ca
May 7, 2016
So cool! Thanks for making this map!

Rock Climbing Photo: Map of the Emeralds (Rev. 10/2/16) Mostly of the B...
Map of the Emeralds (Rev. 10/2/16)
Mostly of the Benches. The information is from the original hand drawn maps by John Robinson. View full size for detailed view.
By John Robinson
From: Elk Grove, ca
May 10, 2017
The Bowman road is now open so you can drive to the Emeralds but snow blocks the road before you get to Bowman
By Colby Wangler
May 22, 2017
Fellow Climbers,
Noticed several tents while walking into the emeralds climbing area this last weekend ( 5/20/17 ). PG&E has posted several signs at the gate and other areas that state camping is NOT allowed. Please respect this so that access does not become an issue!

Thanks in advance,

Colby W
By Erik B
Jul 27, 2017
Rappelled into the Upper Gorge today to check out conditions. The water was below the dam so it is safe to climb below. As far as I could tell the routes there were not affected by the winter storms. The narrow pool at the base is very full so getting over to the south side wall will be interesting
By Whitney Christine
From: Nevada City, CA
Aug 7, 2017
Fellow climbers,

PLEASE do not camp at the crag, and please obey parking signs and do not block the roadway.

I understand the popularity of the crag has blown up recently, but as a local, these actions greatly increase the chance of access being threatened. Plus, the risk of fire danger is extremely high given the water year, and a camp fire could have a spark that put thousands of lives and homes at risk. There are plenty of free camping opportunities in Tahoe National Forest and on BLM land, but please don't start fires.

Another note, also please don't bring glass to the river or the crag! This weekend there was a bunch of broken glass at the Swimming hole there and on the trail.

Please be a thoughtful environmental steward and leave no trace.

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