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Volunteer Canyon

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Volunteer Canyon Rock Climbing 

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Elevation: 7,000'
Location: 35.11965, -111.93469 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 32,795
Administrators: Greg Opland, Luke Bertelsen, JJ Schlick, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Jed G on Dec 27, 2009
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Steve Grossman sets up for the crux move of Tralfa...


Northern Arizona basalt canyon, near Paradise Forks. Up to 300ft routes. Lots of Adventure. This place is Worthy and the camping is the best part.

"Volunteer Canyon does host some of the tallest columnar basalt in NAZ, but probably not in a way you would like to imagine. Compared to Paradise Forks, Volunteer Canyon is wild, blocky, unkempt, often loose, dirty, and seldom visited. Though there is a growing number of neo classics to be found, It is still a place to get away from the crowds and explore your sense of adventure. The scenery and the over all vibe of the place is worth the visit. And for some, will lead to many more. It is an amazing canyon which intimidates, invites, and inspires.

For decades Volunteer Canyon was known by local climbers as The Cwm, which is a Whelsh word for a steep cirque. I believe it was Scott Baxter who first started calling it The Cwm.

Surprisingly, this area was climbed at before the discovery of Paradise Forks. After that fateful finding of the Forks however, Volunteer turned into a ghost town, back water area which was known for having terrible road access, hard to find established routes, and poorly maintained lines due to neglect. The easily accessed Paradise Forks eclipsed Volunteer, and development here came to a grinding halt. More modern development through the 80's and 90's continued in the form of infrequent, short bursts by folks who worked in quiet, and did not leave much of their coming and going. Volunteer is now receiving the proper attention it always deserved with modern classics being born or rediscovered every short season."

Rock Climbing Photo: Sunset over the south walls...
Sunset over the south walls...

Most of the routes listed here require rapping into specific belay points or ledges. Bringing an ascender and a grigri down to the belay is prudent in case the need arise to retreat up your fixed line. This canyon is known for moving wind around, and the belays can take a while, so dress accordingly. You can always haul stuff out on the fixed line.

THE NORTH SIDE is home to such age old classics as Tralfamadore 5.9+, and Beautiful Day 5.8+. It is a stunning series of columns and quite a lot to take in the first time you see it. New age classics such as The Lost Highway, Green Knight, and White Hawk should keep you happily dancing in the sun.

Rock Climbing Photo: Darren Mabe beginning the crux of Bertilak on the ...
Darren Mabe beginning the crux of Bertilak on the FA.
Photo: Wade Forrest

THE SOUTH SIDE is a collection of unique walls, with routes scattered about in the folds of it's teetering columns. Home to the Canary Cracks which were first lead in the 1970s, as well as some more modern endeavors which certainly expand the scope of NAZ basalt, and it's classic lines. While having to rap into specific belays is time consuming, it does allow one to clean the route on the way down. This side sees regular dirt runoff during seasonal rains. A tooth brush will do wonders.

Rock Climbing Photo: Joel Unema trying to onsight Like A Shadow In the ...
Joel Unema trying to onsight Like A Shadow In the Night.

CAMPING- The South Side hosts the camping on off roads that parallel the canyon, and eventually will lead you to a beautiful open point. The camping is as good as it gets, but please keep it clean, and haul out your trash, drown your campfires, and dispose of waste properly.

Getting There 

From Flagstaff head west on Interstate 40 towards Williams. Exit at the Parks Exit, and head south on FR 141. Follow that until the junction of 527 (also looking for "Boy Scout Camp" signs at this point), and take a left. Stay on 527 for almost two miles where there will be another junction (FR 530), take a right. In a half mile, take a left back onto FR 527. Follow this for two miles and eventually you will literally cross over the very top of the canyon. After you go through the wash, look for roads on the right for parking on the South Side.

That being said, these roads see a lot of abuse, seasonal closures, are choked with boulders, and are of otherwise I'll temper. A 4X4 will be needed in anything but perfect dry conditions. A high clearance vehicle minimum, and expect to drive pretty slowly. With a good vehicle it takes about 45 minutes from Flagstaff and is roughly 30 miles, however the bad section is only a three mile final stretch.

Climbing Season

Weather station 9.7 miles from here

79 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',14],['3 Stars',39],['2 Stars',24],['1 Star',2],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Volunteer Canyon

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Volunteer Canyon:
Lost Highway   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 130'   North Side : Tralfamadore Wall
Canary Crack   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   South Side : Canary Crack Buttress
Rusted Rapture   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : East End Wall
Experimental Forrest   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 80'   South Side : East End Wall
Pig Iron   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : The Iron Wall
White Hawk   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, 80'   North Side : The Middle Ages
Sindarete   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 125'   South Side : Memorial Wall
Green Knight   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 80'   North Side : The Middle Ages
Drop the Hammer   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 140'   South Side : Memorial Wall
Parallel Universe   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 65'   South Side : Pillar Wall
Cash, Grass, or Ass   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : West End Wall
Phantasm   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : West End Wall
Bertilak   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 130'   North Side : The Middle Ages
Nyctophiliac    5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 125'   South Side : West End Wall
Iron Potato   5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   South Side : The Iron Wall
Ultraviolet Ammunition   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, 105'   South Side : East End Wall
Jade Feather   5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b PG13     Trad, 1 pitch, 120'   South Side : West End Wall
Seamingly Binary   5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b     Trad, 70'   South Side : Memorial Wall
Death Dealer   5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b     Trad, 105'   South Side : East End Wall
Like a Shadow in the Night   5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c     Trad, 1 pitch, 125'   South Side : West End Wall
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Volunteer Canyon

Featured Route For Volunteer Canyon
Rock Climbing Photo: Pack Mentality

Pack Mentality 5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c  Arizona : Northern Arizona : ... : East End Wall
While vampires are often brooding, solitary creatures, another type of mythical monster exists and runs in packs, the werewolf. This route demanded the strength and tenacity of the entire pack to reach completion. Upon first glance, the route appears featured and barely vertical... it looks easy. A second inspection reveals the desperately thin nature of the seam, the utter lack of positive holds, and the dearth of features for the feet. A single hold defines the crux of Pack Mentality, but...[more]   Browse More Classics in Arizona

Photos of Volunteer Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Fall setting in, pond at the top of the main drain...
Fall setting in, pond at the top of the main drain...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pika, the rope-dog guards the rope at the Cwm walk...
Pika, the rope-dog guards the rope at the Cwm walk...
Rock Climbing Photo: Some late bloomers
Some late bloomers
Rock Climbing Photo: .
Rock Climbing Photo: Watch out for these guys, might be a den on the so...
Watch out for these guys, might be a den on the so...
Rock Climbing Photo: Old days at Volunteer (the Cwm)- racking gear (all...
Old days at Volunteer (the Cwm)- racking gear (all...
Rock Climbing Photo: Map.

Comments on Volunteer Canyon Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 17, 2016
By Jed G
Feb 7, 2012
Wow...seems like there's some stoke about this place here. I was the one who initially posted this page, woops. Hope it was a good idea.

I have known that it was amazing since the first time I ever laid eyes on it. I got lost up there on the forest roads years ago, and ended up at this glorious basalt canyon. I took some friends up there that fall and we were scared, but some dabbling showed us that the climbing there can be awesome.

I'm pretty sure there are over 100 routes here, maybe even more...and lots of them are really, really good, despite all of the death blocks, as people seem to be aware of.

And it seems that bolts have been added to the mix, which ups the potential for incredible, creative routes to appear. I trust that an ethic will stay in place here that keeps people from bolting lines that are perfectly protectable with trad gear. This is technically a part of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, and I believe that law has it that once you drop below the rim of Volunteer Canyon you may not alter the stone, or attatch gear to it. I'm not saying that I wouldn't use your bolts, but It's worth being aware of.
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 7, 2012
Rusty Pipe,
Folks have been climbing out here for over 40 years, and it was published 20 years ago in a Cheap Way To Fly. I don't think you let the cat out the bag, and I wouldn't worry too much because the place, while stunning, only seems to appeal to a select few, especially with the Forks so close by. There's no taming this beast, and I'm not trying to. See Phantasm comments if you haven't checked it out.
By Jed G
Feb 7, 2012
I am aware that this place has a long history. There is evidence of that in several places around the canyon. Thanks for directing me to that other conversation. I appreciate what you said there. I posted this page because I am of the same mind-set as you. We all could benefit from seeing this place become more established as a local climbing resource. I even wanted to see routes put up in the exact style in which you are doing them and know that I will never do it myself. Thanks for your ethic and your work. The routes look awesome. I am not a total purist when it comes to bolts in wilderness. Particularly in this situation where you can dangle into this "wilderness" literally anchored to the frame of your car, 100 vertical feet away. I think the general danger, and the existing "juju" will keep this place wild enough.
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 7, 2012
Right on Rusty, maybe see you out there this summer.
By ryan albery
From: van world
Apr 30, 2012
This is such a cool place to go climbing. Canyonphobia atomized here. Who added the bolted belay on the south rim, with a couple of now rusted looking lead bolt into that thin archning crack? Looks fun.
By Tradiban
May 28, 2012
I got within 1.75mi with my Accord but had to hop into a friends Subaru to make it the rest of the way.

The area in general is perfect for those with adventurous tastes in trad climbing but it's not way out there either by any means.
By BenZH
From: Flagstaff AZ
Jul 13, 2014
Found a pair of Miuras sitting near the edge of the south side of the canyon yesterday. Give me a holler with your name and the size of the shoes and they're yours.
By Robbie Brown
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 13, 2015
With some work this place could be one of the best crags around! For anyone attempting to put up routes here use caution as there are literally deathtraps everywhere.
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 13, 2015
What we really need is a campaign to fix that road. I mean how is that monstrous, multi diverted, 60' wide in sections, riddled with ruts, boulders, etc, taking care of our natural resources? It might be my most hated road in NAZ. But just imagine if you could cruise out there on maintained gravel roads. At least to the canyon itself. After that it gets pretty no mans land. I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one....
By Darren Mabe
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 15, 2015
I'm with you JJ. A better approach road would add a star to the already 4 star routes. There will be haters who would not want better access. But this could be excellent for the NACC, FCC, and GNAR to rally with the appropriate channels to work on this.
By Robbie Brown
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 15, 2015
Then I wouldn't scrape a hole in my exhaust when I try and drive my van out there. Again that is....
By JacobD
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 16, 2015
Fixing the road is a great idea! This could be a great project, as Darren mentions, for multiple groups to come together and work on. Jeff S. is organizing a movie night at Firecreek coming up here soon to bring folks together. That'd be a great place to rally people around the idea.

If people were into it, and the USFS was supportive, we could probably apply for some grants through the Access Fund, and other orgs to help pay for the improvements.
By Kevin Kent
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 16, 2015
I'm fully in favor of any improvements to the road, but it needs a lot more than a once over with a grader. It needs needs to be raised for flood managemnt and have culverts added which will be a lot more expensive.
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 16, 2015
I am pretty sure it falls under the counties authority. Grants would most likely be needed, as I don't think there is government money for such things. But if we get some of the climbing community, and maybe other user groups it could be a possibility. It is also one of only two roads that access the rim trailheads too, the other is Woody, which we all knows sucks almost as much. It would be a bureaucratic project for sure.
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 16, 2015
Hating is what haters do best Darren....
By Caitlin Mac
From: Tempe
Aug 17, 2016
Hi- I was just at Volunteer canyon last weekend and we left a metal "U" shaped leg that goes to our cot at the first campsite to the right from the road. If anyone is planning on going here, could you keep an eye out for it? I could pay you to mail it to me, or just tell me where it is so I can plan a trip out there to retrieve it. Muchas Gracias!

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