Chuckawalla Wall was the first developed sport climbing crag in the St. George area. Jorge Visser put in the first three routes in 1993. Today there are 24 routes, all 5.10 and above but one and only getting more difficult as the positive edges become less so. This is the most popular wall in the St. George area on weekends. We were climbing west of town on Soul Asylum in freezing weather. We came back to Chuckawalla Wall where the sun always shines and joined no less than another 20 climbers. In contrast, during the heat of summer, Chuckawalla receives deep shade until noon.
St. George, Utah is surrounded by climbing walls on all fronts with Chuckawalla Wall and Black Rocks north of town competing for most popular crag. The big difference is ease of routes. Black Rocks has 65 published routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.13b, Chuakawalla has only 24 published routes, all 5.10 and above except for one and most in the 5.11-5.13 range. Ease of access along with ideal sun conditions for both winter and summer are no doubt partly responsible for their popularity. Both are closed to any new climbing route development.
Chuckawalla Wall is within the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a 62,000+ acre scenic wildlife reserve set aside in 1996 to protect the desert tortoise, among other sensitive desert species. Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is the cornerstone of three separate and distinct ecosystems, the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Due to this unique merge, several endemic species, those which can be found no where else in the world, are found in the reserve.
There are 24 medium length sport routes featured in Todd Goss’s new edition guide book, “Rock Climbs of Southwest Utah” for Chuckawalla Wall. This recent edition was published in 2006 and I highly recommend it. I have climbed half a dozen of the routes by 2006. These routes are longer than most in Black Rocks or Green Valley Gap. Due to getting somewhat polished, I found the grades a little stiff.
Chuckawalla Wall does not offer the serious trad opportunities that can be found at Bluff Street Crags just one mile back south overlooking town nor the multi-pitch routes in Snow Canyon State Park, but does offer longer more challenging routes than Green Valley Gap, Black Rocks or any of the other sport climbing crags in and around St. George.
Routes are Right to Left as You Face the Wall
- Sands of Blood- 40’- 5.9/ Goes easy, but only 5.9 on Chuckawalla, so not a bad warm up route. Far to the right. Everything is positive, enjoy, because the rest of the slopers to the west are quite grip challenged.
- Apostasy- 45’- 5.10a/ Kind of an easy 5.10. Since Sands of Blood might be beneath you (if you are spending the day at Chuckawalls, it probably is) then this is the best warm up route. Five bolts through pockets and under clings to anchor.
- Dirtbag- 45’- 5.10a/ Just to the left of Apostasy and about the same difficulty, but more fun. Pull through a minor roof on large holds past four bolts to anchor..
- Popular Demand- 45’- 5.10c/ Recommend the route. A little overhanging in the middle. Definitely a fun route. Steep ground over pockets, with edgy and airy finish. Five bolts to anchor.
- Tombstone Bullets- 45’- 5.10c-d/ My favorite of the easier right side climbs. Like all the routes, starts out with an overhang, but relatively easy one. Up nice side pulls and finger pockets with the crux move at the top to chains, pretty consistent with every route on this side.
- Sand-witch- 45’- 5.11b/ Tough, but recommended 5.11b route. Crux is towards the top, runs out onto blank ground. Reachy pockets over five bolts to anchor.
- Armageddon- 50’- 5.12b/ Last route before the division in the wall, they start to get longer and more difficult as you turn the corner to the left. Follow seam past five bolts to anchor.
- Second Coming- 60’- 5.12a/
- Happiness is Coming- 60’- 5.11d/
- Still Waiting- 60’- 5.12a/ Has to be one of the better routes and my second 5.12 at the wall. Starts out awkward and begins a succession of leap frogging up to pretty solid hand holds. A side pull about midway up. Easier going towards the top. Mostly jumping for bomber holds.
- Capt’n Rehab- 50’- 5.13a/
- Say Your Prayers- 60’- 5.11d/
- As the Jerks Fly- 55’- 5.12a/
- Pilgrimage- 50’- 5.12a/
- Vertical Smile- 50’- 5.12a/
- Mecca- 50’- 5.11c/ Very nice route. Starts out easy, crux shows up in the middle. More crimpy than the few 5.12's I have been on here, but not as dramatic of moves for holds either. Real fun balance type stuff here.
- As the Crows Fly- 50’- 5.11b/
- The Cross- 50’- 5.11d/
- Double Cross- 50’- 5.11b/
- The Garden of Eden- 50’- 5.10d/ Easy start like Mecca, but then reachy moves. There is a small finger ledge to your right that is easy to miss, making the crux move harder than 5.10d. Towards the top, large slopey holds through overhanging bulge. Five bolts to overhanging chains.
- Good Old Chuck- 40’- 5.12b/
- Emergency Exit- 45’- 5.12b/
- Three Bars Black- 45’- 5.13b/
- Staloner- 35’- 5.13a/
Getting ThereDrive north on Bluff Street (Route 18) beyond St. George proper. One mile beyond Sunset Blvd sits a significant trail head with restrooms on the left. Park here and find the trail at the north end of the parking area and follow the trail to the first wall on your right which is Chuckawalla Wall. You are entering the Red Cliffs Preserve. There are trail signs posted and pets are allowed on leash on this trail. We actually had people on horseback watch us climb. The routes start immediately where you intersect the wall and follow the wall into a fold to the left. It is imperative that you stay on the existing trails to avoid damage to the desert terrain, damage that can last for much longer relative to other environs.
Red TapeParking is allowed in designated areas only. Overnight parking for backcountry camping, hunting, or shuttling is permitted. No camping is permitted in the parking areas. All pets must be on a leash to prevent wildlife disturbance and to avoid conflicts with other people. In the Lowland Zone, campfires are restricted to established fire rings within official campgrounds. Campfires are allowed in the Upland Zone, but may be subject to closures for high fire danger.
The rock at Chuckawalla Wall is typical of the soft rock of the area and as with most of the climbing in and around St. George, you should avoid climbing for at least 24 hours after any rain.
My favorite place for dinner is the sushi bar at Samurai, 245 Red Cliffs Drive. The best breakfast and coffee (Italian espresso) can be had on Main Street at the Bear Paw Coffee Company. The Outdoor Outlet is one of my favorite independent climbing stores anywhere. They know the climbing area well and have a great selection of gear at competitive prices.
When to ClimbI have climbed in St. George for years during the winter months and have always found the south walls inviting places to climb. The climbing is good all year round with the exception of daytime during the summer months. If you are climbing anywhere in southwestern Utah during the summer months, you more than likely better get up early and finish your climb early. The walls can get brutally hot.
Camping/LodgingThere are three campgrounds within the city limits of St. George none of which I have experienced. Temple View RV Resort at 975 South Main Street; Settlers RV Park at 1333 East 100 South; St. George Campground at 2100 East Middleton Drive.
Of course my druthers would be to stay at the campground in Snow Canyon State Park. This has to be one of the finest State campgrounds anywhere with direct access to tons of climbing routes. The campground is open all year, no holiday closures. There is a limit on your stay of 5 days. They have 33 total units, 17 of which are reserved for the big boys (RV’s) with utility hookups. The tent sites were $14 in 2005. Drinking water is available on site along with vault toilets and even showers. The running/hiking/equestrian trail system is pretty cool and as long as you don’t run into the occasional Segway group, the whole park is usually very quiet, particularly during winter months.