Elephant's Ear

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 31.98920°N / 111.5145°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.5 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 3
Additional Information Grade: II
Sign the Climber's Log


Elephant Dome, west of Tucson in Mendoza Canyon, is a classic climber's summit. The dome has steep walls of granite on every side, and all involve climbing - there's no 4th class way up or down. However, the Elephant's Ear is an easy-to-moderate route which can bring even weekend hacks to the summit. It begins just above the traditional rappel route, and runs up progressively steeper terrain on the east face of the dome.

Getting There

From the parking area, a single trail runs west into Mendoza Canyon. It starts out as a dirt road (in fact this was a use road until fairly recently) and turns into a trail at the mouth of the canyon. The trail moves up into a rocky area at this point and is marked by sporadic cairns, which can be difficult to follow. This main trail goes back into the canyon, but the trail for Elephant Dome itself splits off to the right almost immediately. The junction can be tough to find; look for a place where you can see two sets of cairns - one ahead on the main trail, and one to the right on the branch trail. If you find yourself heading for the saddle between Elephant Dome and its sister dome to the east, you're going the right way (see picture below for more route info).

Elephant Dome complex

The branch trail becomes fairly faint but is marked by cairns throughout. It winds north across a brushy wash, then zig-zags up the hill to the start of the route. It's possible to just bushwhack cross-country, since it's easy to see where the route begins, but following the climber's route will probably save you some bleeding.

Elephant Dome

Route Description

From the top of the trail, the saddle is a pitch or two above you, depending on how comfortable you are on easy 5th-class terrain. This is also the rap route (and thus, the way you'll be coming down) and there are three bolted rap stations here. It's about 200-300 feet of 4th and 5th class to the saddle, with the hardest moves being about 5.4. There are a couple of different ways you can go but the difficulty shouldn't be worse than mid-5th.

No point taking the rock shoes off at the saddle - it's only a couple of minutes to the toe of the east face. You can easily see the top of Elephant Dome from here, and it's not hard to pick a line that goes straight to it. The route mostly parallels the prominent crack in the picture below, although it's easy to do any variation you like - the face is huge. Generally, the harder going is to the left of the route (south) and the easier going to the right (north) of it. The route starts out as low-angle friction, and as it steepens, chickenheads and other good holds appear. Once again, depending on your comfort on this kind of terrain, it can be from 2-4 pitches to the top.

Elephant s Ear

A word of caution: although this is granite, it's not all terribly solid, and many chips and holds are constantly flaking off the face.

Essential Gear

Many folks will want a light to medium rack for this one; also, if you've got a particular technique for tying off chickenheads, you might want to have a few of whatever you use (slings, spectra, etc.) prepared. A 50-meter rope will suffice for the rappels.


The easiest way to get down is to head to the saddle between Elephant Dome and the slightly higher dome to the north (you can easily see this spot from the summit of Elephant Dome). From here, one rappel will take you to mostly 2nd-class terrain below. You can descend this low-angle slope all the way to the saddle - from here 2 or 3 raps will take you to the deck. That only leaves avoiding cactus on the way out!



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.