Wow, what a find. I have been investigating the Utah and Arizona strip with numerous local partners for years on end and had yet to be introduced to Woodbury Road Crags. Despite warnings that this area was too high of an elevation to be worthy of winter climbing, my wife and I took that risk in early February and found outstanding rock in outstanding weather conditions. The name “Woodbury Road Crags” might be somewhat misleading. This is no Wallstreet
. You can access any one of three walls via a remote gravel road off of Old Route 91 between St. George, UT and Mesquite, NV. This is the tri state area of NV, AZ and UT. We have run the Tri State Marathon on this road that begins in the hills west of Gunlock and ends in Mesquite. I have always noticed a road that obviously goes nowhere on the left hand side marked Woodbury Desert Study Area
, a 3,040-acre community of creosote bush, Joshua trees, bursage, and pinyon-juniper that has been closed to grazing and is returning to its natural state. The Woodbury Study served as the first ecological study of the endangered desert tortoise. Part of the largest stand of Joshua trees in the northern extent of their range is found here
but it is evident that a recent fire (2007) has taken its toll on this unique vegetation. This whole area is part of the Joshua Tree unit of BLM’s Utah wilderness inventory.
Solstice Wall, 5.7-5.11d
St. George, Utah is surrounded by climbing walls on all fronts with the likes of Chuckawalla Wall
, Green Valley Gap
, Black Rocks
and Bluff Street Cracks
. However, the best rock is further out of town at higher elevations such as Woodbury Road Crags. Not to mention, most of the year you can have these more remote areas completely to yourself. There are 72 medium to long bolted routes featured in Todd Goss’s new edition guide book, “Rock Climbs of Southwest Utah” for Woodbury Road Crags. This recent edition was published in 2006 and I highly recommend it. I have climbed a dozen of the routes by 2007. These routes are longer than most in Black Rocks
or Green Valley Gap
. Due to the rock texture, I found the grades to be somewhat relaxed.
Woodbury Road Crags is comprised of three walls:
Black and Tan
wall has 32 published routes (2007) varying from 5.7 to 5.14. This wall is not the most ideal in winter or summer.
If you do attempt to climb on Black and Tan in the winter, you will want to climb before noon to enjoy any rays and of course early mornings this high up in the desert in winter can be pretty damn cold. However, there are three routes that make up the “Annex” that will get afternoon sun in the winter, they are 5.10a to 5.11b.
The two 5.7 routes on Black and Tan seem really easy for the grade and can be climbed in gloves. The rock is extremely sticky and a welcome contrast to the sandstone associated with nearby Snow Canyon State Park
. A ton of project work is still being pursued on Black and Tan, particularly the long undercut portion at the base of the wall.
contains 22 published routes (2007) from 5.8-5.13. Like Black and Tan, this wall will have too much shade to be very pleasant for winter climbing. Todd Goss claims that both are too brutal in the summer as well, thus like most climbing spots in the area, spring and fall would be ideal. You can attain Kelly’s Rock routes as well as the Black and Tan routes from the same parking area.
sports 18 routes and is by far the most moderate climbing of the three walls that make up Woodbury Crags, if not all of southwestern Utah. We discovered this wall after trying to climb in the winter shade on Black and Tan. Todd Goss leads you to believe in his guide book that the whole area is best to avoid in winter. But if you read on to the specific description he gives for Solstice Wall, he describes it as a good winter crag
and we confirmed such. It is the first wall you get to of the three at Woodbury Crags. The rock is extremely sticky and although tedious looking holds (younger Kaibab limestone), most of the routes appear to have been well cleaned of their weaknesses. However, I would still pay attention on lead. I know I pulled on a few pieces more than once. I found the routes quite easy for the grade, perhaps due to the fact I am just not used to so many feature options, particularly on 5.10 routes.
Drive west out of St. George and through Santa Clara on Sunset Blvd approximately 11 miles to the Gunlock turnoff intersection. Stay left on old route 91 for another 14 miles plus. As you are descending towards AZ and NV, look for the BLM Woodbury Desert Study Area sign on the left. Follow this well maintained dirt/gravel road for several miles depending on which wall you are heading towards. Black and Tan wall along with Kelly’s Rock is approximately 3.5 miles east. There are several small pullouts on the right, in front of Black and Tan wall. Access for Solstice is less than 3 miles east from the road and then turn left onto a 4 wheel drive road for less than a mile. Solstice Wall is unmistakably on your left. There is an old mine road that you can hike up towards the base of the climbs. Watch for the open pit, there is no fencing or warning signs. It is imperative that you stay on the existing trails (hard to determine at times) to avoid damage to the desert terrain, damage that can last for much longer relative to other environs.
The BLM manages nearly 22.9 million acres of public lands in Utah, representing about 42 percent of the state. The regulations regarding most BLM land are fairly wide open compared to State and Federal parks. It appears you can camp and climb in this area at will. Pit fires are highly discouraged if not illegal. Unlike most of the rock back in the St. George area, this limestone is quite solid. The main difference is the effect of rain. I would not hesitate to climb at Woodbury Road Crags after a rain.
My favorite place for dinner is the sushi bar at Samurai, 245 Red Cliffs Drive, St. George. 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. I am not sure a ride into Mesquite is necessary. St. George is the place to center yourself. Mesquite is mostly for the retired golf/gambling set. That being said, it is just another 15 miles or so to reach Mesquite from Woodbury Crags. We have run the Tri State Marathon on old route 91 and it can make for a scenic run or bike.
When to Climb
I have climbed in St. George for years during the winter months and have always found any south facing 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. Solstice is the best bet at Woodbury in the winter. We climbed it on February 1 in fantastic temps.
You can car camp at the Black and Tan wall, but there are no facilities of any kind back on Woodbury Road. There 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.
Other useful sites beside the BLM
site include the weather forecast
and a climbing guide company for the area