Zion National Park is known for its intense climbs and breathtaking views. Visitors are drawn in to be immersed in the beautiful and vast landscape. Activities at Zion are plentiful and vary from family-friendly adventures to more extreme climbs for the experienced thrill seekers. Rock climbing in Zion National Park is a favored activity for all skill levels and luckily Zion has plenty of options for all types.
Each mountain peak is packed with several climbs that have been previously rated by professional climbers. Rock climbing at Zion is on many peoples bucket lists and rightfully so because while they can be challenging, they also prove to be worth the work. Rock climbing is a great bonding experience for groups and the perfect getaway for the adventurer who wants to be one with nature.
The 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park offer world renowned climbs that people from all over the world dare to explore. Conditions are the best from March through May, and September through early November for climbing. With the sandstone you have to be careful because it becomes very weak when it gets wet. That means you should avoid climbing before or after a rain event.
Whenever the sandstone gets wet it becomes more solid feeling than its normal dusty composition and becomes more susceptible to erosion. When climbers ignore this warning they put the quality of the sandstone and their own lives at risk. Thunderstorms are most common during those summer months so it is not recommended to climb during that time.
Before you get out there on the rocks, there are a few things you should be aware of. You will be happy to know that a permit is not required for any of your day climbs. However, if you plan on doing an overnight climb you will be required to get a permit.
It is best to get your permit in advance but there are other options if you do not. Starting in early March all climbing routes on the cliffs that are used by Peregrine Falcons for nesting a closed off to the public so make sure you pay attention to reports put out by the park wildlife biologists. They will monitor the Peregrine Falcon activity and determine which routes will be closed. All routes not used for nesting will remain open for public use.
There are several climbing adventure guides that will take you on expeditions and walk you through your climbs. You can also take advantage of some of the climbing courses they have to offer if you are interested in learning how to climb. Zion has half day and full day climbs which you can choose based off your skill level. Climbs can range from 40 to 500-feet in length vary in difficulty levels.
For a full day of climbing you can expect to be out there for 7 to 9 hours. If you do elect to utilize a guide service your group will be completely private and catered to your group’s abilities. The guides are a great option for those wanting to expand their knowledge on not only climbing but also the park itself.
What gear is required to climb?
You can bring your own certified equipment or elect to rent equipment from an adventure guide company or the park. If you don’t have your own equipment and don’t want to purchase any then renting is a great option. During your climbs it is important that you dress appropriately for the season because Zion can be quite cold for a lot of the year. Below is a list of gear you will need for your climb.
- Climbing shoes
- Locking Carabiner
- Belay/Rappel Device
- Dynamic Climbing Rope
Popular Climbing Routes for Rock Climbing in Zion
This formation is on the west side of the canyon. It is surrounded by a horseshoe bend in the Virgin River. Wall routes here include the Prodigal Sun, Ball and Chain, and the Northeast Buttress.
The Great White Throne
Just south of Angels landing stands the 2300 foot formation of The Great White Throne. It is unmistakable due to its white sandstone cap and is often known as the symbol for the entire park. The most popular and highest rated climbing route in this area is South Face Diagonal. Other routes include One for the Road, Grasshopper, Illusion, Twin Crack, and Crack of REM.
Located in the middle formation of the Court of the Patriachs is Mount Issac. To the left is Abraham and to the right is Jacob. The climbing route on Mount Issac is Tricks of the Trade and takes about an hour to complete.
One of the most popular and sought-after climbs of The Sentinel is located on the west face and is called “Illusion Dweller.” It is a hand crack that has a 10b rating. Other climbs include Ball Bearing, Some Like it Hot, The Scorpion, and The Chameleon.
Mountain of the Sun
Overlooking some of the most beautiful scenery in Zion is the Mountain of the Sun. It is a relatively remote peak located on the east of Zion, next door to the Brothers. It is a great peak to start early because it is one of the first to catch morning light.
Near Mount Carmel Tunnel resides the Twin Brothers rocks where a system of thin cracks provide unforgettable climbs. The Twin Brother climbs are West Face and Ancient Gallery, 800 and 1600 feet respectively.
The Tunnel Wall is located at the western end of Mount Carmel Tunnel on Route 9. Here you will find the famous climb – The Headache. It is a 3-pitch, 5.10 crack climb that has peak sunlight in the afternoon. You will need two 60 meter ropes for this climb. There are plenty of climbs here at the Tunnel Wall available for your exploration. Other climbs include Ashtar Command, Shuriken, Hong Kong Phooey, Japanimation, The Gypsy’s Cursge, and Big Trounble in Little China.
Compared to the West Temple, the East Temple is the less popular counterpart. The East Temple is much more difficult to get to so it has had less ascents. There are shorter routes located on the lower southern flank, across from Tunnel Wall. The most popular summit route is the Mountaineers Route. Other climbs include West Ridge, Lovelace, The Fang Spire, Wisdom Tooth, Snaggletooth, and Cowboy Bob Goes to Zion.
Though it is one of the smaller rock formations of Zion, Mount Spry is one of the most aesthetic in the park. Located just right of the Right Twin Brother, Mount Spry offers a few great climbs. It is home to the 5.11b rated Holy Roller, the 5.10 Sharks Tooth, and the 5.12a rated Swamp Donkey. The cracks here are much more narrow and sparse compared to the huge continuous cracks found deeper in the canyon.
The Streaked Wall
Arguably the most amazing formation in Zion is The Streaked Wall. One look at the wall and you will understand where it got its name – there are streaks of multicolored sandstone stretching across the formation. The overhanging eastern face is nearly 2000 feet in length. The two best routes of The Streaked Wall are the Tale of the Scorpion and the Rodeo Queen.
South of West Temple is the large mountain Mount Kinesava. It forms the western skyline of Springdale and the Cowboy Ridge of Rockville. It is packed with challenging climbs so don’t expect many neighbors when you make your ascent. The views from the mountain are jaw dropping and unforgettable. The most popular and highest rated climbing routes of Mount Kinesava are the 5.7 rated Cowboy Ridge and the 5.11a rated Tatooine.
Free climbs and aided climbs are available for exploration at Zion National Park. There are areas where the cracks are deep and easily accessible, as well as some areas where the cracks are more narrow and difficult to utilize. It is important to due lengthy research of each climb you anticipate to go on.
The majority of these climbs have been carved out naturally due from other climbers and the natural formation in the rock. Parallel cracks in the sandstone generally accept cams but often reject nuts and hexes. Be sure to back up every anchor, even the bolted anchors. Zion has some permanent bolts but the sandstone can weaken after frequent use.
Many of the mountain peaks have several routes to choose from but it is not encouraged to make your own. The routes that are clearly established should be followed so as not to expand our footprint on the canyon. When you are on your climb, it is important to prevent your ropes from carving grooves in the rock.
Avoid the use of pitons because they destroy sandstone. When preparing for your trip, make sure you have your proper gear and only do climbs you are skillfully qualified for. Finally, keep an eye out for the weather so that you aren’t climbing when the sandstone is wet and never climb when rain is expected.