Climbing in St George, Utah

A relatively short post as this only covers a few days of climbing in St George and around, but it would have been a shame not to give my adventures in St George its own post to do justice to the beauty of the area around the city.

Past Mesquite, splendid views where intensified by the snow which had just capped the mountains in the distance (this is why I wasn’t coming from the other side after all !).

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I kept following the I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge. I had found out online that though allowed, cycling on that portion of the I-15 on the ever narrowing shoulder is far from ideal, and there is an alternative route through the Beaver Dam/Old Highway 91, but my knees were feeling quite sore that day and the last thing I wanted then was going up and down a huge hill when there was an almost flat route. It was definitely tough cycling on that about 20 miles/30 km long section through the Gorge. If you do end up cycling that portion as well, I really highly recommend a rear view mirror, being very alert and… a tubeless setup. So much scrap on the narrow shoulder, and most of it would get you completely flat on tubes in a minute due to it size and sharpness. I was relieved to make it across a bridge before I could top up my rear tire with a bit of air.

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Some decent-sized gravel shoulder- Time for lunch.

There are also some routes you can climb in the Gorge but it is pretty hard stuff, and you’d have to be very motivated to climb with the very busy highway as a soundtrack when so much nicer crags are available not that much further !

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Beautiful though.

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After Mesquite, its resorts and casinos, I was stoked to have finally made it to a different world across the Utah state line. 

Though I would only explore a very small area compared to the sheer size and number of all the recreational areas in Utah, which must be said is an amazing state for climbing, cycling, hiking, camping and all things outdoors, St George really didn’t disappoint.

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I knew from looking at a climbing guide that it has climbing possibilities all-year round (though in summer there is only really one crag at high elevation where it’s not roasting), and especially compared to the rest of Utah at that time of the year (mid-January) it’s a great, sunny, winter climbing destination. Sandstone, lots of sport climbing on limestone, granite, basalt, you can have it all in the city and further afield. That alone would have been enough to lure me there. And although I focused on single pitch sport climbing there are also tons of multis, trad, and bouldering (Moe’s valley) possibilities. But pictures of amazing landscapes and other-worldly rocks were really getting me excited to arrive. After some time finding my way past the entrance of St George from the I-15 (bicycles have to get off it as it transforms into a motorway), I made it to Mike and Mar’s, my Warmshowers hosts in town.

The government shutdown still ongoing at the time of my visit got Mar out of work, which allowed her to take me out climbing (in her car) for a few days in a row in many different climbing areas in and around town. And the weather was with us.

The first area we checked out was Black Rocks (approx. 10 min drive from town, 45 min ride). Short top-roping and sport pitches got me warmed up. It reminded me a bit of climbing at the Black Cliffs in Boise, ID.

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This time though the basalt walls were contrasting with red sandstone in the background…

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The following day we got out at Kelly’s Rock. The colours and the unique texture of the limestone made me wonder if that crag was even real. Black and Tan, an other area nearby, has similar features.

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IMG_5675.JPGIt’s really strange and fun grabbing the crimps and pockets on that rock…

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Mar leading a fun moderate sport route

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It got us staying until sunset.

Note: I am not sure how easy to access this crag would be strictly on a bicycle since it’s a one hour drive/ 33 miles bicycle ride from St George and there is nothing in between St George and the Woodbury crags (Kelly’s Rock, Black and Tan and other crags as they are named). Car camping seems to be allowed by Black and Tan but it’s harder to find information about tent camping although it might be doable further from the climbing areas… Also a number of fenced areas in the vicinity. Worth a check with the BLM office. And making sure to have plenty of water (and food) supplies before heading off.

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The next day we did a short hike in Snow Canyon, a State Park further up the road from Black Rocks.

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In the afternoon we did some sport-climbing again at Prophesy Wall (further north of  Snow Canyon) with Mar and some of her friends.

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Great views from single and multi pitches…

…I certainly didn’t regret coming all that way with a big detour to make it to St George.

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Other sites of interests around St George include many more crags, Ivins -an artsy suburb of St George with great views-, of course Zion National Park which is a few hours of uphill riding further, and there are also lots of possibilities for canyoning and other outdoor activities. Almost all of the climbing areas mentioned would be great for hiking as well. 

I’ll have to come back to St George one day in the spring to see flowers bloom against the splendid backdrop, and those tortoises, Gila monsters and other local wildlife…

…As well as cycling to Sand Hollow State Park and Zion  (https://www.visitutah.com/things-to-do/road-cycling/cycle-touring-and-adventure-cycling/the-desert-southwest-tour-st-george-to-zion/).

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Joshua’s Trees at sunset near Kelly’s Rock

For more info on rock-climbing in St George, have a look at Mountain Project here.

If I hadn’t stayed and climbed with my Warmshowers hosts I would have probably stayed at Snow Canyon State Park which has a paying campground with water and hot showers, good climbing possibilities (and Prophesy Wall is fairly near too). However I would have had to find partners at that time of the year, maybe through Mountain Project or a Facebook group again, and would have had to resupply in town for everything. It is quite cold for camping at that time of the year but more than doable if you have good gear (it might go below freezing temperatures at night).

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Alternatively you could stay at a paying accommodation or RV Park downtown and cycle to the crags closest to town. There are free camping possibilities but mainly out of the way for a touring cyclist intending to cycle to the crags.

There are several bike shops in St George including Rapid Cycling.

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