Overview: Unaweep Canyon, Colorado
Unaweep Canyon, located just outside of Grand Junction Colorado, is home to hundreds of climbs on both sandstone and granite, ranging from 5.6 to 5.13 and in length from single pitch to 1000’+ multi-pitch climbs.
The prime seasons are the spring and fall, however you can chase shade and sun—making it possible to climb year round in the canyon. Approaches range from a couple seconds for some of the boulders, to 15-20 minutes for most of the walls.
The Access Fund has done an awesome job with easements and working with locals to mitigate access issues to many of the crags! This canyon is definitely a gem on the western slope but sees very little traffic as a result of an out of print guidebook and little media coverage, which means that there is almost never any crowding, even at the most popular crags.
This canyon is such a stellar destination, with free camping, hard sport routes, moderate trad, quality sandstone bouldering, multi-pitch climbing and so much more!
Specific description of climbing style
As previously mentioned, Unaweep Canyon has it all. The bouldering smattered across the northern mouth of the canyon is home to dozens of boulders, and while some are off limits due to the presence of fossils, the rest of the area holds plenty of problems ranging from V0 to V12. The boulders can be climbed anytime they’re dry, but you’ll experience best conditions after it has cooled off a bit.
The main canyon serves as home to the same granite and gneiss that make up the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, though typically cleaner. It is possible to climb pure sport routes, however, many climbs will be mixed sport and trad, or will go only on trad gear. The climbs are usually safe, fun, and low commitment; but as is the case everywhere, you can seek out the spice!
If you’re psyched to try moderate trad trade routes Mother’s Buttress and Sunday Wall are home to a number of 5.7-5.9 climbs that make for great first trad leads, while also hosting dozens of 5.11 and 5.12 routes as well.
Springtime certainly offers some of the best times to visit Unaweep; those early spring days where snow still lingers on the ground, but splitter blue skies are plentiful—allowing climbers to hangout in t-shirts in the sun without greasing off holds.
Dropping temperatures in the fall can be equally awesome, though both can bring unexpected snow showers, so be warned. It’s certainly possible to climb year round by chasing shade and sun. Many of the multi-pitch routes are graced with light breezes through the summer making them a great escape from the crowds.
Climbing grade range
Between the granite and sandstone, Unaweep Canyon holds high quality routes of every grade that range from 5.6 to 5.13 and V0-V12! Most climbs fit the typical bell curve, filling the range of 5.9-5.11 for the roped climbs and V2-V6 range for the boulders. However, when selecting from many hundreds of routes and problems, it would be nearly impossible to climb this place out!
Best local spot
If you’re taking a rest day or passing through Grand Junction, Colorado, be sure to swing by Bin 707 for a burger and beer … or basically anything on their menu, as you truly can’t go wrong!
Summit Canyon and REI in Grand Junction are the local gear stores, with Summit having the local beta and experts on hand.
If you’re needing a break from the weather or the granite, or for some odd reason want to pull on some plastic, the Grand Valley Climbing Gym just opened and has a pretty sweet facility with showers, a yoga studio, and lots of fresh routes.
Top climbs in the area
- Sweet Sunday Serenade (5.9), Sunday Wall — An awesome three pitch trad climb that gets you off of the valley floor located at the Sunday Wall. The second pitch is the money pitch!
- Questions and Answers (5.10), Mother’s Buttress — Another three pitch trad climb; this one at Mother’s Buttress, with varied and interested climbing up twin cracks and a splitter, super high quality rock and great movement.
- Iron Maiden (5.11), Middle Mother’s Buttress — A long techy, crimp line at Middle Mother’s Buttress that is mixed gear and bolts with fun climbing for 120′!
- Bridge of Air (5.12-), Sunday Wall — A fun single pitch climb with gear and bolts on a vertical face ending in some steepness.
How stiff is the grading?
The grades tend to be a little old school, like Eldo or Yosemite. I wouldn’t call them “sandbagged” unless you’re used to really soft grading. Certainly a 5.9 in Clear Creek Canyon will feel much easier than a 5.9 in Unaweep Canyon, but that same 5.9 will feel comparable or easier than a Yosemite 5.9.
Best kept secret
Basically the best kept secret of Unaweep Canyon is the entire canyon. It certainly has the potential to be a world class climbing destination with a bit more development and hype. However, in the meantime, you can’t complain about the lack of crowds and plentiful and varied climbing away from everything!
Where to stay?
The area surrounding Unaweep offers ample Forest Service and BLM land all along 141, as well as on the Divide Rd by the Quarry Walls, which host free dispersed camping among junipers and pinyons! Expect great stars on clear nights with Grand Junction being far enough away to mitigate much of the light pollution.
Get a glimpse of Unaweep Canyon’s majestic bouldering and roped climbing:
Now to you
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