Maple Canyon climbing

Kim McGrenere on The Diggler (5.13a)

Maple Canyon is located in the Manti-La Sal National Forest around two hours south of Salt Lake City, Utah. There is a single dirt road that leads you into the canyon from which you can access all the climbing the area has to offer. Primitive camping, first-come-first-serve sites, and by-reservation campsites are all found off the dirt road, providing a humble abode for climbers in the area.

The canyon is stunningly beautiful, and provides a unique contrast to the desert that is characteristic to so much of Utah. Deciduous trees line the road on your way in, which winds up canyon parallel to a babbling brook. In the springtime everything is very green and the air is filled with the chorus of songbirds in mating season. As you head further up canyon, the landscape shifts and the deciduous trees transition to tall, impressive conifers.

Maple offers around 700 bolted routes on conglomerate rock. After a little bit of trust-building, you will find that the rock is surprisingly solid. The conglomerate is characterized by smooth river-rock cobbles ranging in size from small pebbles to basketballs, all set within a sandy matrix. Many of the crags line the road up the canyon. The proximity of these walls means that some approach times are less than one minute from the parking area! Other walls require a short jaunt up one of the forks off the main canyon, with approaches up to 30 minutes.

Maple Canyon climbing

Dan Beland on Defcon 1 (5.14a)

Specific description of climbing style

You will be sport climbing in Maple Canyon. The vast majority of the lines are single pitch, but there are a few multipitch routes scattered throughout the canyon.

Maple Canyon climbing

Best season

Maple Canyon is known as a reliable summer crag.

While the air temperature is hot in the summer, there are plenty of shaded crags and the long hours of daylight allow for climbing late into the evening. Unlike hot limestone, the cobbles don’t get ridiculously slippery in the summer. Spring and fall also offer great climbing conditions in Maple, however, the weather can be finicky and unpredictable, and cold temperatures can numb you out quickly.

Maple Canyon climbing

Kim McGrenere on 3-2-1 (5.12d)

Climbing grade range

Maple Canyon has something for everyone, with climbs ranging from sidewalk-like 5.0s to upside-down sidewalk-like 5.14sWhile the angles and grade range vary widely, climbers can expect to be hugging and wrestling rounded jugs on any terrain.

Maple may feel soft for the enduroclimbing connoisseur, but the open handed cobbles in the steep terrain will punish anyone who does not have their stamina up to high standards. If you know you aren’t an endurance monster, expect it to take you up to two weeks to build the fitness you need to start taking down your projects. 

Maple Canyon climbing

Graham McGrenere on A Wyoming Sheep Shagger (5.13d)

Top climbs in the area

  • Big Kahuna (5.10b): An easier overhung route to get you into the Maple groove. Named for the huge cobble near the top.
  • The Hitchhiker (5.11c): A very long route by Maple standards, continuing for a full 35m. Cruxy, rest, crux, rest, repeat.
  • 49 (5.12a): Super sustained jug hauling. Some of the jugs are actually slopers … SURPRISE!
  • Space Lord (5.12c): Long. This climb has many cruxes with rests in between. Awesome!
  • Orgasmo (5.12c): Loved by most, whether it is your first time or your 100th time up the route.
  • Sprout (5.13a): The least difficult steep route in the Pipe Dream Cave. Steep jugs and pockets with the odd rest here and there. Finishes with a less steep section that continues to bring on the pump.
  • Loser (5.13a): The classic 13a in Box Canyon. Some steep thuggery leads to a less steep pump-fest.
  • Millennium (5.13d): The severely overhung stamina-fest that takes ones of the steepest lines out the Pipe Dream Cave. If this is too easy, extend it to the top of the wall on T-Rex (5.14a)
Maple Canyon climbing

Mason Tessier on The Diggler (5.13a)

Best local spots

The town of Ephraim, located about 30 minutes south of Maple Canyon, can provide nearly everything you are looking for on a rest day, with the exception of a bar to unwind in.

The Solid Rock Café, located near the college, has delicious coffees and specialty drinks for cheap (compared to other chain coffee shops). Definitely a great place to get a frappe on those hot rest days!

The Malt Shop has delicious malts and milkshakes with about 30 different flavors to choose from. We recommend sharing a small … they are quite heavy. The Malt Shop also serves up a mean plate of sweet potato fries.

Where to stay

You can camp in the canyon for $5 per site per night if you are lucky and find an unoccupied “lettered” site. Alternatively, you can camp in some primitive sites above or below the National Forest area for no charge. There are three great outhouses in the canyon (please use these) but you will have to head to town to fill up on water. There is very limited cell service in Maple Canyon.

If you choose to pre-book a “numbered” campsite, these can be reserved for $10 a night.

If you decide to camp outside the canyon, a parking day pass is $3 within the National Forest US Fee Area. Have a National Parks Pass? This fee is then waived.

If you’re climbing in Box Canyon below the Fee Area, parking is free but the climbing here is on private land and donations are recommended. For those climbing at The Compound, high clearance vehicles may be able to drive further up the road past the Fee Area, to save some cash and shorten the approach.

95% of the fee money collected in Maple goes back into the canyon, so please pay your fees.

Maple Canyon Parking

Maple Canyon parking

Best kept secret

Looking for an active rest day?

If you hike all the way up the Middle Fork trail it will eventually take you to a small landing at the top of the canyon. This spot provides some stellar views of the canyon’s arms with its caves and knobbly hills. The lookout also happens to be just above the Pipe Dream Cave. If you complete the loop by hiking out the Right Fork trail you walk right past the impressive cave and can check it out yourself.

The nearby town of Moroni is home to the Norbest Turkey Factory. There is a small outlet store at the factory, which offers amazing prices on turkey sausages and burgers … $1 per pound! Preservative-free, and it tastes amazing.

Maple Canyon climbing

Graham McGrenere on Groundwork (5.11c)

Other information

Need internet? Head to the Snow College Library in Ephraim. There are private rooms on the 3rd floor where you can connect to their highspeed internet to work or watch Netflix. All you need to do is fill out an online daily guest registration, and a password will be emailed to you and texted to your American cell phone number.

While you’re at Snow College, cross the street to the Horne Activity Centre and snag a $2 shower (that comes with a towel!).

Check out the Market Fresh for groceries at the far side of Ephraim. There is a discount aisle where foods past their best-before date go on super sale. There is also a Walmart in town that can meet most of your shopping needs.

A little further passed Ephraim is the Temple Hill RV Park. You can find laundry machines here for $1.50 per load. If you pay for a $5 day pass, you can also enjoy showers and wifi.

There are currently two guidebooks in print for the area: Maple Canyon by Darren Knezek and Christian Knight, and Maple Canyon Rock Climbs by Dave Pegg, Sibylle Hechtel, and Josh Holmes. The Knezek and Knight book is larger and more comprehensive, including a few crags outside of the canyon. The Pegg, Hechtel and Holmes guide is smaller, less expensive, and the grades given to routes are more closely aligned with online consensus.

Be bear aware in Maple Canyon. There were bear sightings in May and June this year, which led to several campsites being closed to tenting. Storing your food in your vehicle or bear-proof containers and maintaining a tidy campsite protects both you and the bear.

Maple Canyon climbing

Dan Beland on Millennium (5.13d)

All photos and words: Kim and Graham McGrenere

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