Overview: St. George, Utah
St. George is an outdoor-oriented town in the Southwestern corner of Utah. The limestone sport climbing is the star of the show in this destination and several different crags are found within a 45-minute drive from town.
Many of the crags are on BLM land and thus primitive camping is allowed, making it easy to stay at camp and bond with other climbers, while venturing into town on rest days. For those wanting something a little closer to St. George, sandstone sport climbing, trad climbing, and bouldering are all possible within the city limits.
St. George is also very close to Mesquite, Nevada and to the Arizona strip–some of the surrounding climbing falls in the corners of these two states as well.
There are two recent guidebooks that provide up to date information on the nearly 1000 climbs in the area: The Limestone Bible by Misty Murphy and Bill Ohran, and Rock Climbs of Southwest Utah by Todd Goss.
Specific description of climbing style
There is something for everyone here, but the main highlight is clipping bolts at the limestone sport cliffs west of town.
The best limestone walls include the Cathedral and Wailing Wall, Black and Tan, Sunset Alley as well as the Virgin River Gorge (VRG) and the Grail on the nearby Arizona strip.
Those looking to boulder or plug gear will find areas closer to town, such as Moe’s Valley and the Bluff Street Cracks.
For a quick day of extremely easy-to-access sandstone sport climbing, consider a visit to Chuckawalla Wall right in town. While the climbing isn’t the most awe-inspiring, the 2-minute approach, south-facing walls, and plethora of 5.10-5.12 climbs make it a fun stopover in the winter months.
Fall through spring are the season for St. George. There are crags that get full sun, which are great for cold winter days, and crags that get a lot of shade—perfect for sending in the spring and fall.
For those desperate to climb in the heat of the summer, the Diamond is a high elevation crag (5850′) that gets shade until the mid-afternoon.
Climbing grade range
St. George offers climbing for every level of climber, with sport climbs at every grade starting around 5.6 running the range up to 5.14d, with the majority of the the best climbs being in the 5.11 to 5.14 range.
Moe’s Valley and Garth Rocks offer the boulderer a chance to pull on VB through to V-double digits. Anyone set on plugging gear will find far fewer climbs to choose from, but will still get the chance to climb 5.low to 5.11+.
With such an array of styles, the stiffness will depend on the styles you excel at. Boulderers will find the shorter, more powerful routes bang on, while enduro climbers will struggle. The opposite can be said around the longer, sustained climbs where your endurance will test you long before you’ve done many hard moves.
Best local spots
Our tight budget meant that our best meals were spent relaxing with friends and a beer back at camp.
We did visit Los Lupes in Mesquite, Nevada for a tasty Mexican meal though; said to be the best in town!
The cheesecake from Smith’s Grocery in St George is also pretty great.
Top climbs in area
- Khaleesi (5.11c), The Grail: Definitely one of the best routes at the Grail. Long and sustained – a must do whether you project or warm up on the grade.
- Vesper (5.12b), The Grail: This is the money route at the crag. It is the first route you see when you walk in and offers great exposure, great rock, and some of the coolest features around!
- Honeycomb (5.12d), The Grail: Long and cruxy with quite a few rests, the hardest climbing will try to spit you off right before you reach the chains.
- Resurrection (5.13b), Wailing Wall: Beautiful blue and grey stone on crimps and pinches characterize this highly regarded test piece.
- The Cross (5.13c), Wailing Wall: One of 3 5.13c’s on the wall, this climb will test your power endurance. Not the greatest looking rock, but it climbs really well.
- Golden for a Moment (5.14b), Cathedral: If you can climb this grade, climb this route. People come from all over to test themselves on Golden. Long, steep, and a hard crux right at the end.
- Jumanji (5.12a), Black and Tan: Thin and technical; much different from your standard Black and Tan route.
- Joe Six Pack (5.13a), VRG: Mike Doyle called it “one of the best of the grade in the country,” and it doesn’t disappoint.
- Necessary Evil (5.14c), VRG:The true test piece of the area and one of the hardest in the country.
Best kept secret
Often overlooked by sport climbers, Zion National Park is a mere 1 hour drive away and offers great rest day exploration as well as a wide world of trad and big wall adventuring.
Where to stay
Most of the crags have free, primitive BLM camping nearby. There is no camping at the VRG, but the Welcome Springs area is a short drive away and has the best climber camp to meet others and socialize. Those wishing to climb closer to St. George can camp at Moe’s Valley.
Climbing and beer to go together like … well … climbing and beer. Some weird state laws mean that the only easy to get beer in Utah is 3.2%. It is best to stock up in nearby Mesquite, Nevada.
Water can be bought at Smith’s in St George for $1.25 for 5 gallons, or for free in Mesquite at the Mesquite Sports and Event Complex.
Showers are available at the Mesquite Recreation Centre for $2 or at the St George Recreation Centre for $2.50.
Now to you
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All photos courtesy of Graham McGrenere.