Developer, route-setter, graffiti-remover…and if he doesn’t have the answer to your rock climbing question, he will know someone who does. Ladies and Gentlemen, Cory Hanson guides you with everything you need to know for bouldering in Tucson Arizona.
- Intro – Begin with the Old Pueblo Bouldering Website
- Best Time Of Year To Climb In Tucson
- Best Camping Locations Around Tucson
- Best Grocery Stores In Tucson
- Best Sit Down Restaurant For Rock Climbers
- Where Can I Get A Free Shower
- Where Should I Park My Car
- Best Rock Climbing Gear Shop In Tucson Arizona
- Bouldering Pad Rental Available
- Access Issues and Leave No Trace
- The Best Boulders In Tucson Arizona with Pictures
If you are looking to boulder just check out Old Pueblo Bouldering. The online guidebook has thousands of problems and you can search for specific grades by elevation range, quality ratings, and danger ratings.
Tucson bouldering lends itself to projecting as opposed to long day sessions. This is partly due to the taxing nature of the rock on your skin. This is also partly due to the lack of large areas with many climbs at any given grade.
If you are looking to session the best place to look is to Wilderness of Rocks, the deeper the better. Unfortunately, the hike and the ponderosa pine forest make it hard for those who aren’t familiar with the territory. OPB is looking to make finding your way around out there easier in the future.
Rose Canyon Lake including the entrance boulders is all right for lower grade ranges.
Lizard rock and the Matterhorn boulders are adjacent to each other and can be used together to make a little circuit.
The key to enjoying the bouldering in Tucson is to enjoy trying hard on whatever you happen to be by until you gather an understanding of what is out there to work on and when it is appropriate to work on it.
If you are looking for rope I recommend Eric Fazio-Rhicard’s Squeezing the Lemmon 3rd edition. It’ll get you where you need to be.
In either case, be sure to swing into one of the gyms and ask some locals what is in season in the grade range and style you are looking for. We tend to be an approachable bunch!
Best time of year to climb in and around Tucson?
The best months are October to April.
However, climbing in Tucson doesn’t just boil down to the time of year. You can ruin a good day in November by going to a shady wall without a down jacket or ruin that same day by going to a lower elevation crag with only jeans to wear.
The sun aspect of the crag, time of day you plan on being there, elevation, and wind exposure of the crag are equally important factors in deciding where to session or when to go hit up your project. Night climbing (at least when it comes to bouldering but several crags are amenable to this set up as well) isn’t uncommon for locals.
Best camping location around Tucson?
There is both paid and free camping all up and down Catalina Mountain Highway. Some campgrounds even have spots for small RVs. The paid campgrounds close for portions of the year depending on their elevation. In the summer look into Spencer Canyon, General Hitchcock, Rose Canyon, Whitetail Group Camp Sites, Showers Point Group Campsites. In the winter look up Molino Basin Campground. If you are interested in camping on your own there are campsites scattered all over the mountain just a stones throw from the road. Some of the most accessible sites are near the Matterhorn and Lizard Rock bouldering areas. For more information ask some locals at the gym.
What is the best grocery store in Tucson?
This is a contentious topic. The standard answer is Canyon’s Crown Irish Pub at Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon. Their rotating beer menu is a big perk.
Some would say Renee’s Organic Pizza Kitchen, which is just across the street.
Climbers are looking forward to the opening of the Bear Canyon Pizza Company right next to The Bloc at the base of the mountain.
But downtown Tucson has a ton of amazing options and variety. If you can put up with the long drive from the mountain then you can’t do wrong.
Where can I get a free shower in Tucson?
The Bloc Climbing and Fitness is understandably climber friendly.
Where should I park my car when rock climbing in Tucson?
The parking lots in the strip malls at the base of Catalina Mountain Highway are typically speckled with vehicles coated in climbing related bumper stickers. If you have a camper there are a lot of campgrounds, parking lots, and pull offs where you can spend a night.
Best rock climbing gear shop in Tuscon?
The best gear shop in Tucson is Summit Hut. They have two locations the closest to the Catalina’s is on Speedway near Craycroft. Locally owned and operated. Awesome folk working there. Everything you can ask for.
Bouldering Pad rentals available?
Currently, there is nowhere to rent bouldering pads in Tucson.
Any access issues or sensitive areas where climbers MUST follow leave no trace principles?
All the usual ones. Hike out more trash than you bring in — Every Time!
The biggest novel issue someone might have to face in Tucson would be pooping in the woods in Wilderness of Rocks. It can be a challenge with the thin soil and the ideal situation is to hike out your poop. If you didn’t plan for that than please look for a spot with thick enough soil to get at least a 6-inch hole (HCRB recommends a 10-12 inch cathole).
Also, DO NOT POOP NEAR THE CREEKS!!! There are a ton of resources to learn how to poop in the woods properly.
Best advice for leaving no trace?
Be efficient with your packing. Have a plan for where garbage you generate at the crag will go. Keep your gear consolidated when you are at the crag. Pick up any trash you see while you are there.
The Best Lists:
I am terrible at picking favorites but these are some of the best in each grade. The majority of these grades are still in flux. There are dozens of problems that I have looked at that could end up on this list but I haven’t gotten around to doing them. There are literally hundreds of problems that have been done but that I haven’t seen yet.
The Best v1
A toss up between ‘For Those About to Rock’ in the Entrance Boulders of Wilderness of Rocks and ‘Envy my Vision’ in the Magic Forest sector of Wilderness of Rocks
The Best v2
‘Foxtrot’ in the Eagle’s Nest sector of Wilderness of Rocks. Hands down. The only thing that comes close is ‘Black As Your Soul’ in Rivendel. The list of 3 star v2’s is pretty thick though.
The Best v3
Likely ‘Toxic Airborne Event’ or ‘The Mad Hatter’ both in the Wonderland Sector of Wilderness of Rocks but ‘Old Spice’ in the Secret Gully (even though it is a little grainy) and ‘The Orator’ near Rose Canyon Lake are notable as well.
The Best v4
I am partial to ‘Donkey Lips’ near San Pedro Vista or ‘Waltz for Venus’ in the Roost but the landings for these climbs are horrendous. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ in the Wonderland sector of Wilderness of Rocks and ‘The Best Climb in Hueco’ in the Red Light District of Wilderness of Rocks are right up there in quality but with friendlier (if still imperfect) landing.
The Best v5
This is a crowded pack. My personal favorite is ‘All Systems Go’ in the Magic Forest sector of Wilderness of Rocks even though it boils down to two exposed and super fun moves. Others might vote for ‘Camel Jockey’ in the Red Light District of Wilderness of Rocks, ‘Nature Loves Courage’ in Soller’s Boulders, ‘She Bear Loving’ in Agua Caliente, or even ‘The Caterpillar’ at Inspiration Boulders. And if ‘Futile Devices’ at the Lizard Boulders gets up graded (which is being considered) then it would be in the running as well.
The Best v6
A three way tie between ‘Civil War’ in Marshal’s Gulch, ‘Welcome to Earth’ in the Airship Area of Wilderness of Rocks, and ‘Face Hugger’ in the Entrance Boulders to Wilderness of Rocks. There has to be a shout out to ‘Black Magic’ in the Magic Forest to finish off. The three star V6 list is pretty stacked.
The Best v7
A poll of locals would likely rank ‘Hell Bitch’ in the Magic Forest sector of Wilderness of Rocks highest. This one is also probably contentious. My vote would be ‘Testosterone Replacement Therapy’ near Rose Canyon Lake. My runner up would be ‘Boomin Systems’ at Molino Bend (not yet documented on OPB). ‘Righteous Beast’ at Panther Peak really deserves a mention but so few people have been out there due to the chossiness of most of the rock surrounding this problem that few locals know that it exists. ‘The Buddha’ really deserves a mention here.
The Best v8
The best v8 has to be given to ‘Jewel Thief’ on the Matterhorn Boulder. This is the gem line of Tucson in many people’s eyes. It is tall and beautiful but it is also crimpy and a little sharp which are qualities that are embraced by the community here. If ‘Jewel Thief’ didn’t exist ‘The Crease’ in the Wonderland sector of Wilderness of Rocks, ‘Indian Summer Stand’ in Marshal’s Gulch, and ‘The Minotaur’ in the Wonderland sector of Wilderness of Rocks would be the top of the heap.
The Best v9
There is a bit of a grade gap here. Several of the 8’s listed above may end up at a concensus V9 and some of the 10’s below may see a downgrade. Additionally, old Bob Murray lines on the Red Boulder are supposedly in this range but no one has been out to repeat them in a long time. The grades are uncertain.
The Best v10
The crowd favorite might be a one-mover called ‘Block Obama’ in the Hairpin Boulders because of how accessible it is. The more notable lines are ‘Odin’s Revenge Right’, ‘Lost World’, or ‘Mask of Sanity’. All of these were put up by Matt Fowls in Marshal’s Gulch. The last possibility would be ‘Alphabet Boyz’ put up by Eric Scully in the Linda Vista Boulders (not yet documented on OPB). V10 has been suggested for this problem by the last couple of ascensionists but the consensus grade for that one has been V11 up till recently.
The Best of the Hardest
Two hard lines stand out as the best in the double digits in Tucson. ‘Bear Down SDS’ was put up a couple of years ago by Matt Fowls in a some-what dense zone of Marshal’s Gulch. It ascends a slightly overhung wall through a block and then large lock offs on small crimps. ‘Another Eternity’ was put up this year (2016) by Alex McIntyre in the Magic Forest sector of Wilderness of Rocks. It is slightly steeper and climbs through parallel left facing rails to thin crimps and then exits through a huge move to a sloping arête hosting the demanding summit sequence. Both are very stellar lines and currently stand near the V12 mark.
Long Standing Projects
Tucson has several long-standing projects that are awaiting sends. The big three are ‘The Dark Matter Project’ in the Peanut Boulders, the ‘Sleepy Hollow Project’ in Molino Basin, and the ‘Tough Face Project’ in the Hairpin Boulders. There are literally hundreds more and a few of them are gems just waiting to be polished but I definitely can’t start philosophizing over which ones deserve mention here over the others. There are just too many. Unfortunately, like the rest of the
Want To Get More Involved With The Tucson Climbing Community
You can check out the Facebook page of the The Southern Arizona Climbing Community.
Learn a whole lot more about cool people in THE climbing community by visiting the HCRBeta Interviews Category.
Jason Clements is the founder of and writer for HCRBeta, Hike Climb Relax: How to… Jason has served as the President of the Kansas City Climbing Club where he grew the club from 100 members to 1000 members. He lives in Shawnee, Kansas and also runs the cell phone recycling company, Cells for Cells, which recycles cell phones to raise money for families battling cancer.