I am incredibly lucky to live in a region of the world where I literally have the mountains, desert and ocean all within a couple of hours from me. To be honest, I could get to the beach in about 15 minutes and to a decent mountain range in about 30, with some kind of desert being only about 1.5 hours away. I not only have “some mountains”, or “some desert” near me, I am just a few hours from the Eastern Sierra Mountains and Joshua Tree National Park. Living in Southern California gives me access to world class climbing, which has spoiled me immensely, and gives me access to amazing climbing in a number of states, all within a day’s drive.
Here are some of the top areas to climb in the southwest:
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park is unique in that it offers big wall climbing, as well as some of the best slot canyoneering opportunities in the world. One day you can traverse Monkeyfinger to get your big wall fix and the next day you can explore The Subway to scratch that canyoneering itch of yours. Besides being a great climbing destination, it is also one of the most unique national parks in the United States. If you decide to cut your time short in Zion but have a few extra hours to kill, you can make your way towards Bryce Canyon National Park to recover while checking out the most amazing views of rock formations I have ever seen. Definitely worth the side trip.
While Zion offers some great traditional and sport climbing, it doesn’t offer much in terms of bouldering. With only two smaller bouldering areas, this shouldn’t be considered a big bouldering territory.
Red Rocks, Nevada
Minutes from the busy Las Vegas Strip, Red Rocks is a hidden gem. It’s quiet, beautiful, and offers some excellent climbing opportunities. You can find bouldering, sport climbing, big wall, and long free routes offering something for everyone. Red Rocks offers great weather, usually year round (be warned, it gets really hot during the summer months) and once you’ve put in a full day of attempts you can venture out onto the Strip and enjoy some of Vegas’ many avenues for fun.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Often considered a mecca of climbing, Joshua Tree is one of the most unique national parks in the United States, offering endless desert spotted with the parks signature Joshua Trees. Scattered throughout the park are monstrous boulders and rocks that have attracted climbers for over 50 years. The great thing about Joshua Tree is there is plenty of camping within the park, giving you great access to the climbs. I’ve stayed in Indian Cove campground a few times, and it’s pretty magical, almost other-worldly, with giant boulders everywhere you turn.
With lovingly cared for rocks, and more routes and problems than you’ll be able to get through in a few weekends, Joshua Tree makes for some of the most challenging and memorable rock climbing in Southern California.