Rock climbers test skills in Maple Canyon

The conglomerate rock walls of Maple Canyon can provide good hand holds for climbers who want to test their abilities. (Photo courtesy of Jason Stevens)

Sanpete County is home to one of Utah’s most unique rock climbing areas in Maple Canyon. Climbers from around the world come to test their skills on Maple Canyon’s unique cliffs. On any given weekend climbers of all abilities, ranging from novice to expert, can be seen.

There are more than 550 routes with climbing grades from 5.4 to 5.14 in difficulty. Routes are easily accessed from the road and various hiking trails. View routes in Google Earth.

Maple Canyon is a cool place to climb in the summer heat due to the shade of the narrow canyons. Rock in the canyon consists of cobblestone-sized conglomerate that has eroded to form cliffs and an impressive natural arch. The arch can be found along the Middle Fork trail, which begins at the campground.

The canyon is rated one of the top locations in the world for rock climbing. Maple Canyon offers diverse climbing opportunities to match any climbing skill. The rock walls are filled with thousands of imbedded cobblestones, which makes every climb in this canyon unique.

The canyon offers hundreds of established climbing routes that range from walls less than 10 feet high to hundreds of feet and for those more advanced climbers there are several large overhangs and offers several other activities such as hiking, ATV trails, camping, picnicking and more.

Located less than one mile up Maple Canyon is the Box Canyon hiking trail. This trail leads into a narrow canyon where the rock walls will tower hundreds of feet overhead. Every corner of this hike offers unique features such as flora growing out of the rock surfaces, small and large caves in the canyon walls and rock walls overhanging the trail below.

Maple Canyon campground offers 13 campsites with fire rings, grills, tables and pit toilet restrooms. This campground offers no electricity, water or sewer hookups. Large RVs or motorhome rigs are not recommended as roads are narrow and space to turn around is limited.

At the end of the Maple Canyon campground are two large parking areas with a marked trailhead. This trail leads to the Huge Cave, along with several other established climbing routes such as Toxic Potatoes, Deliverance and Dang Awesome.

Huge Cave however may very well be one of the largest natural caves to be seen, hence the name Huge Cave. The trailhead for Huge Cave is located approximately 1.8 miles up Maple Canyon; there are two areas to park at the end of the Maple Canyon Campground.

The trailhead is located on the left hand side of the road. This trail is not marked Huge Cave but has a sign listing the Right Fork, Middle Fork and View Point trails. The start of the trail is relatively flat with trails leading off; these trails lead to the several established climbing routes that are available.

To enter the cave, climbers must climb approximately 15 feet up a rock wall, someone has left a rope to assist climbers. If a person is not comfortable with heights, or not sure of climbing ability, don’t attempt this climb. A fall will land a person on the rocks below and could easily cause serious injury.

Before climbing up to this cave keep in mind one thing – what goes up must come down, and for some reason going down seems more challenging, mentally and physically. Be sure to know personal climbing skill level before attempting this climb and as always, keep this wonderful natural resource clean.

The campground marks the end of the improved canyon road and this is where an ATV comes in handy. The Maple Canyon / Log Canyon ATV Trail Loop is a 34-mile loop. This trail offers beautiful views of Maple Canyon from above, and leads riders through thick pine and aspen forests on the way back down.

For rock climbers this is the place, for everyone else this is still a place to visit, hike and just take in the beautiful rock formations and scenery this canyon has to offer. And for those not skilled in rock climbing, just sit back and enjoy watching others as they negotiate their way up the canyon walls.

Maple Canyon also has various ice climbing routes during the winter months. In past years, winter access to Maple Canyon has been difficult because the road has not been plowed.

Since December 2010, the road has been cleared to the Forest Boundary- as conditions permit. The road, however, may not be open for a few days after a storm. Be prepared for a hike if the road is not open.

Driving directions: From Salt Lake City take I-15 South to Nephi. At Nephi take exit 225 to Manti/Ephraim. Travel on Highway 132 to Fountain Green. Once entering the town, watch for a sign for Maple Canyon. Turn right on 400 South and travel approximately six miles to Freedom Road. From this point just follow the signs.

Call (435) 283-4151 for further information.

Know before going. Caution: This is a high cliff area; exercise caution, especially with children; RVs and trailers are not recommended; there are no electricity, water or sewer site hookups; lettered sites A-F have fees per night and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Bring drinking water; this is a “pack it in, pack it out” facility, bring garbage bags; day users will be charged a fee per vehicle; no livestock allowed; ATVs allowed on designated trails only; group site, when not reserved, is available on a first-come, first-served basis for a fee per night.

This is a high elevation facility; Visitors traveling from lower elevations should exercise caution; Don’t move firewood: Help prevent the spread of tree-killing pests in national forests by obtaining firewood near the destination and burning it on-site. For more information visit https://www.dontmovefirewood.org.

Huntington Canyon

Huntington Canyon, located east of Fairview on Highway 31, has 14 bouldering locations. The canyon is part of the Manti-LaSal National Forest and can be accessed year round.

Bouldering locations are found throughout the canyon at altitudes ranging from 6,800 to 8,300 feet above sea level. GPS coordinates are listed on the map to help climbers locate the boulders.

Huntington Canyon is also known for ice climbing opportunities during winter months.