Rock Canyon is the go to for Provo/Orem climbers and given its close proximity to the city it’s easy to see why. Unfortunately, that ready access has also given Rock Canyon a bad rap. More than once I’ve heard the local climbing snobs turn their noses up at Rock Canyon because of its popularity. They lament how crowded the canyon is and how polished the rock has become. I’ll admit there is some truth to their complaints but Provo isn’t without its gems especially deeper in the canyon.
From the North:
Heading South on the I-15, take exit 269 for University Parkway. Take a left off of the free way onto University Parkway. Take University through Orem into Provo (4 miles or so). You’re getting close to the turn when you go through a light and head down a hill and under a bridge. Take a left onto 550 W and follow it as it turns into 2300 N. After a mile the road veers right and instead of following it turn left onto W Temple Drive. Follow Temple Drive to the top of the hill where you will notice a sign for Rock Canyon just as the road turns sharply to the right. Go ahead and park there.
From the South:
Heading North on the I-15, take exit 265 for Center St in Provo. Head east on Center St. through downtown and past the traffic circle. Turn left on 900 East and follow it for a mile or so but stay in the right lane. The road will veer to the left but the right lane will turn onto West Temple Drive. Follow Temple Drive to the top of the hill where you will notice a sign for Rock Canyon just as the road turns sharply to the right. Go ahead and park there.
If you continue East from the parking lot the path will take you into the canyon. The approach is pretty tame along the main path. Be prepared though, side paths can be treacherous along rock slides and cliff edges. The trade-off is the tamer the approach, the more likely the walls are crowded.
Trailhead: 1598 E 2300 N Provo, Ut 84606 – (40.264723, -111.630133)
Rock: Red Quartzite, Limestone, Sandstone, Quartzite
Approach Time: 10~60 minutes
Approach Difficulty: Easy – Strenuous
Range: 5.4 – 5.13a
Number of Routes: 400+
Longest Pitch: 22
Rock Canyon has a pretty vast variety of rock and the type of climbing you’ll do is largely based on how long of an approach you’re willing to put up with. The mouth of the canyon is primarily quartzite with mineral deposits scattered throughout. The mouth of the canyon lends itself to a lot of slab climbing especially on the south side of the canyon but there are a fair number of crack climbs as well. The north side is a little more mixed and the rock is sharper in my experience. The most famous multipitch, Squawstruck, is located on the north side along with Trilogy Buttress. Further in you’ll see more and more limestone. Beautiful, beautiful limestone.
There’s enough variety in Rock Canyon to keep you busy. Galaxy wall alone will keep you occupied if you let it. The routes vary from beginner to fairly advanced in just about every kind of climbing. It’s a great place to get your feet wet but watch the rope drag. That quartzite can absolutely shred your rope.