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3 Days of Climbing and Camping in Moab, Utah

Successful summits, failed attempts, finding the best campsites and making the most of Utah's climbing paradise.

By: Liam McNally + Save to a List

Moab is one of my favorite places on the planet. It's not off the beaten path and I know I'm just one of millions of visitors every year, but it just never seems to get old. And truth be told, I (mostly) don't mind the crowd. Most of the places I spend time in Moab are climbing spots and while it'd be nice to never have to wait to get on a tower or jockey for position in line for the popular routes on Wall Street, climbers are generally cool people that I'm happy to chat with and get to know. More than anything, it's just part of the deal in Moab. Accept it, be friendly, share beta, and before you know it you'll have couches to crash on all over the country.

This past April, a few good friends and I drove down to Moab from Salt Lake City to tackle a few major climbing objectives, enjoy a few nights in the desert, and relax. Aside from one missed objective, our trip was a success. Here's a quick breakdown of our time in the desert:

We rolled into town pretty late on a Wednesday night, picked up my buddy who was in the area for work, and headed down Potash Road to find some camping. We got pretty lucky to find an open site at Williams Bottom Campground and crashed there for the night. 

We used EcoFlow's River charger throughout the trip.

As you can see, the site we landed was right next to the highway. It was definitely fine, but since we got there early in the week, we were pretty sure we could snag a better spot the following night. We left our stuff and set out for our first climb of the trip with the plan to scope out some campgrounds we knew of along the Colorado River en route to our first objective...

Ancient Art

I'd seen photos of this tower years before when I had just started climbing. At the time it was basically terrifying and something I never imagined I'd want to do. Fast forward five years and I was stoked to give it a go. 

It was grey and overcast when we arrived at the trailhead, which was actually really nice. The desert sun can be unforgiving when you're working hard and exposed for hours on end. 

As we approached, we could see a party at the summit and another one on their way up. We later learned a few of these climbers had never climbed outside before! Their friends took them along for the ride without really telling them what they were in for...they seemed a little shaken up (haha!).

We watched the parties ahead of us work their way through the first pitch, geared up, and I took the first lead. The first pitch is a total cruiser, except for a couple tough bolted moves on the face (side note: my foot wasn't behind the rope quite as badly as it looks here :) safety first!).

Pitch two is super fun! Classic stemming fun through a well-protected chimney. All smiles on this one!

Out of the chimney, you've got a few slabby moves across the final face before the "party ledge" where you set up for the summit. Then the fun really begins!

The walk across "the plank" was the sketchiest part of this climb for me. You're protected by a bolted anchor, but it would be a hell of a swing if you did go over the edge (hundreds of feet go straight down on either side). Once you make it across, you've got a super awkward move up onto the "diving board" before you can protect with a bolt on the actual spire. It feels real spooky jumping/climbing onto the diving board!

Pretty much guaranteed laughs every time here. Nobody does this gracefully. Once you're up, though, it's smooth sailing to the summit!

The top is so rad! Take a minute to enjoy, then get the hell out of there before something goes wrong.

After smooth sailing on our first big project for the trip, we drank our victory beers in the parking lot (morning beers are OK when you just finished a big climb, right?) and shifted gears to finding the best campsite we could. We spotted an open site from the road at Oak Grove Campgrounds and went in to investigate. We chatted up a few groups and learned the open site was actually taken, but that one of them were heading out the next morning and would let us pay and claim their spot for the next few days. Score! If I have one piece of advice for finding good campsites, it's simply to walk around, be nice, ask questions, offer food and beer, and before you know it, you'll have a killer site. 

We spent one more night on Potash Road, woke up early to tackle the next objective, then would return to Oak Grove to claim our spot.

Castleton Tower

Welp. This one did not go as planned. Rather than relive the disappointment again, just read this story. The good news is that now we're even more motivated to come back next spring and do it the right way. 

Things were looking pretty good at this point. We'll be back, Castleton! 

Although we were pretty disappointed and overall bummed about our Castleton attempt, we did have an amazing campsite to return to which lifted our spirits. Some beers, a fire, and s'mores helped, too. Few problems in life cannot be solved by this recipe.

We woke the next morning determined to have a fun day of climbing and leave our Castleton memories behind and that's exactly what we did! We headed into Arches National Park for some fun, easy climbing at Owl Rock and Sunshine Wall.

Owl Rock was a ton of fun and just what we needed to forget about the day before. I know I said the overcast weather was nice before...I was lying. The sunshine and heat felt amazing this day! When we weren't climbing, we laid on the rocks, made friends with visiting dogs, and enjoyed a few morning beers (we were on vacation!).

After Owl Rock, we pushed on through the park to a really nice spot called Sunshine Wall. I had never heard of it and it was a little ways off the beaten path, which was super nice. There were a few groups of campers, but not a single climber outside of our group. 

Guess how we wrapped up the day of climbing? Yup. Beer. 

On the drive out, we even got to catch some neature.

You can tell it's a pronghorn by the way that it is.

We spent one more night at Oak Grove and hit a few routes on Wall Street before hitting the road. My friends headed back to Salt Lake and I made my way home to San Francisco. We were in high spirits as we said our goodbyes and assured each other we'd all be back next year to finally summit Castleton. 

For more outdoors adventures and travel tips, be sure to check out Discover Moab!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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