The Island is a wedge of granite hidden in a sea of sandstone, limestone and Absaroka volcanic rock. This is the most popular sport climbing area in Cody, with over 40 routes crammed into a fairly compact spot. Despite it’s small footprint, there’s plenty of room to spread out, so you’re not going to feel crowded, and you really won’t be too bothered by the traffic zooming past on the way to or from Yellowstone National Park. Climbing in the Island can feel a little like being marooned on a slab of rock in the middle of the ocean.
What Makes It Great
Although it’s hard to believe, the Island began life as a City of Cody day use area in the 1960s. As the pace of modern life increased and more people were driving the road to get to Yellowstone, the Island became too dangerous to harbor much development. The asphalt was left to disintegrate and a guard rail put up to discourage intrusion. That made it the perfect spot for climbing.
Even in mid-summer, the Island is a sea of shade. The large walls which surround this hole keep out the sun except for a short period each day. The rocks are cool as well and an evening climb here is just about nirvana on a hot windy day in August. It’s a great place to bring kids as long as they understand about staying away from the guard rail along the highway.
The Horn of Plenty is a 5.12A climb. It has a bouldery start, then turns into a short climb that’s hard and techy. There’s a small crack line in the face so you get some good holds.
Community Service is a 5.10B with a juggy beginning and some big holds. Halfway up it gets more difficult. You’re going to have to trust those hands and feet and go for it. There are lots of good movements and it makes for a great warm up climb.
Don’t burn out on Light Tension, a 5.11B. Although it starts big and blocky, you soon find some delicate foot and hand moves. Success on this route comes with fast, solid moves.
Who is Going to Love It
The Island is a family affaire. There’s so much room you can find a face that’s empty and let the kids play in the gravel. There’s bouldering here, as well as sport and trad climbing. It’s close to town and has routes for all experience levels.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Cody: Take US HWY 14/16/20 west about five miles to the first tunnel in the Shoshone Canyon. Park just east of the first tunnel on either side of the road. There’s room for 5 or so cars. There’s also a very large pull out on the south side of the road before the first tunnel. You’ll have to walk through two short tunnels to reach the Island. There’s definitely enough space if you stay well to the right, but it can be rather unnerving having a mammoth sized RV pass by. After the second tunnel hop the guard rail on the right side to enter the Island. See if you can locate the old water fountain and fire pits which mark the former day use area.
You can take your dog but understand you’re fairly close to a major highway. There are no fees and no facilities. Tucked back in the rock this way you might not have very good cell service.