Gloria’s bouldering field is a local favorite and holds a solid spot in rock climbing history. John Sherman molded his V-scale boulder rating system on some of the classic test pieces right here in Flagstaff. The boulder field itself is named for local legend Gloria Hardwick, who climbed hard here back in the day and continues to make appearances now and then. Her boulders offer a variety of climbing on textured basalt. Most of the established area is along a line of boulders at the base of Mt. Elden, but endless rock on the mountain's slopes offers tantalizing opportunities for exploration.
What Makes It Great
You can get to Gloria’s nearly as fast as you can get to the bouldering gym, so if the weather is nice, why not climb outside? After only a 10-minute walk into the forest, you will be among an array of free-standing boulders of small to medium size, as well as mini towers, highball buttresses, and caves. The chalked-up rocks offer great clues on what to climb.
John ‘Vermin’ Sherman trained here for a reason. Gloria’s made him strong and it will do the same for you, so be prepared for the climbing to feel hard. The rock here is a type of sharp basalt called dacite and it's usually tough on the fingers, and tends to deal out steep crimpy moves. Most of the problems have clean fall zones, but some do not, so be sure to bring pads and a spotter. Having a local show you around is the best way to get a feel for this area, which is long-established but still doesn’t have a comprehensive guidebook. If sessioning on your own, just wander for a while until a problem catches your eye, then hop on to test it out.
Who is Going to Love It
Flagstaff boulderers looking to get stronger frequent Gloria’s for its challenge. The rough basalt is of a much different character than the pocketed limestone areas that Northern Arizona is famous for, like Priest Draw. So if you are in the Flagstaff region to boulder and want to switch it up, you will appreciate Gloria’s. Anyone looking to try stiff-rated old school problems and get a taste of climbing history should definitely experience Gloria’s.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Gloria’s is adjacent to Buffalo Park, north of downtown Flagstaff and just south of Mt. Elden. You can get here on the urban trail system from the park, but the fastest way is from Paradise Road. Park at the dead end on Paradise Road, being careful not to block any gates or driveways, then walk towards the mountain for about 10 minutes.
Soon you will see the boulders and caves that make up Gloria’s.