The name “Priest Draw” perks ears within the bouldering community nationwide. It evokes visions of powerful pockets, thuggy throws, and endless roofs. Pro climbers from all over the world commonly stop at Priest Draw for a taste of the challenge, but this is not some far-flung destination reserved for the hardcore. It is a Flagstaff local crag, and there is actually quite a range of difficulties appropriate for beginners to experts. Pocketed roofs are what The Draw is famous for, but this featured limestone comes at different angles and heights, all nestled within the peaceful ponderosa forest of Northern Arizona.
What Makes It Great
Priest Draw has been a local testing ground since the days of the forefathers of Flagstaff bouldering. Today, with a name like Sharma on the list of first ascentionists, it’s gained widespread notoriety. The reputation is well-deserved, because these low bluffs boast more than 50 problems in the V-scale double digits. What is often overlooked, however, is the wealth of easier, but just as high-quality, problems intermixed with the billboard boulders.
The rock here is a type of textured limestone that weathers into pockets, dishes, and grooves. Most of the faces are slightly to seriously overhanging, but a few are dead vertical. Pockety roof routes are the standard, but there is some variation to be found. Most of the popular problems are low- to mid-height with manageable top outs, but highballers can easily get their fix, too. This is definitely the place to get in shape, and the strongmen boulderers who frequent The Draw are living proof of that.
The location is another selling point. At only a half-hour drive from the interstate in town, it makes an easy day trip from Flagstaff or an afternoon stop while passing through. It is also within easy driving distance of the staple sport crag, The Pit, and close to handful of lesser-known bouldering haunts.
Who is Going to Love It
Those looking to pull hard and test their strength are the ones who frequent Priest Draw, but there is at least a little something for everyone. Even if you aren’t psyched on roofs, come to climb vertical and over-vertical “warm-up” routes and witness what the hype is all about on the famously steep faces. Any boulderer looking to improve can find a suitable challenge here. Be prepared for the ratings to feel stiff, especially if you aren’t accustomed to the style, but that’s just one more reason to push yourself and get better.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Flagstaff, take Lake Mary Road south for about 6 miles and turn right shortly after passing Canyon Vista Campground and The Pit, onto FR 132. Stay on this road, which turns to dirt, for 3.5 miles to the signed Priest Draw parking area. The last bit of road is kind of rutted out and gets mucky after rain or snow, but remains passable for most cars.
Camping is not allowed in Priest Draw or the parking lot, but there is plenty of free dispersed camping nearby in the national forest. To find a spot, turn left just before reaching the rougher section of road to the Priest Draw parking area. This is Crimson Road, which leads past a few houses before entering the national forest. Pay camping is also available at Canyon Vista during summer and fall.