Elden, Flagstaff’s backyard mountain, is a remnant lava dome littered with bluffs and boulders of rough volcanic rock called dacite. Of all the crags on Mount Elden, Solitude Canyon has some of the best quality routes and a high concentration of them. The approach is strenuous but manageable, and rewards with steep and sustained bolted lines on solid rock. These are some of the tallest and most aesthetic routes in the area, and views from the upper end of the canyon are nothing short of impressive. The crags are divided into Lower, Middle, and Higher Solitude, each with its own distinct character.
What Makes It Great
Solitude Canyon earned its name in the early days of Flagstaff climbing. Though the tall cliff lines are obvious from downtown, the steep slopes deterred most from exploring. These days the trail is worn in and you are unlikely to have the place to yourself, but the high-elevation vistas and proud cliffs are as pristine as ever.
Lower Solitude is a wall of shady, northwest-facing routes that are mostly in the 5.11-12 range. A popular testpiece here is the burly traversing line called Climb It Change (5.13-). Middle Solitude is a bit higher up and on the opposite side of the drainage. The smattering of low cliffs here house a loose arrangement of routes from 5.10-11 that don’t see much traffic. Huffing to the top of the trail is well worth it for Higher Solitude, the arching cliff band that can be seen from town. This crag boasts the ever-thrilling and varied 5.10 multipitch Man on the Moon, as well as the fantastic 5.12 Solitaire. There is quite an accommodating range of difficulties from 5.9 to 5.13, so it is easy to spend a lot of time climbing here.
Who is Going to Love It
Solitude is well known to all Flagstaff sport climbers, and nearly everyone seems to have at least one standing project at these crags. Strong climbers will enjoy the routes here, which are surprisingly varied in character. Crimps, corners, aretes, roofs, and slabs can all be found - sometimes all in the same route. The protection here is mostly bolts, but there are also some trad and mixed trad/sport lines, along with plenty of potential for adventure climbing. There is no excuse to not seek Solitude. Lower Solitude is shaded on hot days and Higher Solitude stays warm when the sun is out. Proximity to town and concentration of routes makes it great for a half or full day trip.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Start from Buffalo Park and cut across on the Arizona Trail, which leads into the forest and down the hill. Follow the wide trail here across the pipeline road and toward the base of Mt. Elden. Once you reach the boulders at the foot of the mountain, turn left and continue uphill. Watch to your right for the mouth of wide drainage and a climber trail leading up into it. This accesses Lower Solitude with a total approach time of about 25 minutes. From about midway up the Lower Solitude crag, another trail branches across the canyon and uphill. This leads to Middle and Higher Solitude. Though the hike is not far, it is steep. Expect about 45 minutes to reach Higher Solitude from the car.