Big Chief - Climbing

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Big Chief is a collection of volcanic bolted crags with excellent intermediate routes. The area continues to be developed and new climbs are going up on a regular basis.

Written by

James Dziezynski


1.0 miles

The approach to the crag is about one mile.

Destination Distance From Downtown

13.5 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

Of about 70 established climbs, nearly half fall in the 5.10 range.

Time To Complete

1 hours

Most climbers spend one to six hours climbing here.


Spring, Summer, and Fall

There is currently no reasonable winter access once forest service roads close. Please respect posted closures.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




Big Chief is a climbing area consisting of several volcanic crags with over 70 established sport routes ranging from 5.7 - 5.13 with the bulk of those falling in the 5.10 range. The majority of routes are single pitch on solid rock and the area has a reputation for having some run-out sections between bolts. This is a great place for sport climbers who want to dial in their skills, as many of the routes require a diverse set of techniques. 

What Makes It Great

Classic climbs in the area focus on the intermediates such as War Path (5.9-), War Paint (5.9), Half-Baked (5.10a), and Sweating Bullets (5.10c). This is a good place to set up a rope and get in laps, though in the summer the exposed rock can get super hot. There is also a good collection of 5.11+ routes for those looking to challenge themselves on the more difficult terrain. 

One of the pleasures of Big Chief is the fact climbers often need to use a combination of techniques to ascend routes. Slabs, crimpers, and cracks might all be woven into the same project. Some of the harder climbs, like Head Rush (5.11) feature bulging roofs and tough, pushed out sections. Summer access is relatively easy, making this a good place to work in a few routes without much of a slog to the crag. It can get understandably crowded at times, especially on the moderate routes. Note that some of the routes share anchors due to the occasionally hap-hazard route setting, so make sure you're on an empty anchor before attempting your climb.  

Who is Going to Love It

Big Chief was developed as a sport climbing crag, so those who love clipping bolts will enjoy the variety of mostly single pitched routes. Just because a lot of the grades are intermediate doesn't mean the climbing is easy, however. There are some run-out bolts of over 20 feet and some creative moves required on many of the routes. For climbers who want to break out of their gym routine and develop their route finding and technical skills on real rock, this can be a humbling but ultimately helpful experience. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Directions courtesy of Exit the central Truckee exit and take a right. Go into the traffic circle, and take your first right, which will wind down to West River Street, where you should take a left. Follow this about 1/2 a mile to Brockway Drive (the sign MAY still say highway 267), where you should go right. Less than a mile later, turn right on Palisades Drive. Go over the hill, and turn right on Silver Fir, and shortly afterwards turn left on Thelin Street.

Within a block, hang a right onto the dirt road just after a gate, which is set back from the road about 30 feet. Drive 5.2 miles on the main road, which is numbered as National Forest Road 06.

There is currently a cairn on a large tree stump indicating entrance. 

Stay straight on the road past the turnoff to the ranch (which has a sign stating "horseback riding" or something like that), and you will see a large dirt turn around inside the most prevalent right turn, which actually has a full right turn, and also sharper right turn 30 feet later in case you miss this first one. This leads you about 100 feet into a traffic circle type thing, which is the parking area for the Big Chief area.

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Big Chief

39.24959, -120.19069

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