Planning a Road Trip to the Bouldering Paradise of Joe’s Valley

Joe's Valley
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If you’re not scared of the August heat in southern Utah (you don’t have to be), head to Joe’s Valley for a day or weekend of bouldering in sandstone paradise. This bouldering mecca is filled with hundreds of black- and tan-streaked sandstone boulders that sit on National Forest Service land. Camp where you want, enjoy conversations with other climbers from around the world, and enjoy the short walks from camp to legendary problems.

If you need gear or beta before leaving Salt Lake City, swing by IME—REI Salt Lake is just around the corner and so is a grocery store and liquor store. You’re heading to secluded, high-desert mountains and you need to be prepared. Bring plenty of water, and by plenty, you should bring at least a gallon per day, per person, and factor in that you could get “stuck” on a backroad. Having a few days of food is always a good idea, too.

And, of course, bring a cooler full of beer—you’re going to need it.

The climbing in Joe’s Valley is split between three main areas: Left Fork, Right Fork, and New Joe’s (camping can also be found in each area). New Joe’s is south-facing and tends to be warmer, while the two forks are canyons that trap the cold air. Since it’s August, avoid New Joe’s. The trails here are often steep and rocky, but most approaches are five minutes or less—with many of the most popular boulders within quick, easy reach of camp.

It’s just over a 2.5-hour drive to the area—type “Joes Valley Dam, Utah” into google maps and hit the road. As you approach the reservoir on Highway 29 (about a mile out), turn right onto Cottonwood Creek road to find the Right Fork zone. Keep going down the road and you’ll find Left Fork access on the right side of the highway down unmarked dirt roads. You can hike up pretty much any hillside here and find worthy boulders.

Joe's Valley climbing
Joe's Valley climbing Owen Summerscales

The rock here was made for climbing. Boulder problems are striking and aesthetic, with a lot of gymnastic movement and good friction. You’ll find the occasional sharp pocket or crimp, but for the most part the holds are comfortable sandstone. A quick web search will find you tons of videos of classic problems from The Angler (V2) to Resident Evil (V10) and the perennial favorite Wills A Fire (V6). Hundreds of problems have been documented and hundreds more await the adventurous climber.

That means you don’t have to stick to the guidebooks, although they provide a great base to start from.

Joe's Valley is dog friendly, but be mindful of your dog's comfort and be sure to bring extra water and shade tents for them. Know that temperatures in the Utah desert will vary dramatically—80-degree days can easily turn into 40-degree nights. Since you’re going in August, it’s likely you’ll be able to get away passing out on your crash pad by the fire without much discomfort, but bring a sleeping bag with you.

Be prepared for the journey and you’ll have the time of your life.

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