Ferguson Canyon is a summer climbing paradise just 20 minutes from the sweltering OR Summer Market and it’s full of shade, water, and north-facing granite walls. Here, just to the south of the better-know Big Cottonwood Canyon climbs, you can escape the summer heat while knocking some classic Wasatch granite trad, sport, and top rope climbs off of your list.
Ferguson Canyon makes for a great mid-day escape from the show or dawn patrol with the trailhead only 17 miles from the Salt Palace. It’s also got enough climbing to keep you entertained for a long evening if you’re lucky enough to have the time.
The rocks and minerals found in Ferguson Canyon are very unique. The granite is characterized by horizontal offset seams, large crystals, and overlaps. Routes here are short, averaging 50 feet in length, but are steep. A 60-meter rope is long enough for all the routes here.
Most of the routes can be top roped with the exception of the Teardrop Area and Bob’s Rocking Chair. A few classic trad climbs can be found on the Watchtower wall, like the 5.10a Extreme Unction. There is some prime sport climbing here, so bring your quickdraws, anchors, runners, and a cordellette for setting routes. Watchtower is the most popular part of the canyon by far because it is the first buttress on the south side of the canyon with a high concentration of quality routes.
The approach is about 20 minutes of hiking along a well-marked trail. Type “Ferguson Canyon Cottonwood Heights” into Google Maps and it’ll lead you to an obvious trailhead parking area. The dirt road that leaves from the parking lot leads up to a white water tower where it turns down into a singletrack trail that descends to the canyon bottom and then climbs up the canyon. You’ll hear the sound of running water soon enough and climbs will start to unfold right off the trail.
One of the most enjoyable, challenging sections in the canyon is the Cathedral wall, specifically the climb Skinny Len Crimps (5.11a). This is a face climb with three bolts, and the title of the climb is appropriate as the climb has very skinny crimps. If you’ve crimped on granite, you already know that while you can grip pretty well, it also tears at your fingers. It’s a great test for your crimping skills.
If you’re looking for a challenging sport route, try the 5.12a Fuego on the Tower of Babel wall—it lives up to it’s fiery name in more ways than one.
There are even some great climbs for beginners on Ferguson, like the top roped 5.7 Inner Light route on the Watchtower wall. Dogs are allowed in Ferguson Canyon, but please clean up after them and remember to clean up after yourselves, as well—leave no trace in the area in order to keep the area climber-friendly
It can get pretty cool while you’re not climbing, so it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket. There are no places to fill drinking water at the trailhead, so bring plenty.