While Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains are best known for unmatched deep powder skiing, winter in Utah is definitely no time to let your climbing gear collect dust. During warm spells and sunny days, winter can host some of the best conditions of the year for climbing around the state. Here are three of the best spots to get your real-rock fix in winter, all within three hours of Salt Lake City.
1. Joe’s Valley: Bouldering (3 hours)
Just outside the small town of Orangeville in central Utah is Joe’s Valley , a world-class bouldering destination with hundreds of charted routes and hundreds more uncharted ones. People come from all over the globe to sample the steep, highly featured sandstone problems here. Cold, sunny days in Joe’s can often be some of the best of the year, and there’s something for everyone. Problems range from VO fun to V14 testpieces. Stop by the Food Ranch in Orangeville for guidebooks, pad rentals, and the best Butterfinger donuts you’ve ever tasted. One recommended resource for bouldering in this area: An Insightful Guide to Joe’s Valley Bouldering , by Isaac Caldiero.
2. San Rafael Swell: Crack Climbing (2.5 hours)
The San Rafael Swell is a massive desert expanse encompassing a large swath of central Utah. While the Swell has tons of different crags and climbing options, the best bet for a sunny winter day is the Dylan Wall, a south-facing cliff loaded with crack climbs reminiscent of the famous Indian Creek near Moab. Most of the climbs are in the 5.10 to 5.11 range on beautifully varnished desert sandstone, and the red-rock desert scenery is hard to beat. The Private Pizza Wall, in Buckhorn Wash proper, has some great beginner climbs as well.
3. Ibex: Bouldering, Sport and Trad (2.5 hours)
Located in the stark and blank expanse of Utah’s West Desert, Ibex is one of the more remote climbing areas in Utah but is easily accessed by car. Multi-pitch trad climbing, bolted sport routes, and high-quality bouldering are all to be found in this unique spot, so if you’re headed down for a few days, bring everything from pads to cams. The featured quartzite provides enjoyable climbing, and the desolate hardpan of the surrounding desert makes for a highly unique backdrop. A good guidebook for Ibex is Utah's West Desert by James Garrett.