The Boulder Problems of Southern Nevada

The pages on the right are sample pages from the Southern Nevada Bouldering Guide. They include sections showing the various styles of maps, topo's photo-diagrams and descriptions that are used throughout the book.

Rock ~ Climate ~ Format of the Guide ~ Accommodations


There are four types of rock that are climbed in southern Nevada: sandstone, limestone, volcanic, and granitic.

Aztec sandstone, the rock of Red Rocks, exists in a variety of styles. While the sandstone is generally better cemented than neighboring areas, such as near St. George and Zion, there does tend to be a fair bit of choss. This choss is less apparent on well established climbs which have cleaned up with use. At its best, the sandstone is exquisitely featured and offers good friction without being sharp. Red Rocks has vast amounts of varnished rock. The varnish is dark brown to black and forms a thin shell over the rock. The well varnished rock of the canyons is generally considered to be the best rock in southern Nevada. Prime examples include the west face of the Lower Fish Head Boulder, Make Believe, Ariana, and Tuscan Picnic. When not varnished the rock varies in color from white and tan to dark red and brown. Le Cheval, Wet Dream, The Fountainhead, Ride the White Horse, and Desert Rain are three-star examples of the effects of water polishing. Generally, the Calico Hills tend to be of a softer, sandier, red and white rock which is sometimes "perma-sandy." The Propane Tank, for example, has been eroded naturally and by climbing. The problems have been constantly changing since they were first climbed in the late 70s.

When wet, the sandstone becomes considerably weaker and holds that are regularly used on well traveled climbs can break-off with little effort. To preserve the climbs, climbers do not climb on the rock when it is wet. Depending on the severity of the rain or snow storm and subsequent conditions, it usually takes a day or two for the rock to dry out. The canyons, which are of a less porous rock, are generally faster drying than the Calico Hills. When faced with a soggy Red Rocks, other rock types are usually still climbable.

Most of the rock on the east side of Las Vegas is volcanic. Wide variation in rock quality and type is found. Generally, lines are not striking and holds tend to be sharp. Many find the volcanic rock of Arizona Hot Springs to be better suited for climbing than the areas around Henderson and Boulder City. This is likely because the area has seen more water polishing.

Limestone is the predominant rock type of the Spring Mountains. While lower elevation spots often have very sharp, fluted spines, the higher elevation rock on Mount Charleston is usually too featureless to climb. Early in the season, seepage can be a problem; in certain spots, it persists throughout the year. The stand-alone boulders, of which there are very few, do not have seepage issues. There is also a small bouldering area developed with a conglomerate rock type, similar to Maple Canyon, comprised of large round cobbles.


Southern Nevada sits at the southern tip of the Great Basin and in the northeastern region of the Mojave Desert, one of the driest places in North America. The little precipitation that does occur is in the form of late summer thundershowers and winter storms. Mountainous regions, such as Red Rocks and Mount Charleston, receive considerably more precipitation than lower valley regions. The mountains are also cooler; the canyons of Red Rocks are typically 10°F cooler than the Las Vegas Valley. Temperatures range from oppressively hot in the summer to bitterly cold in the winter. Despite the extremes in temperature, comfortable climbing can be found throughout the year.

Generally, October to early April is considered the best season for climbing in Red Rocks. September is still a bit warm, with highs reaching 90°F. December and January are rather cold, and storms periodically cover Red Rocks with a thin blanket of snow. During December and January it is also common to have spells of beautiful, cloudless days with temperatures in the mid 60's. Towards the end of April, the temperature ramps up, and bouldering is often relegated to the dawn and evening hours with head lamps and lanterns. In the summer, dawn and evening sessions are still possible for those with motivation. In July, however, temperatures quickly become unbearable as the sun rises. Serendipitous for local climbers, just as Red Rocks becomes too hot, Mount Charleston comes into season.

When it's cold, some warmer spots include: the Kraft Boulders, the Stick Gully Boulders until the afternoon, the Mud Springs Boulders at the mouth of Windy Canyon until the afternoon, and the Paiute Boulders at Keyhole Canyon.

When it's warm, some cooler spots at include: the problems in Black Velvet Canyon, Anthem at the Monument Boulders which stays shaded all day, the Red Rock Wash with Ride the White Horse and Stampede in Willow Springs, and Gateway Canyon, where shade can be found when Kraft is baking.

Flash floods, while infrequent and often localized, can pose a hazard. The narrow, rocky canyons allow little infiltration, and runoff quickly forms into powerful torrents, which are similar in appearance to Yosemite waterfalls.


This guide covers the bouldering at Keyhole Canyon, areas near Henderson and Boulder City, Mount Charleston, and Red Rock National Conservation Area, near Las Vegas, Nevada.

Each bouldering area described has a brief introduction, approach description, and overview map showing parking, trails, boulders, and natural features. Overview photos and maps are used throughout to aid in locating boulders. A photograph of nearly every boulder is included, with lines drawn to show problem locations. Whenever possible, a person is included climbing on the boulder for scale.

The details of each problem are described along with additional comments regarding rock quality, movement, and particular information. When details are lacking, the dagger symbol (†) follows the grade.

Because Red Rocks often offers a plethora of holds, you may find that certain problems are subjective. I have tried to describe the most obvious lines, and rarely include an eliminate or variation.


In the early 1980s, the idyllic Willow Springs was the cultural hub and camping area for traveling climbers. Centrally located, it provided short hikes to climbing and had a communal feel. Since then the campground has relocated many times, from a beautiful location east of Mount Wilson, to the east slope of Fossil Mountain near Blue Diamond, and finally to the present location.

The RED ROCK CAMPGROUND is out of sight from SR159, in a cold, windy depression a few miles west of a shooting range (see map, page 44). Managed by the BLM, there is a 14 day limit and sites cost $10 per night. Each site can accommodate two vehicles and has access to water and toilets. Showers are not available. Although there is a resident caretaker, theft has been a problem in recent years. HOW TO GET THERE: From its junction with the 215 Beltway, continue west on Charleston Boulevard for 3.3 miles. Turn left onto Moenkopi Road (0.5 miles before Calico Basin Road) which leads 1.2 miles to the campground.


Camping is not allowed along the dirt roads near Black Velvet and Windy Canyons, or anywhere in Calico Basin. However, a small number of primitive camping options are available:

Camping along Rocky Gap Road (a scenic 4x4 road that connects Willow Springs and Lovell Canyon) as well as camping any where above 5000' in areas south of the La Madre Mountains within the RRCNCA, requires a permit. Call (702) 515-5050. Camping is subject to a 14 day limit and fires are not allowed.

Sites in Lovell Canyon do not require a permit, but are still subject to the 14 day limit. The easiest access is from Lovell Canyon Road, 3.2 miles west of Mountain Springs, on the west side of the Red Rocks Escarpment.


Showers are available from the Red Rock Climbing Center for a nominal fee. They, along with the gear store, Desert Rock Sports are located at the intersection of Charleston and Cimmaron Boulevards. Call (702) 254-5604.


Bonnie Springs, an "old Nevada" theme hotel may be a good option. It is centrally located off SR159, northwest of Blue Diamond and has reasonable rates. Call (702) 875-4191. Las Vegas offers a myriad of options from $20-a-night motels to luxury resorts. Temporary house rentals are becoming increasingly available from private owners and real estate managers; check the internet for information.


If climbing at Mount Charleston, there are seven developed campgrounds: three in Lee Canyon, two along SR158, and two in Kyle Canyon. Sites typically cost $19 per night and reservations (recommended as the campgrounds are usually full) can be made up to 180 days in advance. Call (877) 444-6777 or go to The length of stay is limited to 14 days, all sites have water and rest rooms. The Hill Top and Fletcher View (which is geared towards RVs) sites have showers.

Undeveloped camping is allowed, except at trail heads, picnic areas, or in day use parking areas. The Forest Service recommends that campers use existing campsites next to or at the end of roads, and use existing fire rings when fire is allowed. Again, the length of stay is limited to 14 days. Popular spots include the parking area for the old ski hill below the Imagination Wall in Kyle Canyon, and adjacent to the Lee Canyon Boulders (see map, page 363).

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