September 16, 2017 1 Comment Adventures, Destinations, North America, Rock Climbing

Climbing City of Rocks: Climbers Guide to 5.8 Routes


City of Rocks is a must do for any rock climber.  Since we climb at new locations on a regular basis, we are always scouting out good 5.8s to warm up on in order to feel out the rock and style of bolting so we don’t end up getting hurt or freaked out on a run-out or sandbagged route. On our recent trip to City of Rocks, we had our work cut out for us in finding 5.8 routes since these level of climbs are quite spread out throughout the park.  If you are an intermediate climber, like us, here is the beta on where to find the best 5.8 climbs at City of Rocks and some tips for planning your first climbing trip to City of Rocks. 

We entered City of Rocks from the west so I will start there and work my way east. 

Breadloaves: Love Handles & Muffin Top

These were fun routes, although not one of our favs. I found muffin top much easier than love handles. Muffin top is great for a new 5.8 leader. The rock here is very sticky and trustworthy, although the exposure and height can get in your head a bit if you are more of a beginner leader. Around the corner to the right, head through the canyon just a little and you’ll see a wide overlapping rock face which has a nice 5.6 and 5.7.   These climbs are next to campsite area 5 & 6.

Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks

Parking Lot: Delay of Game

Bring your bravery and confidence. If we had more time we would’ve given this a go even though some fellow campers were commenting on how high the first bolt was. Not that getting to the first bolt was hard, it’s just really high. After that though, the climb sounded fantastic! This climb is in campsite area 5 & 6.

Bath Rock West: Rollercoaster

Again, if we had another day to climb, we would’ve done this one. The nice thing about this route is the short approach and closeness to restrooms, pay station, and water. Near campsite area 4, directly across from the pay station.

Bumblie Rock: Too Much Fun

The name says it all. We were bummed to not have a chance to get on this route. By the time we walked past, there was a line to get on this, but it looked like a great route. It’s close to the campsites, making it easy to hop on early or late in the day. Hike down from the trail that starts in area 4 (although it can be accessed from many directions).

Rock Climbing City of Rocks

Stranger on Bumblie Rock’s Too Much Fun

Tahitian Rock: Bikini Candy

It’s worth the hike! Seriously, it required an hour and a half hike each way from our campsite near Parking Lot Rock but it was one of the most fun 5.8 routes we’ve ever done. 

Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks

On the way it’s worth climbing Lady J if you have a stick clip or are braver than us!  

Rock Climbing City of Rocks

Site 18: Looker

Site 18 is only a few minute hike from Tahitian Rock.  While not quite as fun as Tahitian rocks, it is worth climbing especially after making the investment in time to hike out there. I did like how beautiful the canyon floor is below this wall and it’s a great spot to find shade. The first bolt was a bit high and a stick clip would’ve been nice, but it was totally doable without. The holds and moves on this wall were so fun that we used it as a chance to practice down climbing.

Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks


Steinfell’s Dome: Sinocranium

An epic 7 pitch, 700 foot climb is Sinocranium. It’s been a classic of City of Rocks for decades. We did not get the chance to climb this but, oh, we wanted to. The hike from the southern section of the City was just too far. However, if you approach from the east and you have a 4WD car then I hear it’s a shorter walk. 

And if you are looking for a great 5.7, head over to Flaming Rock: Raindance. This crag is fairly close to the climbing near Bumblie. The route gets full sun in the morning. 

Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks
Rock Climbing City of Rocks

Tips we wish we knew before we rock climbed at City of Rocks

  • If you can, I recommend driving in and out of City from the east especially if you are in an RV like we were. The seven mile dirt road on the west is quite bumpy!
  • There is a dump station and drinking water station for RV’s on the east side.
  • Bring your own drinking water.  While there are a few places to fill your water inside the park, the water was really brown even when boiled (supposedly it was safe though).
  • The pay station is smack dab in the middle of the park at Area 4.  You want to first find an empty campsite, go to the pay station and pay for it. Then stick your ticket on your campsite post before heading out to climb. 
  • You can reserve your campsite ahead on  Note:  You can’t walk to all the climbing from your campsite–well, you can, but a lot of them are really far apart. The campsites are spread out throughout the park so if you know the area you are wanting to climb it can save your legs a lot of walking.
  • Personally, I think all the campsites in City of Rocks are great, but if you want to minimize your walking, camp in Area 4 which accesses most of the climbing trails.  Area 3 is good if you have kids because there are boulders to play on and a top rope area next to campsite 11.
  • Bring wood for a campfire.  Seriously, you don’t want to miss out on a night under these stars–IT’S INCREDIBLE!

    Milky Way and RV in City of Rocks

    Photo courtesy of Sammy Spindel

  • Bring a stick clip.  Some of the first bolts are very high!
  • Get in better conditioning for your next climbing trip through our free course Vic’s Coaching Series.  With climbing specific training and yoga, you will be climbing things you never imagined you could 🙂

Climbing doesn’t have to be only about 5.12s and taking huge risks.  For us, it’s all about getting outdoors, challenging yourself at your current skill level, experiencing nature, and creating memories together as a family. If you’ve never tried rock climbing and are interested in a day of family fun, we will be guiding next summer and fall!  Click here to learn more and reserve your spot on our itinerary.

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