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Big Chief

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Big Chief  

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Location: 39.2496, -120.1907 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 43,665
Administrators: Aron Quiter, John Robinson, M.Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: M.Morley on Sep 22, 2012
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Big Chief is in a beautiful location!


The Big Chief area is best known for a collection of sport bolted volcanic crags, roughly centered around the namesake formation on a ridge above highway 89. Much is developed, and much more awaits. It is on National Forest Land.

Most of the routes on the main walls were developed in the early 1990s, but new lines continue to be put up there and on other scattered crags nearby.

Reasonable public access does not currently exist during winter, when forest road 06 can be closed from first snowfall to early spring (even when the national forest website hasn't been updated accurately compared to conditions on the ground). Past winter access routes are now signed specifically as closed.

Getting There 

Late Spring, Summer and early Fall Directions

Exit the central Truckee exit and take a right. Go into the traffic circle, and take your first right, which will wind down to West River Street, where you should take a left. Follow this about 1/2 a mile to Brockway Drive (the sign MAY still say highway 267), where you should go right.

Less than a mile later, turn right on Palisades Drive. Go over the hill, and turn right on Silver Fir, and shortly afterwards turn left on Thelin Street.

Within a block, hang a right onto the dirt road just after a gate, which is set back from the road about 30 feet. Drive 5.2 miles on the main road, which is numbered as National Forest Road 06. Stay straight on the road past the turnoff to the ranch (which has a sign stating "horseback riding" or something like that), and you will see a large dirt turn around inside the most prevalent right turn, which actually has a full right turn, and also sharper right turn 30 feet later in case you miss this first one. This leads you about 100 feet into a traffic circle type thing, which is the parking area for the Big Chief area.

Climbing Season

Weather station 5.8 miles from here

69 Total Routes

['4 Stars',3],['3 Stars',32],['2 Stars',29],['1 Star',4],['Bomb',1]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Big Chief:
War Path   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Center Wall
War Paint   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 80'   Center Wall
Toilet Earth   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 150'   Center Wall
Route Stealers From Hell   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 40'   Center Wall
Half Baked   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   North Wall
Festus   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   South Wall
Too Light to Wait   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 30'   Center Wall
Mohawk   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 40'   Center Wall
Killer Bee   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Center Wall
Flamethrower   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 130'   Center Wall
Head Rush   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Center Wall
Big Chief Arete   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 120'   Center Wall
Pain Killer   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   South Wall
Pow Wow   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     TR, 1 pitch, 30'   Center Wall
Realm of the Overhang   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   South Cave
Flying High Again   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   South Cave
Raindance   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 30'   Center Wall
Totally Chawsome   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 35'   Center Wall
All Guns Blazing   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch   Center Wall
Browse More Classics in Big Chief

Featured Route For Big Chief
Raindance from below, with bolts.  The first bolt ...

Raindance 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a  CA : Tahoe Vicinity : ... : Center Wall
This route is in the less overhung (comparitively) cave in the center section of the Big Chief center area. It's still really overhung, but not as much as the other overhung area about 150 feet uphill and left. This route is 5 routes to the left of War Paint (5.9), which always has people on it in the mornings. It also shares the first bolt with the overhung and very juggy Mohawk, which moves up and right, while Raindance moves straight up.Sustained overhang has an excellent section to the fi...[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

Comments on Big Chief Add Comment
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By Colin Brochard
From: San Francisco
Jan 14, 2015
does anyone know if the gate is open for the dirt road approach currently?
By Aron Quiter
From: Oakland, CA
Sep 2, 2003
Note the change in directions to the Big Chief Area, they've been doing a lot of construction in the Truckee area lately it seems.
By Brian Quiter
From: Oakland, CA
May 16, 2004
[edit: this winter access is no longer available]


The dirt road to approach Big Chief does not open until the snow clears off it. This is usually in late May. You can just walk the road, but that makes the hike quite long. So instead, there is a trail leading up from highway 89 directly to Big Chief.

There is a bridge to cross the truckee river off highway 89 just north of mile marker 16.05. From there, find a trail leading directly up the hill to Big Chief.

(Sorry i can't give more details, but i don't know them. We did the long hike. not recommended.)
By Paul Rezucha
From: Alameda
Sep 16, 2012
Just to clarify the directions a bit... From making the left on Thelin Street, after about a block turn right on a small road which has a gate about 30' in. Set your odometer because you arrive at a hidden right turn at exactly 5.3 miles. After about 2.5 miles there is a "Y" with a sign on the right "equestrian park" or something like this. You want to stay to the right here even though there is a post on the left fork saying "06-08". You will know you are getting very close when you see some nice looking cliffs a couple hundred yard to the left (east). The somewhat hidden right turn is towards the end of these cliffs. There is no "prevalent" right hand turn that we could find. They are doing quite a bit of grading on the roads and have probably straightened parts of the road...
By 20 kN
From: Hawaii
Jun 9, 2013
Parking area GPS coordinates:

By gen-eva
Aug 12, 2013
LOST: 8 blue BD quickdraws, with a purple paint stripe on the bolt-end 'biners. Someone must have accidentally grabbed them -they weren't with the rest of my gear when I went to leave. There were several people from other groups with the same type of draws, but mine are marked with purple.
If you or anyone you know was climbing Big Chief today (Sunday Aug 11), please check to make sure my draws didn't go home with you. If they did, please PM me or reply to this post and I'll come pick them up.
By Justin Johnsen
From: Sacramento, CA
Jun 23, 2014
I'm cutting and pasting Aron Quiter's details from the Truckee River Canyon page that apply better to this newer Big Chief page.
By Cliff M
From: Davis, CA
Jan 19, 2015
As of yesterday, the gate to forest road 6 was closed and locked. we visited this website but it was innacurate fs.usda.gov/recarea/tahoe/reca... .
All the bridges off of hwy 89 say private property, no trespassing. The bridge near mile marker 16.05 has this sign.
big chief bridge
big chief bridge
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