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Keyhole Canyon

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Keyhole Canyon  

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 2,870'
Location: 35.7156, -114.9264 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 14,236
Administrators: Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: John Hegyes on Apr 5, 2007  with updates from DesertDan


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BETA PHOTO: The most prominent wall in the lower canyon.


Riddled with rock art, this remote climbing destination located between Boulder City and Searchlight is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

Keyhole Canyon is primarily a traditional climbing area; sport routes are few. The local ethics are such that retro-bolts and bolts added on rappel are typically removed pretty quickly.

Getting There 

To get to Keyhole Canyon from Las Vegas, take Hwy US 95 south through Henderson toward Boulder City. From the junction of Hwys 93 and 95, head south on 95 toward Searchlight for almost 16 miles. At an intersection, take a left (east) on to a dirt road. Follow this dirt road for just over 2 miles to a series of power lines. Take a right (south) on the SECOND power line road, travel almost 2 miles to the Keyhole Cutoff. Take a left (east) and head less than a half mile to the mouth of the canyon. The crags are about a 1-minute hike from the car.

There is a map in the back of Swain's Rock Climbing Red Rocks book.

We made this approach in a front-wheel-drive passenger car and found the dirt roads to be passable.

On your way out, once on the power line road again, you can retrace your path or for a change of scenery, head south for 2.25 miles and you'll come across another dirt road that will take you out to the highway.

Climbing Season

For the All Locations area.

Weather station 17.2 miles from here

42 Total Routes

['4 Stars',7],['3 Stars',15],['2 Stars',16],['1 Star',4],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Keyhole Canyon:
I Did It My Way   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     TR, 1 pitch, 30'   Lower Canyon : South Front Slabs
Shoshone Tears   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   Lower Canyon : South Front Slabs
Browse More Classics in Keyhole Canyon

Featured Route For Keyhole Canyon
George Smith on TR. Courtesy of Adam Pierce collec...

Rats-n-Bees 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c NV : Keyhole Canyon : ... : Waterfall Area
Start on the low angle shoulder, angle up and right under a small roof to a small stance/ledge under a bolt. Go straight up past the bolt to a two-bolt anchor. A top rope can be set up on this by climbing the flowstone to the low-angle ramp on the left that leads straight to the anchors....[more]   Browse More Classics in NV

Photos of Keyhole Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
A couple dusty Keyhole varmints! . . Photo by Jasm...
A couple dusty Keyhole varmints! . . Photo by Jasm...
Key Hole Canyon, NV. Photo by Blitzo.
Key Hole Canyon, NV. Photo by Blitzo.
Indian Legacy . . Photo by Jasmyn Smith.
Indian Legacy . . Photo by Jasmyn Smith.
Keyhole rock art
Keyhole rock art
Charlotte's Web  maybe 5.7+ and 140 ft.  Take smal...
BETA PHOTO: Charlotte's Web maybe 5.7+ and 140 ft. Take smal...
Keyhole Canyon
Keyhole Canyon
Entrance to Keyhole Canyon with bullet pocks on th...
Entrance to Keyhole Canyon with bullet pocks on th...
Keyhole rock art
Keyhole rock art
Keyhole Canyon, north wall
BETA PHOTO: Keyhole Canyon, north wall
Charlotte's Web at the Keyhole
BETA PHOTO: Charlotte's Web at the Keyhole
Keyhole Canyon
BETA PHOTO: Keyhole Canyon
Approach to Keyhole Canyon, NV
BETA PHOTO: Approach to Keyhole Canyon, NV
Native rock art in Keyhole Canyon, NV
Native rock art in Keyhole Canyon, NV
Jim Lybarger
Jim Lybarger
Wall of Charlotte's Web
BETA PHOTO: Wall of Charlotte's Web
Brian on Charlotte's Web, 5.7 at Keyhole slabs, ri...
BETA PHOTO: Brian on Charlotte's Web, 5.7 at Keyhole slabs, ri...
"Shoshone Tears" climbs the face left of...
BETA PHOTO: "Shoshone Tears" climbs the face left of...
"Shoshone Tears" - Climb face and cracks...
BETA PHOTO: "Shoshone Tears" - Climb face and cracks...
Petroglyphs. Photo by Blitzo.
Petroglyphs. Photo by Blitzo.
Beginning an unknown 5.6 crack climb on Keyhole sl...
Beginning an unknown 5.6 crack climb on Keyhole sl...
Jim's soon to be published guide.
Jim's soon to be published guide.
From Keyhole Canyon a localized snow storm moving ...
From Keyhole Canyon a localized snow storm moving ...

Comments on Keyhole Canyon Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 22, 2015
By John Hegyes
From: Las Vegas, NV
Apr 5, 2007
If anyone has some beta on routes here, please post it. We saw several bolts but it seems like most routes are either run-out or missing bolts.
By ......
Apr 8, 2007
The routes are mixed and mostly an adventure. Most can be set up on TR via scrambling to the top. The grades in the wash (left side) were supposedly 5.10 at some point, but have become a little harder due to wash outs (like v3ish to boulder up to the 5.10 part)Good landings, though.
By Thomas Beck
From: Las Vegas, Nevada
Dec 26, 2008
John, we tried a corner and one of the splitter cracks - about 5.8, good gear, solid rock. See picture of the buttress (North Wall) in photo collection. Someone has bolted a couple of the easy slab routes across the scree gully from that photo. About 5.6-5.7

Also looking for more information on the area.
By Unassigned User
Feb 10, 2010
Some routes here were put up by the hard men/women of the Sierra Club so you will find mixed and runout routes being the standard of the time. I have most all F.A. info on the area. Minus a couple. email me for info. If you want your route in the book let me know. Plus I would like to know who's putting up the routes I am climbing on!
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Feb 26, 2010
I'm shocked no one has posted better approach beta than is listed here- the mileage above takes you nowhere near Keyhole Canyon, as we discovered today- the road at the 16 mile mark leads essentially nowhere and has some pretty rough sections.

From the 93/95 junction, head south for about 13-14 miles- taking your first left after the Nelson turnoff.

Two miles down this road, take a right at the SECOND powerline road (where the road dead ends)- and follow it until more or less 300 yards from Keyhole Canyon. On your left is a semi-obvious road with an orange marker (as of Feb 2010), take this and follow the road to the parking lot.
By John Hegyes
From: Las Vegas, NV
Mar 1, 2010
John, why so shocked?? This is not exactly a popular destination. And when you say "the mileage above takes you nowhere near Keyhole Canyon..." - that's totally untrue. Directions as listed are accurate. Mabye you got lost or something?? I'll concede that the road might be rough; conditions may have changed since I wrote this. But I'll point out that we drove there in my scrappy 1993 Subaru two-wheel drive car and while not recommended, we did fine. Did you take your little hybrid out there or something???

If your powerline road is a better way to go, just say so. There's usually more than one route on which to travel in the desert... Rather than quibbling over the approach, why don't you post some route beta?
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Mar 1, 2010

the mileage is wrong, not the directions. your directions are accurate, but they miss some key beta- the mileage and which powerline road (there are two- one at 2.1 miles, the other at 2.4- the first one has no access to keyhole and is nasty rough as well). the mileage you list takes you down the next dirt road, which is two or three miles south of keyhole. this is what i was trying to correct with my post.

the road was fine- 40mph in my truck was no big deal, but the road we took the first time made me VERY happy to have my truck, as it had washed out in several hills and would be impassable for a car- even with all wheel drive.

at any rate, i would post route beta, but we only climbed one route due to the fact that we spent the morning exploring a different area we found near by when our first attempt at finding keyhole failed.

on one other note- im shocked because there are several comments on this page that make it obvious people are going out there, but they didnt bother to correct the mileage listed above. maybe they knew where it was prior, though...
By John Hegyes
From: Las Vegas, NV
Mar 1, 2010
Yes indeed, when following the directions I posted, you do want to take the second powerline road, I will change the description to reflect that. Here's a Google Earth capture with an overlay added...
This is essentially the same as listed in the back of Todd Swain's "Rock Climbing Red Rocks".

Approach to Keyhole Canyon, NV
Approach to Keyhole Canyon, NV
By Jon O'Brien
From: Nevada
Mar 3, 2010
Replying to being shocked about lack of information I can say that I was initially overwhelmed when I found the place via the old islands in the sky book (oh, the old swain rr book has good directions too): i'd gone to boulder there, then saw all the routes... we went several weekends in a row, did all the routes, made a great guide, and planned to disseminate to the world.

then we realized this place is best left to those with the spirit to find it. i vote to keep it private through personal emails, adding this step to obtaining the info may keep keyhole a bit more pristine for a bit more time...(just an opinion)

beautiful spot, great in the rain, solid as heck granite...

By Jon O'Brien
From: Nevada
Mar 3, 2010
p.s. google earth shows that the canyon continues with what appears to be high walls for QUITE awhile once you surmount the old waterfall. anyone taken that walk yet? the satellite images appear very promising ;-)
By Michelle Locatelli
Mar 4, 2010
The map that John supplied is the correct way in. This area has been climbed on for years by the likes of Henry Barber, Lynn Hill and Joe Herbst. A group of Boulder City climbers (Jim and Fred Lybarger,Tom Ray, George Smith, Dan Briley and friends) did most of the first ascents there and would know the names of most of the routes. I'm thinking about the ol' Keyhole Classic climbing comp that those guys held each year, and they had a top rope up on about everything that was climbable.
By Xavier Wasiak
From: Las Vegas, NV
Nov 6, 2011
Teresa and I were doing a bit of exploring on a rainy day and decided to drive by Keyhole Canyon to see the art and walls. I admit that after 16 years of climbing it was the first time I'd been there and was curious. The really cool thing was that I saw Jim Lybarger and apparently the Keyhole Crew still host the Keyhole Classic every first weekend in November. There were quite a few climbers there and they set up a tyrolean across the canyon and everything. Jim is close to publishing a guide for the area. I told him I'd share info as he gave it to me. I'm posting some pics too. I could tell Jim was excited about sharing what info he could.
By Jared R
Mar 20, 2012
There is so much potential for really easy, Mountaineering style trad routes here. I was amazed at the route possibilities that abound in this little area. Great little area to climb and a cool place to be when Red Rocks gets too crowded.
By George Smith
Jun 22, 2012
The lack of route info about Keyhole Canyon seems to have lead to others renaming and/or adding bolts to previously climbed and named routes. That prompted me to create the Keyhole Canyon, NV - Lower Canyon, North Wall route topo and others like it for every cliff or outcrop of rock there. I'll post the others as I finish them.
By DesertDan
From: Arvada, Co
Jun 26, 2012
Being a climber of 25 years at Keyhole and since finding Mountain Project with new activity here thought it would be good to share some history.

The climbing at Keyhole has been of a traditional style since myself or anyone I know can remember. The rock is very featured and offers natural gear placements on every cliff, especially if you're creative. Although there are perhaps six routes total at Keyhole that rely solely on bolts, none would be considered a sport climb based on the run outs between bolts and lack of fixed anchors at the top. Most climbs use all natural gear or are mixed with bolts placed only when necessary, that is only when there is no reliable gear (or at least somewhat reliable). Although the routes at Keyhole are predominately safe, because of the run outs and sometimes tricky gear placements the area has the committing flavor of Joshua Tree or Tahquitz.

Ethics and style at Keyhole are like those from these long time traditional climbing areas. Climbs are established ground up, natural gear is used whenever possible, bolts are placed sparingly from stances or hooks, chipping has never been done. This style of climbing has served Keyhole well by helping keep route development slow and preserving the spicy flavor of the area. More importantly it reduces the impact on the limited resources here.

As climbers, having a low impact at Keyhole and keeping the visual signs of climbing to a minimum is very important to maintaining our privilege of climbing there. As beautiful and fun as climbing is at Keyhole, it is a secondary resource. The primary resource is the archeology and the rich heritage of petroglyphs and pictographs left by thousands of years of habitation by Native Americans. From the perspective of BLM, Keyhole is the crown jewel of Native American rock art in Southern Nevada. It is important that we respect this. If climbing at Keyhole were to be perceived by BLM as a threat to the rock art, climbing would cease or be severely limited. Not a single bolt has been placed in the Lower Canyon without BLM noticing it.

Many local climbers nowadays consider themselves among the caretakers of Keyhole. Picking up trash, removing fire rings inside the fence line, repairing the fence, educating visitors of the area etc. and preserving the character and tradition of climbing at Keyhole. To this end rappel placed bolts and retro bolting has never been condoned and will never be accepted. Occasionally over the years both have happened. Recently retro bolting and rappel placed bolts have been installed prolifically. The general consensus of local climbers is that this is bad for the long term privilege and character of climbing at Keyhole.

As an example of heavy handed bolting, 62 bolts were placed on four routes, including belays, on the South Keyhole Slabs. Approximately half of these bolts were placed within arms reach of natural protection. In the five+ decades of climbing prior to the arrival of the first ascent parties of these four routes, only about 50 bolts total had been placed in all of Keyhole Canyon including everything down to White Dream. The current estimation is that there are approximately 120-130 routes at Keyhole and those four rappel bolted routes alone more than doubled the number of bolts here.

The overall feeling of many of the locals is that all retro and rappel placed bolts should be removed and that it should be done in an effort to preserve the ethical and traditional style of climbing at Keyhole. And again, more importantly to preserve the privilege of climbing at Keyhole in the sense of trying to prevent a conflict between climbing and archeology.

As such, beginning with the South Keyhole Slabs this effort has commenced and all bolts from the routes Born Talking, Charlotte's Web, Red Shoes, and Shoshone Tears have been removed. The belay bolts were removed as well. All of these climbs are well established top ropes that use natural gear for anchors. The issue with these climbs is not the transition of a top rope to a lead. It is with the way they were established; on rappel, placing bolts in contrived locations from unnatural stances, bolts placed extremely close together (sometimes only 2-3ft apart), and next to natural gear placements.

Prior to pulling the bolts on these climbs we led them and were able to skip about half or more of the bolts on each route by using natural gear or walking past them. In one instance on Charlotte's Web, only clipping one of three bolts within reach of a single stance. Red Shoes was led entirely on natural gear in a PG fashion.

These are otherwise good routes, that if established ground up, using the available natural gear and without bolted top rope anchors, would be a welcome addition to Keyhole Climbing.

Keyhole has so far been free of the homogenization that sport and gym climbing has brought to many areas (Calico Hills, Mt. Charleston). It provides diversity and a facet of climbing that if not preserved will undoubtedly disappear. This is a big wide world with many lifetimes of first ascents still available. Within a 100 mile radius of Las Vegas are thousands of virgin cliffs with quality rock that can be developed from scratch in any style (Prim, Arrow Canyon). With so much available, there is room for everyone and every style. Please respect the long standing climbing style and ethics of Keyhole by not rap bolting, retro bolting, or over bolting. Less is more!

Dan Briley
By vernon phinney
From: pocatello, idaho
Jan 31, 2014
Glad to see information on Key Hole Canyon. It was a great place for myself and friends to go and climb/party back in 1974-1977. I loved Keyhole, as it was remote and no interference from anyone! Wish there were some better pictures of the keyhole/waterfall area. Not a serious place like Red Rocks with the big wall committments! Had a friend, Sandy, part owner of the Boulder airstrip at the time, who flew into Keyhole canyon one day when he knew we were there climbing. Came in with plane in a vertical bank and dropped plane inside the walls - crazy guy! I remember a particularly good mantle move on the south side - you had to twist you body to the right as you mantled and stay squat or you would seriously bang your head on an overhanging section of the rock. Fun place! Area would be best kept secret with the art work, etc. Some organization will soon push to have climbing removed due to rock damage! At least the Park Rangers should not shoot the bolt hangers off the cliff faces (Valley of Fire). Vernon Phinney
By Robin Foubister
From: Rossland, British Columbia
May 18, 2014
Went to check this place out on an off day from Red Rocks. I wont get into the ethical/style debate since as a visitor i dont know the history of the area enough to have a valid argument. The elitism of removing bolts, in this case, may be justified to keep an archaelogically significant area accessible to climbers. Anyway shit i started getting into the debate, sorry.

The point I was going to make is, someone needs to update the mountain project status of these routes. IE nothing is sport anymore. We skimmed the mountain project descriptions, saw sport, and went out with only sport gear. So obviously we got skunked without a rack. Would have been nice to have the updated info about bolts no longer existing. Really cool area to scramble and explore regardless. Directions were easy to follow and spot on. Just need some updated route classification/description.
By LV Climbers Liaison Council
Nov 4, 2014
27th Annual Keyhole Classic November 7-9th

Don't forget to go out to a Southern Nevada Classic!

The Keyhole Classic held at Keyhole Canyon, just SE of Las Vegas, is happening this weekend the 7th, 8th and 9th.

- Free Camping
- 440' tyrolean traverse
- Chili & Food
- T-Shirts
- Bouldering Comp Saturday
- Top ropes

Come out and have a great time climbing or just meeting up with locals or visiting climbers.

Guidebooks for the area will also be available!

Hope you can make it!
By bio
From: mesa, az
Mar 5, 2015
I did a beautiful finger crack around the corner left from the north wall, probably 5.7/8 on my first trip there recently. Accessing the crack requires @ 25 feet of easy juggy crack below it. Not sure the name. There are many cracks/corners along that wall I'd like to get on during my next trip. I like the area and its ethic.
By Manderson198
Jun 22, 2015
Hi all. I'm wondering if anyone could message me regarding picking up a guidebook for this area. I've been climbing over here numerous times, but it'd be nice to have a guided resource. Any info would be great---thanks!
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