Rock Canyon is one of my favorite climbing areas when visiting Salt Lake. It is pretty well developed now and hosts a slew of bolted and trad lines.
Overall, the climbing is significantly easier than that at American Fork Canyon. Rock Canyon holds numerous bolted routes in the 5.5 to 5.13 range and trad from 5.6 to 5.12 with the balance easier than 5.10.
There are routes sprinkled around on both sides of the canyon so it possible to chase the shade or the sun, as need demands. All of the parking is at the mouth of the canyon, so be prepared to hump.
One day, several years ago, we hiked the canyon from the mouth to the top of the plateau and it was really a gas, and did not detract from the climbing at all. It is easy to find yourself the only team at a crag, and while the vista does not come close to rivaling American Fork, the isolation can be satisfying. There is climbing adjacent to the parking, and one can take a leisurely approach just moving up canyon during the rest periods.
The rock is divided primarily between yellow and reddish quartzite closer to the mouth of the canyon, and gray limestone farther up canyon. See here for more information on the canyon's geology.
Best trip: bring a pair of ropes, a dozen draws, the trad rack, a bottle of wine, your significant other, and hiking shoes.
From the north (Salt Lake City) drive south on I-15 and exit at 800 N in Orem (exit 272). Drive east until 800 N ends; take the exit right onto University Avenue. Continue south on University Avenue until 2230 N (the 7th light signal). Turn left and drive east through a residential neighborhood until the road starts to curve right (south). Turn left on N. Temple Drive (the Mormon Temple is visible just before you turn). Continue east on N. Temple through a 4-way stop sign. As the road curves to the south (right) the Rock Canyon parking will be directly ahead.
From the south exit from I-15 at University Avenue in Provo (exit 263). Continue north on University Avenue until 2230 N (the first light signal after passing BYU's football stadium on your right). Turn right and follow the rest of the directions, above.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Rock Canyon:
An exhilarating Rock Canyon classic up the most striking buttress at the mouth of the canyon. The climbing is exciting, the rock is sometimes suspect, and the exposure is intimidating. Historical relics abound (pins and bolts) making for a fun ride through the wayback machine.P1 (50 feet, 5.11d, or 5.8 C0) An overhanging start on thought-provoking rock (but good holds), to an interesting clipping position for the third bolt. The busin...[more]Browse More Classics in UT
Just to let everyone know, I've been putting together more printer friendly and compact route guides for rock canyon (using the awesome Beta photos from you all) and I decided to post them for everyone to use. You can find them at sites.google.com/site/mountainprojectpdfs/. I find them handy for printing out and throwing in my outdated AFC/RC book.
Keep in mind this is a work in progress, and suggestions are welcome.
I agree with the previous comments regarding the fine development of routes in the canyon. I've been living in Alaska for the past 3 yrs and have admired many of the lines from afar. Upon returning to the lower 48 Rock Canyon will be one of my destinations! Thanks to the Utah Valley crews.
Crisco and I climbed a fun mixed route today in the canyon. Not sure if it's been done before. We named it (tongue-in-cheek) the Higbee Gully. If the Knights can name a bunch of routes after themselves, why can't I? :) It's not super hard or hardcore by any means, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's been done before (especially in summer) but it was a fun adventure. There's a little TR and some pics on my blog here.
Yeah, there's free camping throughout the canyon. The closest ones to the parking lot are probably a few hundred feet in. They're not officially designated with numbers and picnic tables or anything, just clearings with a fire ring (though open fires aren't allowed in the summer) that you'll see on one side of the trail or the other. There's a bathroom at the parking lot.
The next major canyon to the south, Slate Canyon, has camping, too, and you can pitch your tent pretty much wherever. That canyon gets a lot less traffic. There is paid camping in Provo Canyon (north of Rock Canyon). The sites there have water hookups, etc.
The Ruckman guide is good if you're interested in going to the Balcony, the Projects, or the Bosko Wall, none of which are covered in much detail here on MP. Otherwise, Mountain Project has far better (more up-to-date, accurate, and complete) info.
Stopped here planning to camp for a night on a roadtrip a few weeks ago and camping as well as overnight parking is no longer allowed, but I'm not sure how well it is actually enforced. Fun climbing area though.