Credit for the discovery of this area goes to Eric Christensen, co-founder of Colorado Springs' Sport Climbing Center and Native American antiquities enthusiast. Back in the 1990s, Eric visited some backwater canyon(s) to check out, not the climbing, but the petroglyphs. On his return, Eric reported a wealth of Dakota sandstone with good climbing potential somewhere near La Junta. When, in the Spring of 2012, I was offered a 2 month Physical Therapy job in the area, I reluctantly agreed based on good money and a long shot at finding Eric's Dakota Sandstone Pot-O-Gold. Fifteen minutes with Google and I had it narrowed down to two canyons, and my bet was on Vogel. The hunch was a slam dunk.
Mind you, there are several other crags that Eric may have gone to, but Vogel is on distinctly convenient public land (Comanche National Grassland, managed by the BLM). If you do some digging, you'll find a batch of potential bouldering sites, both public and private in the warm canyons and around reservoirs near La Junta and Lamar, CO.
Vogel Canyon sandstone varies in quality from soft, sandy, and brittle to chocolate brown, Dakota Sandstone, iron rock. The majority of the rock lies somewhere in between the quality extremes but only occasionally achieves the Dakota quality of Morrison's famous hogback. There is route potential in this area, from 5.6 bucket hauls on vertical rock to 5.13 or harder, severely overhanging aretes and roof systems, but the real attraction here is the bouldering. Vogel has the potential for hundreds of problems. There are problems of almost every type and angle virtually everywhere. For the steep geek, there is more overhung climbing than the average bouldering area. I've found spots with high quality "Priest Draw" like horizontal pocket roofs (hard to describe location, sorry), long dynos to huecos on 120 degree walls, tiered bucket roofs with 30 foot horizontal traverses, and a lot more.
Some of the highest quality problems are nowhere to be seen at the concentrated first areas you arrive at from the main trail. The best thing is to get hammered on the obvious classic problems, then start hiking to find more and more and more. All told, there is probably about a mile of rock on the public land areas closest to the parking and easy access trails. Beyond that, there are a few more miles of rock with questionable access.
Season: Since the La Junta area is usually 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the Front Range, Vogel Canyon is probably the warmest area in driving range to Colorado Springs and Denver. It is usually at least 3 to 5 degrees warmer than Shelf Road and takes about 30 minutes more driving time than Shelf. Since there are crags facing all four directions in a concentrated area, it is always possible to quickly find sun or shade. The season goes from about late September to mid-May. Summer is not a good option at all.
Facilities: From the parking area, there are covered picnic tables, trash cans, and a toilet facility. There are no designated camping facilities, but I have seen up to four tents set up at a time behind the trees to the right side as you enter the parking area. This has been fairly cool and should continue without problems as long as it doesn't get out of hand.
Petroglyphs: Vogel Canyon has some ancient rock art. It isn't one of the grand displays compared to some places in the region, but the area of the petroglyphs is in the most conspicuous of locations... near, but not directly conflicting with, the most impressive overhanging aretes and tiered roofs. The temptation to bolt lines in the area of rock art could be very strong.
I'm not going to advocate or discourage bolting, but the ambitious developer must realize that this area is sensitive enough to be closed down if shiny hangers pop up everywhere. Be smart and weigh your decisions. If any bolts go in, it is best to camouflage them well, and don't hang fixed draws for days on end.
Directly beneath the overlook are the Blob Boulder and the Sandy Blonde Caves (more westerly) as you descend from the overlook, and get into the canyon, bear right to see an erratic horizontal roof system on a flat sandy ledge with good landings. This is a good warm-up area on buckets. The rock here is likely to unnerve some climbers, since it feels like everything is hollow, but the moves are fun enough and the stone is generally reliable.
Just past the erratic is the Blob Boulder with a good traverse on the west side that starts on a gnarly, right hand slot. The problem moves to the left on successively harder moves on down sloping incuts and ripples. This goes at around V5. There are highball "up problems" at the start of the traverse.
Farther west, the Sandy Blonde Caves have a variety of problems pulling out the steep caves on mostly good holds but with some slopey top outs that still need some wire brushing. There is a 30' traverse that is good for running laps to get a crushing pump at the end of the day. The quality at these areas is not the premium available, but the convenience and variety can't be beat.
Across, at the east (west Facing) side of the canyon, visible from the overlook there are a series of overhanging aretes and faces. The first of these impressive features is a chocolate Shield accessed by taking the trail with the "NOTICE" sign at the bottom (this isn't a private property notice). The left side has a traverse moving left around the arete to a footless campus (or heel hook move) to a hueco and bucket finish. On the main Shield face, there is a nice left trending problem with a move to double huecos and then a launch to the overhanging arete.
To the left / north and downhill of this face is a free standing, warm-up boulder with good holds. The boulders and faces past the shield have some good problems and a variety of route potential from beginner to 5.13 or harder.
The east- and north-facing sides of the canyon hold a variety of bouldering and route potential with some of the better quality stone.
At the time of this writing, probably 30 problems have been done, up to about V5. That represents a fraction of the potential.
From La Junta, drive south on Highway 109 for 13 miles. The turnoff to the canyon is well marked on Highway 109. Turn right (west) on County Road 802 for 1.5 miles. Turn left (south) on Forest Service Road 505A for 1.5 miles to the Vogel Canyon parking lot.
From the parking area, the best approach is to take the Overlook Trail (the westernmost of the two trailheads) for about 7 minutes to the overlook of the canyon. From the overlook, the trail switches back to the left for a quick descent into the canyon. It is also possible to take the Canyon trail, but it is not as well groomed a trail and takes a few minutes more for the approach.
Cool area. I bouldered here in the 1980s and early 1990s. I bolted a couple sport routes on the north side of the canyon in 1993. They're just okay, so nothing more was bolted. The bouldering is better. I agree with Darryl, if a bunch of bolts went in, the Forest Service would probably not be happy, since there are a lot of archeological sites here.
Hey! I am a traveling physical therapist moving to La Junta for a 2-3 month contract come November. I love sport climbing, cracks, boulders, all of it!! I would love beta for Vogel Canyon! and/or psyched climbing partners?