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Volunteer Canyon

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Volunteer Canyon  

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Elevation: 7,000'
Location: 35.1198, -111.9346 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 58,764
Administrators: Greg Opland, James DeRoussel, JJ Schlick, Hendrixson, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Rusty Pipe on Dec 27, 2009
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Steve Grossman sets up for the crux move of Tralfa...


Northern Arizona basalt canyon, near Paradise Forks. Up to 300ft routes. Lots of Adventure. This place is Worthy and the camping is the best part.

"Volunteer Canyon does host some of the tallest basalt in NAZ, but probably not in a way you would like to imagine. Compared to Paradise Forks, Volunteer Canyon is wild, blocky, unkempt, often loose, dirty, and seldom visited. It is a place to get away from the crowds and explore your sense of adventure. The scenery and the over all vibe of the place is worth the visit. And for some, will lead to many more. It is an amazing canyon which intimidates, invites, and inspires."
JJ Schlick

THE NORTH SIDE is home to such age old classics as Tralfamadore 5.9+, and Beautiful Day 5.8+. It is a stunning series of columns and quite a lot to take in the first time you see it. Eye your land marks well!

THE SOUTH SIDE is a collection of unique walls, with routes scattered about in the folds of it's teetering columns. Home to the Canary Cracks which were first lead in the 1970s, as well as some more modern endeavors which certainly expand the scope of NAZ basalt.

CAMPING- The South Side hosts the camping on off roads that parallel the canyon, and eventually will lead you to a beautiful open point. The camping is as good as it gets, but please keep it clean, and haul out your trash, drown your campfires, and dispose of waste properly."

Getting There 

From Flagstaff head west on Interstate 40 towards Williams. Exit at the Parks Exit, and head south on FR 141. Follow that until the junction of 527 (also looking for "Boy Scout Camp" signs at this point), and take a left. Stay on 527 for almost two miles where there will be another junction (FR 530), take a right. In a half mile, take a left back onto FR 527. Follow this for two miles and eventually you will literally cross over the very top of the canyon. After you go through the wash, look for roads on the right for parking on the South Side.

That being said, these roads see a lot of abuse, seasonal closures, are choked with boulders, and are of otherwise I'll temper. A 4X4 will be needed in anything but perfect dry conditions. A high clearance vehicle minimum I would think, and expect to drive pretty slowly. With a good vehicle it takes about 45 minutes from Flagstaff and is roughly 30 miles.

Climbing Season

Weather station 9.7 miles from here

47 Total Routes

['4 Stars',10],['3 Stars',27],['2 Stars',10],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Volunteer Canyon:
Red's Crack   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 50'   South Side : Canary Area
Tralfamadore   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 200'   North Side : Tralfamadore Buttress
Canary Crack   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   South Side : Canary Area
Rapture   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : East End Wall
Lost Highway   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 140'   North Side : Tralfamadore Buttress
Pig Iron   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : The Iron Wall
Detritus Spite-Us   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : The Iron Wall
Experimental Forrest   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 80'   South Side : East End Wall
Green Knight   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 80'   North Side : The Middle Ages
Cash, Grass, or Ass   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : West End Wall
Phantasm   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   South Side : West End Wall
Nyctophiliac    5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 125'   South Side : West End Wall
Iron Potato   5.12- 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   South Side : The Iron Wall
Ultraviolet Ammunition   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, 105'   South Side : East End Wall
Browse More Classics in Volunteer Canyon

Featured Route For Volunteer Canyon
The top part of the route from the ledge 30' up

Up and Cwming 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b  AZ : Northern Arizona : ... : Cwm Laude Wall
Rap 80' down to small belay ledge. From ledge go up and right to excellent mostly hand sized crack, arriving at a spacious ledge after 30'. From the ledge go up and left into thin crack in a shallow dihedral, stemming and using face holds. Short people like me might opt for a super fun all out dyno off the ledge to a big jug to get established in the corner....[more]   Browse More Classics in AZ

Photos of Volunteer Canyon Slideshow Add Photo
Fall setting in, pond at the top of the main drain...
Fall setting in, pond at the top of the main drain...
Pika, the rope-dog guards the rope at the Cwm walk...
Pika, the rope-dog guards the rope at the Cwm walk...
Old days at Volunteer (the Cwm)- racking gear (all...
Old days at Volunteer (the Cwm)- racking gear (all...
Watch out for these guys, might be a den on the so...
Watch out for these guys, might be a den on the so...

Comments on Volunteer Canyon Add Comment
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By Rusty Pipe
Feb 7, 2012
Wow...seems like there's some stoke about this place here. I was the one who initially posted this page, woops. Hope it was a good idea.

I have known that it was amazing since the first time I ever laid eyes on it. I got lost up there on the forest roads years ago, and ended up at this glorious basalt canyon. I took some friends up there that fall and we were scared, but some dabbling showed us that the climbing there can be awesome.

I'm pretty sure there are over 100 routes here, maybe even more...and lots of them are really, really good, despite all of the death blocks, as people seem to be aware of.

And it seems that bolts have been added to the mix, which ups the potential for incredible, creative routes to appear. I trust that an ethic will stay in place here that keeps people from bolting lines that are perfectly protectable with trad gear. This is technically a part of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, and I believe that law has it that once you drop below the rim of Volunteer Canyon you may not alter the stone, or attatch gear to it. I'm not saying that I wouldn't use your bolts, but It's worth being aware of.
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 7, 2012
Rusty Pipe,
Folks have been climbing out here for over 40 years, and it was published 20 years ago in a Cheap Way To Fly. I don't think you let the cat out the bag, and I wouldn't worry too much because the place, while stunning, only seems to appeal to a select few, especially with the Forks so close by. There's no taming this beast, and I'm not trying to. See Phantasm comments if you haven't checked it out.
By Rusty Pipe
Feb 7, 2012
I am aware that this place has a long history. There is evidence of that in several places around the canyon. Thanks for directing me to that other conversation. I appreciate what you said there. I posted this page because I am of the same mind-set as you. We all could benefit from seeing this place become more established as a local climbing resource. I even wanted to see routes put up in the exact style in which you are doing them and know that I will never do it myself. Thanks for your ethic and your work. The routes look awesome. I am not a total purist when it comes to bolts in wilderness. Particularly in this situation where you can dangle into this "wilderness" literally anchored to the frame of your car, 100 vertical feet away. I think the general danger, and the existing "juju" will keep this place wild enough.
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Feb 7, 2012
Right on Rusty, maybe see you out there this summer.
By ryan albery
From: Cruisertonfieldville
Apr 30, 2012
This is such a cool place to go climbing. Canyonphobia atomized here. Who added the bolted belay on the south rim, with a couple of now rusted looking lead bolt into that thin archning crack? Looks fun.
By Tradoholic
May 28, 2012
I got within 1.75mi with my Accord but had to hop into a friends Subaru to make it the rest of the way.

The area in general is perfect for those with adventurous tastes in trad climbing but it's not way out there either by any means.
By BenZH
From: Flagstaff AZ
Jul 13, 2014
Found a pair of Miuras sitting near the edge of the south side of the canyon yesterday. Give me a holler with your name and the size of the shoes and they're yours.