BETA PHOTO: This is Ronnie Miller on Mavericks(11c) looking ea...
It was a warm and sunny spring day. My partner and I were looking to tick off every area in the Slater guidebook, so we decided that today would be the day to check out Wagon Caves. The drive was beautiful, fields full of washes of green and purple, red and yellow . . . the approach to this area is wonderful.
When you get there you'll find this amazing outcropping of sandstone and hueco features. But don't get excited!! Many of the routes you'd find in the guidebook have been chopped! You'll find some TR anchors if you look hard enough, some hangerless bolts, and a few routes who have been untouched. It's a crap shoot.
But it sure is pretty! Bring picnic supplies and your significant other for a good time!
Update: All the climbs listed have Top Rope anchors that are in good condition. The only leads in the area currently are Mavericks, Talking Tower, and Back Talk (on The Talking Tower). The lead bolts on New-tist Colony are hangerless.
If you visit this area please tread lightly. It is an awesome wilderness climbing area. Your actions reflect on others and speak volumes to land managers. If you bolt please camoflage the bolts and use low profile Rap anchors if you place them.
Update 2: (T. Slater, 1/23/06) There is a bolting ban at Wagon Caves. Current anchors can be maintained, but that is it. Newtist Colony has hangers now, and the beach has TR anchors. I have been working with Brenda at the FS. It IS a sensitive site (she has been working between me and the tribe) so we need to be cool while out there. It is what it is, and nobody should go out there with a drill.
From Highway 101 going north from San Luis Obispo, exit at Jolon (country road G-18). Head west under the overpass toward Fort Hunter Ligget. You'll go about 20 miles to the Mission road junction. There may or may not be a sign. Turn left onto this road and you'll reach the military's gate. Show them license and registration and head into the area.
Once you pass through the front gate you follow Mission Rd. Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd. will branch out on the left but keep going straight through the main part of the base. Look for Del Ventura on your left after you pass the Recreation center (large white building) on your right. It is a five way intersection. Del Ventura is the second one going left. The Mission shouldbe strasight ahead just before you turn left. There will be a sign indicating that you need an National Forest Adventure Pass and within a mile you will ford the San Antonio River. Keep traveling on Del Ventura.
After the second ford it will become Milpitas Rd. This will lead you all the way to the Wagon Caves. You will pass a guard shack on your right (empty) and cross a cattle guard. This is the boundary of military property. The Wagon Caves are less than a mile from the boundary of the Base. You will see them on your left as you approach. There is a spacious turnout to use.
If you would like to camp you can drive another mile and take the dirt road on your left to some primitive/unimproved sites. There are no facilities here. Or you can travel another 5 miles to Santa Lucia Memorial Park (aka The Indians). The only facilities here are a pit toilet and picnic tables. No water is availible. Designated Campsites.
About a year or so ago i spoke with Slater's wife about it. She said it was not the Indians, but a very old-school climber that didn't believe in bolts. She said that the climber has since left the area and that she would be thrilled if someone re-bolted it. I also spoke to a FS ranger and they said they didn't believe it was an "Indian Sacred Ground" issue. I was up there a few months ago with Ronnie Miller on Mavericks and the bolts seemed to be in pretty good shape on that climb...maybe they were too hard for the old-school guy to reach and chop.:)
In response to the question about access through FHL with the 9/11 security etc. At the gate you have to tell them where you are going, each person 18 years and older in the car must have I.D., and the driver must have valid registration and insurance for the vehicle he is driving.Not much climbing has been going on there so the place is in pristine condition, although some cleaning might be needed. TRanchors along Beach Wall have been replaced, bring a fairly long runner as they are back from the edge.
Wagon Caves and all the rocks in this vicinity are known as "The Indians" and have special historical interest. I don't know the "official" policy on climbing at these sites, but because other visitors come here to view the native american artifacts, I recommend climbers keep a very low profile. In particular I would discourage any bolting at all.Also use extreme restraint about "cleaning" routes as in some places the sandstone is very delicate and it's easy to create ugly scars.Also, be on the lookout for rattlesnakes which are abundant around here.
Theron Moses and I have been climbing at Wagon Caves quite a bit lately since we live in Paso. We're looking at putting up some new routes (primarily for top rope to minimize the impact). The rocks are so accesable that its easy to TR most climbs. The potential for new routes is vast, probably because it's such a remote location. It takes me an hour from Paso. We rarely see other climbers out there.
Frank, I wouldn't even fel too bad about putting up lead routes, especially on the the west facing wall that drops down to the lowlands. In other words, if you are at the left side of The Beach you would be at the top of it. there are only a couple of places that hikers generally go and they usually follow the well-worn trails. Anything else would likely not be noticed, especially if you use colored hangers. the Indian artifacts are mostly in the cave underneath and to the right of Wagon Caves Wall. I don't think a couple of hikers a week should prohibit climbers from developing the place, within reason, of course!
Is there a real issue out there? No beta on the web available for what real issue is. Feel free to email me directly.
Two active Beehives as of 4/8/07, one on small dome's south face that is in front of Tiny Bubbles (The Beach). The other is on the approach trail to The Beach, but can be skirted by going left and around the hive.
Was at Wagon Caves today, had a good time once we found the beach (1 hr. of wondering). 100 yards from the gate go right at the old tree stump if you want the 5 minute rout. Other post's I've read said lacked bolts, but found a few routs with them, although spaced too far apart for my skill level. Bring bug repeltent if going in November!!
Went to Wagon Caves a few weeks back, camped 6 miles north at The Indians. Climbed the beach, mavricks, newt wall and FOUND the lost boulders - which was not an easy task - had a cool little 5.8 lead on the back side. The more I go out there the more I enjoy it, no people, beautifyl sceenry and better sand stone then Santa Margarita Lake. If your looking for the "lost boulders" go south of the spire and over a creek, good luck!
Anyone been out to Wagon Caves recently? I have a few friends looking for a fun, Beginner area to climb at and I don't want to give them wrong directions. I had heard the road in no longer requires the 2 creek crossings.
I haven't been out there since 2008 or so.
If the directions have changed, maybe we can get the above directions corrected.
The best and easiest way to the wagon caves it to cross San Antonio creek twice. At a moderate level this is safe for any car. You can find the stream gauge here waterdata.usgs.gov/ca/nwis/uv?site_no=11149900. I know 30 cfs is a safe level. There is an alternative route that involves red grade road and one other ( I can't remember the name) both ends of this "alternative way" have signs that they are for authorized vehicles only. I haven't tried it but I've heard rumors of others who have. The base seems quite busy right now, I don't think I'd chance it until things quiet down.
Getting there: You will have cell service and (surprisingly) 3G coverage at Wagon Caves and throughout the whole drive out there. With that said, I suggest typing in the coordinates for wagon caves and following that:
Approaches and trails: Ambiguous at best. Trails getting into the main section were scattered and sporadic. Best bet: track. We followed shoe prints in the sand to get inside wagon caves. Once inside, we used major land marks to get to where we needed to be I.E:
The talking tower spire: very easy to see once inside, towards SW.
The pine tree in front of mavericks: there are few pine trees inside the crag itself, thus making this an easy waypoint, towards the NW.
the meadow behind Newt Wall as the center to get to all the crags. It is centrally located and wide open. From there you can access the beach, mavericks, and newt wall within 5 minutes.
Crag: Newt Wall Anchors in great shape, there is a bolted (hangers) assent up Newtist Colony (5). Overall a great climb.
Crag: Talking Towers Strange climb, but still worthy for the hike and for a 5.8 lead. There are no rings at anchor(s), only ONE larger hanger that can support a rope running through it!
Crag: The Beach BRING LONG SLINGS TO TOP ROPE!!! Anchors are at least 12 feet from nearest lip. We were all bummed that we couldn't climb this crag as we did not have the equipment. There is however a bolted (hangers) route up "Submarine Tango" (4). Newer looking bolts; I thought there was a ban?
Crag: Mavericks Awesome, amazing, and fucking hard. There are anchors at top, thus allowing one to clean, or to set draws (and hang the long sling to over the lip for protection to get over the roof). The only worrisome factor is hanger #3. It is a rusted state.
Overall a great trip. It is possible to camp, have campfires, and operate a stove at wagon caves if you have the permit. I, however, suggest camping at Lake San Antonio North Shore before heading out there ($20-30). Taking a dip in the lake is a great start to your adventure. as far as wagon caves goes, bring bug spray, plenty of sun screen, and the mindset to climb strange new features (huecos galore!) on the poorer rock that is sandstone.
The meadow in full view, taken from the anchors of Newt Wall. Mavericks (and the beach) are in the center of the background. Submitted By: Nick Todd on May 4, 2013