I’ll be the first one to admit, the amount of climbing areas near, and in, Salt Lake City can be overwhelming. The first time I pulled up Mountain Project when I moved here, I had no idea where to begin. In the Wasatch Range alone, there are 1,595 Trad routes, 2,230 Sport routes, 318 Top-Rope Routes, and 679 Boulder problems. So as you can imagine, when I looked at the map below for the first time, I had no idea where to begin.
Sure, with the introduction of Mountain Project, finding rock climbing areas and routes have never been easier. This, in combination with a local Guidebook like Rock Climbing the Wasatch Range, is an overwhelming amount of fantastic knowledge and beta. This still doesn’t help the problem of where to start. Sure, you can sort by grade and limit the number of routes to search through, but it does nothing to sort the difficulty of the approach, walk-off, or general difficulty in getting new climbers onto rock. For this, you tend to rely on recommendations from fellow climbers and locals.
With that being said, Dogwood Crag is a perfect place to take new, beginner climbers, to top-rope for their first time on real rock outside. Last week, a buddy of mine, named Pete, wanted to make the jump from indoor climbing gym, to outside on real rock. After looking through my guidebook, I stumbled on the Dogwood Crag. I realized this was a crag I had always seen groups of climbers at when driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Located a short, 1.1 miles from the BCC Park & Ride, it’s one of the quickest Crags to reach in the Canyon. There are two options to approach the crag. First, through the Dogwood Picnic Area where you walk through the picnic area, then down a trail that follows along the stream. This is a fee area, so technically if you walk through here or park here, you need to pay $8, even if you’re just walking through. Option two, park on the dirt shoulder of the road just across from the crag (which you can’t miss), cross the river which is usually easy, and low water during the summer. Either way, it takes about 5 minutes to get to.
Getting Top-Rope Setup
Once at the base of the wall, which will be obvious when staring up at the wall from a large, sandy landing zone. Now, you will need to set a to rope up on the routes in front of you. At the top of the wall, there are 3-5 bolted chains that are perfect to use as an anchor. Looking at the wall, towards the right, there is a path that will take you to the top of the wall. Once on top, with rope and 2 quickdraws in hand, attach the quickdraws (in opposite directions), from the lowest chain link, and attach the middle of the rope through the draws. Grab ahold of middle of the rope, yell down “ROPE!”, and toss the rope down to the base of the wall.
**If you do not feel comfortable setting this up, please seek professional instruction or an experienced climber**
Getting to Climbing
The climbing here is an absolute blast! There is so many options, and different styles and features on the rock to grab ahold to. Per Mountain Project, the climbs under the first set of chains is rated 5.6. Moving right to left, the names and ratings are Top-Rope Rope Tough Guy (5.6), Unknown (5.6), and Take me to the River (5.7). There are a dozen more routes, moving towards the left, and some that require you to start by standing on the rocks in the stream. With that being said, these routes are great for beginner climbers. At risk of a climb being boring for the experienced climbers who are teaching the beginners, you can make these routes as hard as you want by skipping the big holds in favor of tiny crimps and minimal slopers for a fun 5.8-5.10a.
This crag climbs about 70ft upward on rock-solid rock with minimal chance of rockfall from above. Nearly almost all of the routes at this crag can be top-roped one way or another. Some require a long runner from the trees at the top of the route. And after spending the evening, after work, lapping the top-roped routes, I couldn’t have been more stoked. The routes were fun, safe, and somewhat challenging (even for me). My buddy Pete was immediately hooked on the climbing and has been dying to get out ever since. So the next time you’re looking to take a beginner climbing near Salt Lake, think to send’m up Dogwood Crag!