Joe's Valley: Time For a Change

When you think about U.S. bouldering hot spots, you probably think Bishop, Hueco, J-Tree, Yosemite Valley, HP40, and—newest to the list—Joe's Valley, Utah. The popularity of Joe’s Valley exploded in early 2000 with the ascent of the area’s first V13. Since then, it has experienced non-stop growth, drawing climbers from around the world to conquer its vast array of sandstone boulders, which boast a wide variety of moderate and hard problems.

But Joe’s Valley faces some unique challenges. The bouldering area sits nestled in the foothills of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, just east of the Joe’s Valley Reservoir, the main water supply for the rural mining and ranching communities of Orangeville and Castle Dale, Utah. A mere two and half hours from downtown Salt Lake City, and about six hours from the population centers of Colorado, Joe’s Valley is a perfect weekend getaway for rocky mountain climbers, but it lacks any real “local” climbing community to help sustain it.

As the popularity of Joe’s Valley continues to rise, increased climber traffic is causing some extreme environmental impacts that could threaten access if not addressed. One of the biggest concerns is human waste from visiting climbers, which has the potential to contaminate the water supply given the area’s proximity to the Joe’s Valley Reservoir and the seasonal creek beds that feed the surrounding communities. Heavy foot traffic and pad placement have also caused extremely eroded and unstable landing areas, as well as a network of braided trails that are stripping soils of their native plants, making the area even more exposed to impacts. And with limited parking options, climbers are parking illegally on a narrow canyon road with very limited visibility, creating safety hazards. Finally, many of the area’s camping options are too close to the busy roads and too close to watercourses that feed water to the communities below.

We need your help!
Access Fund Conservation Team and Salt Lake Climbers Alliance are hosting an Adopt a Crag at Joe's Valley on Saturday, March 14, 2015 and we need volunteers! To register, visit the SLCA website.

Access Fund and nearby Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) have pulled together a Joe’s Valley stewardship coalition to begin addressing these issues. The coalition includes the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S Forest Service (USFS) offices, which manage the bulk of the climbing and camping areas, as well as Emery County officials who have a large stake in tourism and water quality issues. SLCA kicked off the planning process by funding an area assessment to document the state of natural resources at Joe’s Valley. Working together, we have brought forth our concerns about the impacts at Joe’s Valley and begun long-term stewardship planning to address these impacts and create sustainable climbing access and a positive experience for visiting climbers and the local community.

The planning process will continue throughout 2015, with a final plan ready for rollout in early 2016. We ask the climbing community to embrace the changes that are needed at Joe’s Valley. Though some of them will not be popular, they are critical to protecting climbing access and this unique climbing environment. We’ll keep the community posted as the plan for Joe’s Valley takes shape.