Typically I don’t like bouldering very much, but after spending several weeks at Joe’s Valley it has overtaken Bishop as my favorite bouldering area. Here is why. First, the sandstone is extremely skin-friendly. I could easily climb two or three days straight without much problem. In Bishop, my tips start to hurt by time I’m done warming up. Speaking of warm-ups, there are a lot more high-quality warm-ups at Joe’s. In Bishop, you find yourself warming up on the same V-easy problems over and over. At Joe’s you can warm up on something new every day. Bishop is definitely much more beautiful, and it is a more interesting town than the towns around Joe’s Valley, but I still take Joe’s over Bishop.
The rock is excellent sandstone. The holds are really strong, I’ve only seen one break and it was on a rarely travelled warm-up. The landings are usually flat, and the approaches are short. The holds are typically pretty big, but it is not just all jug hauling. You can find a variety of climbing to suit your style. Unfortunately, there often aren’t intermediate holds for the vertically challenged to make their own beta to get past a big move. Because of this, grades felt easier for me (I’m 6’2”) but harder for my girlfriend (she’s 5’3”). Regardless, there were still plenty of high quality routes for her to get on.
There are three main bouldering areas: Right Fork, Left Fork, and New Joes. All three have their pros and cons.
Pros: Big parking areas, can find crowded zones or quiet zones. Dairy Canyon is the best place to go if it is hot.
Cons: You need to drive from area to area. Doesn’t get very much sun (pro if you like “sending temps”), can be hard to find some sectors
Pros: Parking can be limited, can find crowded zones or quiet zones. River if you want to cool off.
Cons: You need to drive from area to area. Doesn’t get very much sun (pro if you like “sending temps”), sometimes need to cross river.
Pros: Best toilet situation, easy to find boulders, good camping, cell phone reception. Keeps the sun the longest.
Cons: Gets very hot on sunny days. Can be very crowded especially chips and planet of the apes.
There are a lot of options for camping in Joe’s Valley. My favorite place to camp is New Joes. There are two new, clean vault toilets that are rarely crowded and there are a lot of options. You can camp at the same road as the bouldering parking if you want to meet people or another road near by if you want some privacy. Here, the sun stays up longer and sets later than in the forks, so you can stay warm longer. You get cell phone reception although it gets slow because of all the people there. Also, you can walk to the New Joe’s boulders from camp.
You can also camp at entrance to left fork, but make sure not to camp after the signs that tell you not to camp (obviously). A new vault toilet has been added a little bit past the camping, but it could be a bit of a walk compared to new Joe’s.
At the right fork, you camp in several pullouts. The main areas are mansize, and boux. Mansize has a port-o-pottie, but is usually crowded. Boux is sans toilet, but you can usually have privacy.
The Food Ranch has a few climbing supplies, but not much. If there is something you absolutely need, you’ll probably have to drive to Moab or SLC.
The food ranch is the closest to the boulders. It has pretty much all you need, but their produce is pretty expensive and shitty. Bring as many fresh fruits and veggies from home as you can. They also have hot, comfort food and amazing doughnuts (oreo and butterfinger are my favs) to buy and eat at the tables upstairs if you don’t feel like cooking. The upstairs is also a good place to use your computer for wifi time.
If you are staying long term at Joe’s, the Stewarts at Castle Dale is a better place to load up on your groceries.
You can get low alcohol beers at the grocery stores above, or you can go to the tiny liquor store in Castle Dale but be ready to be kind of weirded out.
Restaurants and bars
I ate at two restaurants and I recommend both of them. R Place pizza has good pizza and wifi. Palenque has delicious, Mexican food. The burritos are gigantic and well priced, and you can order breakfast burritos at any time. Neither serve alcohol, but both are super friendly.
Chick’s is located just past the Food Ranch. It has good bottled beers for $4, the bartenders are friendly, and they often open up the pool tables if you come with a crew.
To fill your big water containers, you can go to the RV dump (look for the big potable water sign), the Castle Dale Rec center (well spigot by the HEATED bathrooms), or use the Cup of Joes water spigot after buying some coffee.
The RV dump. Fill up your drinking water at the same time.
$5 at the Food Ranch, $2 at the aquatic center or $0.50 per 3 minutes at the bathrooms.
There are plenty of places to get wifi. It’s free at the Castle Dale Community Center. It can be free at the Food Ranch parking lot if you want to be a dirt bag. You can get it at the Castle Dale Laundromat, Cup of Joes, Chick’s or R Place Pizza if you buy something.
Most of my rest days were spent studying at either The Food Ranch with a doughnut or fried chicken or Cup of Joe’s with some coffee. I was able to check out the San Rafael Swell for a couple of days and I highly recommend it. The ‘little Grand Canyon’ earns its name. The views are amazing and there is free camping to be had. Apparently, there is climbing here as well, but I didn’t get to try it out. You can also see a great example of Native American art at the Rochester Rock Art panel. They are both within 30 minutes of Orangeville and highly recommended.
Easier for Tall People Problems:
Bring the Heatwole