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Bouldering Around Las Vegas: Where to go if the sandstone is wet

Are you planning a bouldering trip to Red Rock Canyon? It's a world-class bouldering destination! The rock is a luscious young beautiful soft red sandstone so esthetic and wonderful to the touch, it feels surreal. But if it rains, you have to wait 24+ hours to let the rock dry. Where else can you boulder if the Red Rock sandstone is wet?


FAQs about bouldering the Red Rock Canyon sandstone:

Sandstone Geology 101: What happens to wet sandstone?

Why do we need to wait for the sandstone to dry?

How do you know if the rock is dry?

So... Where else can I boulder near Las Vegas?

If you happen to be in Las Vegas for a bouldering trip when the sandstone is wet, you should check out other nearby areas. They may not yet have the same recognition as Red Rock, but maybe you'll discover some new classics.


person on top of big boulder with rain in the background
Not Red Rock Canyon Sandstone

Bouldering areas within an hour of Las Vegas

Keyhole Canyon - about 45 minutes from the airport, this is a small local crag with a high concentration of routes. Though it mostly offers moderate single-pitch trad lines, there are a few fun boulder problems fit for all levels. Note that you have to take a dirt road to get here. Passenger cars can make it in dry conditions, but go slow. Make sure you have a jack and spare tire.

Nelson Boulders - A few minutes south of Keyhole you'll find the Nelson Hills. Nelson is an interesting place. You might think you're on a movie set or part of a practical joke, especially if you accidently take a wrong turn and end up on someone's private property. In any case, anyone who goes to Nelson comes back with a great story to tell. Oh, the bouldering is OK.

Big Sandy - 25 minutes from the airport, this area offers a few fun boulders to explore. Plus it's an opportunity to see another side of Vegas that you never knew existed!

Jean Boulders (aka Prison Sex Area) - About an hour from the airport, depending how far down you go down the dirt road. There's very limited information about specific boulders here. It's cool just to drive out here and explore on your own, but you need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle!



Bouldering areas within 4 hours of Las Vegas

Joshua Tree National Park - You can do this as a day trip from Las Vegas if you start driving very early in the morning and have a partner to keep you awake and alert.

Trona Pinnacles - Southwest of Death Valley National Park you'll find this random gem of boulders and pinnacles. You'll drive down a bumpy dirt road, so go easy on the vehicle.

St George Areas - In case you're thinking of using St George as a backup for rainy days in Las Vegas, think again. Most of the St George bouldering areas have the same red sandstone as Kraft Boulders in Las Vegas. If it rained in Vegas, it probably also rained in St George. That being said, Moe's Valley is one of my favorite places to go to when the rock is dry!


people walking on top of big boulders
Just one view of Joshua Tree National Park

Bouldering Gyms in Las Vegas

If it's actively raining everywhere and you absolutely must boulder, go to one of the below climbing gyms.

The Pad Henderson

The Refuge Climbing and Fitness

Nevada Climbing Center

Red Rock Climbing Center


Sport Climbing Areas

This isn't the subject of this blog. You can read about more climbing area alternatives at this Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition page and Lady Lockoff's page.


Looking for specific beta? Call the folks at Desert Rock Sports. They have all the answers!


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