Last October, while returning from a bike trip through the San Pete Valley, I left the paved road in a canyon near Moroni and lumbered up through a deep canyon into tall stands of trees. It was beautiful, especially in the late fall colors, but in truth I was lost. I later found I was in a place called Levan Canyon, when I really wanted to be a few drainages north in another gem, Maple Canyon. But those glimpses of Levan Canyon, and the views I had down toward Maple Canyon, were enough to bring me back. Finally, a few weeks ago, I made it.
Detail-loving students of the map of Utah and rock and ice climbers already know about Maple Canyon. For the rest, it is a small and easily-missed sign on the fast road to Provo.
Though the area is very pretty, has a creek and cool shady spots all summer long, and has a campground, Maple Canyon is mainly of interest to rock and ice climbers which, though I do own more than my fair share of carabiners, I am not. Yet, I still like to hang out in rock climbing areas, watching other make moves on sheer rock that I would never make. (My mother should be very happy to hear this.)
The area has long been one of the nation's top rock climbing areas, though lately is has been gaining notoriety for its ice climbing. Any day during the late spring, summer and fall oodles of climbers can be seen hanging precariously to the rock, sometimes on overhanging cliffs. Winter viewing is more difficult as the road is not plowed and can be treacherous for the unprepared. The area also has good backcountry and cross country skiing.
Maple Canyon's claim to fame are several miles of near-continuous vertical slopes that wind in and out of narrow side canyons and then show themselves boldly along the main canyon road. The rock is an odd conglomerate rock with imbedded cobblestones - it looks like a large-scale rendition of a fancy rock-imbedded driveway or sidewalk.
The canyon has over 80 established ice routes, many of them aesthetic classics. The tallest ice routes top 70 meters. As Jason Stevens and Douglas Heinrich wrote in the February 2000 issue of Rock & Ice, 'Conditions vary drastically, but when the ice is in, Maple is amazing.'
Maple Canyon is pleasant most of the year, and the plethora of climbers and ease of access make it great for watching climbers. To get there, head to Moroni, on state Route 132 in central Utah. From there, go west to the hamlet of Freedom, then follow the small signs to Maple Canyon. Venturing past the national forest campground requires high clearance and four-wheel drive.
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