Updates (as of 12/2/2017):
There are TWO new & permanent pit toilets! Locations are shown below in the Pooping section 🙂 Food & Showering options have also been updated below.
PLEASE do not just camp anywhere! Joe’s Valley has far surpassed its carrying capacity for primitive camping, and creating “new” campsites is a huge threat to access. Please camp in demarcated sites only! Thanks!
If you’ve been to Joe’s before, you’ll notice some changes in where you can camp. Erosion and water contamination via human waste are the biggest issues we face – read more about it via the Access Fund. The Access Fund conservation team was working on trails this past October & November – hooray! Another must-read about how bouldering has changed Joe’s is this piece from Climbing Magazine.
And…what about that new guidebook?! Follow us on Instagram / Facebook, or join our mailing list for the latest updates. Estimated release is Spring 2018. I apologize for not being able to respond to each message about the guidebook individually, but rest assured all updates will be shared via social media and the email list. Click here for the PDF guide to some of the newer boulders in Joe’s Valley – The Flu, Hidden Dragon & The Rastafarian. (Working with sodapdf format allows professionals to edit, share, collaborate and ensure the security of the content within digital documents)
Having spent quite a few months in Joe’s Valley over the past 5 years, and by helping to organize the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival the past 3, we’ve gained insight above and beyond the Insightful Guide. If you are planning your first trip there, or even if you have been before, read on for some useful information you might not have thought of. It may be getting a little chilly/snowy there soon, but
bookmark this post for Spring/Fall 2013 keep this handy on your iPad as a PDF, and feel free to ask questions or make additions in the comments.
One of the most important amenities on any climbing trip is firewood. In Joe’s, there are three options.
The first option is to gather. PLEASE DON’T. Plants don’t grow very quickly in the desert, and what’s dead and on the ground is an important part of the ecosystem. The areas near popular campgrounds are picked through anyway, which means you’ll be tempted to hack into a huge log that’s being used as a bench, or something like that.
The second option is to buy it for the standard $6 per box at Food Ranch or another store. Good wood, bad price.
The third option: there are many trailers along the roads that are stacked with firewood, usually with a sign listing a phone number. Our favorite firewood source is also the closest to the camping. For $10, we filled the back of Bert, more than enough for several nights. The best part is that it comes from a family-run sawmill, and if people don’t take the scrap, it’s just a big flammable pile in their yard. I don’t want to blow up the spot, so I’ll leave it to you to find on your own. I promise it’s not hard to find. To savor the sweet campfire experience while also ensuring safety, you can utilize a smokeless fire pit.
You are reading a climbing blog, hence you know how important the morning glory is to the rest of the climbing day. The Food Ranch has clean bathrooms, but it’s also about a gallon of gas to make the round trip into town. There are two options near your camping: either 2 miles up Left Fork (in the big pull out on the Left – thanks to the Forest Service!) or in New Joe’s (Latitude 39.2987, Longitude -111.1144 – thanks to BLM!). Usually they are fully stocked, but I would bring toilet paper with you during high season.
…And there’s always Cottonwood Creek that runs along Left Fork, but please use biodegradable soap. We have to keep in mind this is part of the County’s water supply.
Food & Coffee
Our prayers were answered, and now we have Cup of Joe’s. Right at the mouth to the canyon, you can get your coffee, smoothie or matcha fix. Check them out for a good place to get some work done. This place is small and can get crowded, but luckily they’re planning to expand by next season. Keep supporting them to make sure they do!
You’re probably on a budget. The Food Ranch is the most popular (and closest) spot, but it’s also pretty expensive. I like to patronize them anyway, as they are very friendly towards climbers, but if you eat at the Food Ranch regularly you’ll likely be heavier and poorer than you meant to be. Of note, they have a good gluten-free section in the cereal aisle and offers gluten-free bread for purchase behind the bakery counter.
Still, there is Food Ranch beta: Donuts go on sale in the afternoons, around 4 or 5. Get a dozen then (but the Butterfinger and Oreo donuts will almost certainly be sold out by then). Lunch items like pizza and such also go on ½ price sale, so if it’s a rest day, just wait out the lunch rush for cheaper food.
For big grocery runs, Stewart’s is the place. It’s a few miles further but worth the drive. Produce is reasonable (they even had kale) and there’s plenty of selection of other items.
Now, if you’ve a little more cash in your pocket, check out Ungerman’s Meats in Huntington (formerly, and still listed as, Dale’s Meats). Operated by Gordon Ungerman, he pulls out a big hunk of meat from the freezer, you say how thick you want it, and he slices it off right there. It ends up being something like $7 per pound, and they’re the best steaks we’ve had on this trip, hands down. If you’re lucky, you can snag some ridiculously cheap and tasty jerky, too ($20 for a gallon bag). It depends on what he’s got in stock. He can be found just off Highway 10 on the far side of Huntington from Joe’s. The number to call is 435.687.2276.
As far as eating out goes:
Palenque Mexican // Another Huntington gem. This place is open early for breakfast and closes late (for rural Utah) – call them for the most up to date hours.
Fatty’s Pizza // This place is one of my favorite places to eat in Castle Dale (they have a tasty and reasonably priced gluten-free pizza crust option). The new owners actually catered the last Joe’s Valley Fest, so it’s a good place to go for lunch or dinner – even if you don’t feel like pizza.
R Pizza // Also in Castle Dale, and nearly across the street from Fatty’s. This place has good pizza, but no gluten free option as of now. They are famous for the giant pizza you might’ve heard of.
This is basically to say, don’t worry about it. It’s free and it’s everywhere…if you pull up on a crowded Saturday, either crash with someone or just drive a little further. There are no demarcated sites or anything, so if you can find some space, you’re in luck. Just be considerate if you’re crashing someone’s fire. Offer whiskey, something to smoke, or firewood. If you’ve got nothing, then either be funny or be quiet. </etiquette screed>
As climbers, we aren’t too different from the usual people who live in and visit Emery County. Bouldering is one of the many outdoor activities that people partake in, and we tend to all get along pretty well. There is a huge network of 4×4 roads in the area, plenty of horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and RVing, which is sort of an outdoor activity, I guess. On an unrelated note, we still are happy to be rid of the giant trailer.
The result is that the roads are well-maintained, the townsfolk don’t give you particularly dirty looks if you’re a climber, and people care more about the weather than anything else.
It should be noted, however, that climbing has by far the biggest draw in terms of out-of-towners. That means more money coming into town from out of state and even out of country. They treat their climbers well. The Food Ranch is littered with signs saying “We Love Our Climbers.” I even met the County Commissioner James “JR” Nelson, who gave me his card and told me to call with any request for help. “If your car breaks down on a Sunday and nothing’s open, call me,” he said.
Of course, this is also Mormon country, as you probably know. Go easy on the Mitt jokes and things should be alright.
This is tricky. Utah is a 3.2% state, so anything you buy in the grocery store will be like having sex in a canoe (i.e., fuckin’ near water). For real beer, wine, and hard liquor, you’ll need to visit a State Liquor Agency. There’s one in Castledale, but you must time your visits properly: it’s open 12-7, Tuesday-Saturday. Selection isn’t great, but there is a double IPA that weighs in at 9%.
As far as we could determine, they don’t.
There are 4WD roads EVERYWHERE. This is a very popular hunting/fishing area, and if you’ve got some time you should grab one of the OHV roadmaps that are pretty much everywhere and go exploring. There’s a network of roads that we didn’t get a chance to check out that will take you to the very top of the mesa above the confluence of Left Fork and Right Fork.
Further out, there’s the San Rafael Swell, with some of the finest landscape in the country. The best part is there won’t be throngs of tourists. Ask around for directions, just about anyone in town will be able to direct you to the Wedge AKA Little Grand Canyon. And there’s one of the best mountain biking trails, in terms of scenery, that you’ll ever do.
Triassic is another cool, trippy moonscape, with some very fun looking boulders. If Joe’s gets too cold, drive 45 minutes down the road.