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Climbing
Non
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade I
Elevation Gain
5.00 ft (1.52 m)
Distance
0.25 mi (0.40 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Located at mile marker 74.4 of Alaska’a Glen Highway (right between the blink-and-gone towns of Sutton and Chickaloon), the Chickaloon boulders are located right on the banks of the Matanuska River, which rushes down from the spectacular Matanuska Glacier. If you have the time, take a half-day detour another 30 miles and visit this natural wonder. In total, there are about 60 problems ranging from V0 to V11, with a few more boulders and plenty of bolted sport routes just 15 miles up the road at the Weiner Lake crag.

Due to its convenient location, Chickaloon is the vanlife or car-camping dirtbag’s dream. Perched right on the roadside with an accompanying spacious pullout that allows overnight camping, the Chickaloon boulders are by far the most easily accessible in Alaska. You can even pitch a tent along the soft and silty river beach mere feet from the boulders.

Just be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles and (if you choose to have a campfire at all) make sure you built it sufficiently far away from the water and do not burn any amount of trash. The Matanuska River supports a thriving and important ecosystem that should not be compromised at any cost.

The rock quality is interesting to say the least—probably because it is isn’t actually rock! Rather, it’s highly condensed mudstone. This is a remnant from the Cretaceous period when the entire Matanuska Valley was filled with ocean, before the glacier even carved its way through. The Chickaloon boulders are thought to have once been shoreline rocks from somewhere high on King Mountain, which now towers over the area. Because of this, friction is almost non-existent, regardless of ambient temperature, and wrestling the sweaty-feeling holds into submission is what gives many of their climbs their difficulty.

Boulders and Problems

V1 Boulder (17 problems, V0-V2): Located on the far east end of the pullout just across the road and about 15 feet back into the trees. Nothing too spectacular here, but as the name suggests, it’s a nice easy boulder perfect for getting a thorough warm up.

Pullout Boulders (11 problems, V0-V7): Comprised of three boulders. The Pullout Boulder and Painted Boulder are clustered together right off the pullout. The Beach Boulder, as the name suggests, is just down the hill on the river beach. Depending on river levels, these climbs may not be accessible, but they’re usually dry mid-May onward. Try:

  • Dirt Burglar (V3): Solid crimps and big moves until you get to the top—then you’ll understand the name!
  • Silt & Sand (V5): From a sit start, pull on impossibly slick non-holds with blank feet and huck for the good lip. You’ll probably spend a good amount of tries falling back into the silt and sand.

Supernova Boulders (17 problems, V0-V9): Located just across the highway from the Pullout Boulders, the Supernova and Pop-Start boulders lean against each other just within the tree line. The hardest part about the climbs on the Pop-Start is not dabbing on the tree that grows clumsily close to its walls. The topouts here are blissfully some of the easiest in the area. Try:

  • Sharks Tooth (V3/V9 sit): Start in a pit at the base of the boulder, avoid dabbing on a boulder behind, and top the mossy top. Both variations are super fun!
  • Wishful Thinking (V5): Slopey, slippery holds make this a great intro climb to the compact mud boulders of Chickaloon.

House of Bouldering (14 problems, V0-V11): About 50 meters back along the road (toward Anchorage) from the pullout itself, on the same side of the road as the Supernova Boulders. So called because they consist of three huge boulders that all intersect and form a protected cave, or “house,” in the center. This house would be much better were it not infected with mosquitos and underclimbed enough that it is perpetually mossy. Some serious cleaning will likely be needed. The best climbs are along the south walls, facing the road. Try:

  • Thunderfluff (V3/V8 sit): Climbs almost as fun as their name. Powerful moves throughout!
  • Fluffy Muff (V10/V11 sit): HARD. Especially for shorties, but oh so many possibilities for beta, this climb is half about creativity.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Ease of access. Interesting terrain. Beachfront bouldering. Free camping.

Cons

Sounds of traffic. On major roadway. Tricky rock quality. Limited hard problems.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

805.00 ft (245.36 m)

Highest point

810.00 ft (246.89 m)

Net Elevation Gain

5.00 ft (1.52 m)

Features

Geologically significant
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Access

Vehicle

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Primary aspect

South facing

Drinking water

Unfrozen water

Location

Field Guide

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