Bucket List Cliffs – 1-2-2021

Happy New Year ! Good riddance to 2020 and high hopes for 2021. I normally try to hike on new years day each year but, this year due to the weather and other obligations, it had to wait a day. This ended up a good thing as there would have been no views on my destination of choice had I not waited. Still working on getting back into shape, I chose another local area to reduce the amount of drive time as well as a short hiking distance but, with enough climbing to get a good workout within the time allotted. For these reason I chose to go to a place I am now calling ‘Bucket List Cliffs’ . The reason for choosing this name has nothing to do with them being super spectacular or of being anything of great importance as most things on ones bucket list would not be so close to home and, would be something really unique or special. These cliffs are not really a bucket list type location yet, they are worthy of experiencing. Well, that and ‘Rats List Cliffs' does not sound that good ! The real reason is that despite the fact that many of my inner circle hiking friends have been there several times over the past 40 years, and driving by them myself for even longer, it seems I had never actually taken the time to go there ! I did attempt to go there back in Sept. of 2014 but, there were some hunters blocking the access point so I chose a different location farther down the mountain instead. It was not until now that I would actually be able to stand upon them.

Zoomed image of the cliffs

After some coffee and a late morning start waiting on the cold temperature to rise, my son Tyler and I was happy to find the extremely limited parking area (enough for one maybe two vehicles !) empty when we arrived. We secured our place, donned our packs and jumped the guardrail to enter the drainage gully that would be our steep ascent to the top of the ridge where the voluptuous rock formations reside. Pretty much a solid rhodo tunnel all the way made for an enjoyable climb. Once on the ridge top, a known trail is used to get over to the exit where a climbers trail continues upwards towards the cliffs, some of which begin to become visible. I was not expecting any form of trail to exist and had planned on a bushwhack through briers and scrub so, you can imagine my surprise ! I was also happy that we did not see any trash or graffiti the entire day there.

Steep gully trail through the rhodo`s
Climbing higher up the steep gully trail
After making it to the top of the ridge via the gully trail, this is looking back at what we just came up.
Beginning of the climbers / goat trail
First rock we encountered along the small trail
The higher we climbed, the more rocks started appearing !
See those rocks in the trees ? We are halfway there. This view shows how gnarly the bushwhack would have been without this nice climbers goat trail.
No switchbacks. Straight up and to the point.
Getting closer !
So close yet so far away !

The goat trail was actually very nice and made short work out of a climb that would be really nasty without it. The first thing we came to was a large set of rocks with a large walk-through crack in the center. This would be the grand entrance to this series of rocks. Once through that the main spine of the cliffs is waiting and we quickly found a way to boulder our way to the top. They were taller than I thought they would be and when I saw the more vertical and even higher backside, I was really surprised.

And there it was,,,,, the GRAND Entrance !
Ahh, the GRAND Entrance !
Going through the grand entrance, there is a climb involved
After climbing over the toll booth within the grand entrance, we were allowed to access the top of the cliff system.
Tyler now stands atop of the Grand Entrance rocks

The cliffs continue up the narrow, spine-like ridge until they eventually reach the highest point. There are a couple of gaps where you have to get down off them and climb back up to get there. Also some likens are growing in spots that can be very slick so, like any rocks you must take caution when climbing around on them. It was awesome standing on the high point of these impressive cliffs and the views were magnificent.

View from atop the grand entrance rocks at the cliffs that continue up the narrow ridge. This is one of the gaps we had to climb back down to find another way up the other side.
Shadow people ! (Photo by Tyler Tarpley)
After bridging the gap, we continue along the top of the cliffs as they go higher and higher
The views from up here were impeccable !
View looking back the other way. I am pretty sure the sun would be setting in that sweet spot of rugged mtns. in the distance there.
Zooming slightly on that sweet spot of mountains in the distance
Another good view from the cliffs.
Continuing to climb up and follow the cliffs
Due to another large gap, we had to come back down off the cliffs in order to continue onward. Here you can see how tall they are on this front (short) side
Finding a crack to climb back up on. You can see how far they continue down the top of the ridge.
Another great view along the base of the front of the cliffs.
Once back on top we continue to climb onward and upward.
I let Tyler go first so I could show some scale to the size of these cliffs. They look so much smaller from the road.
Tyler stands atop the highest point of the cliffs.
Fat RAT on a rock !
Views off the back side are just as good.
View from the high end of the cliffs. (I live just on the other side of that distant mountain in the center)
Looking down into the valley below.

We ended up checking out every square inch of these rocks going down the top and front side then finding a way to get down off them to the higher backside to follow the base there back to almost where we started. They actually get much taller on the backside back towards where we began. So much in fact we had to stop just short of the end so we could find a crack to climb to get back to the front where we had started. Once back to that point we could see the sun making its way to its dropping point in the West. Although it was still a couple hours or so away from the sunset, I could tell that it was going to set in the sweet spot of the majestic mountains in the distance. It would be a breathtaking event. Sad part was we couldn`t stay to see it as I can not be away from my dad for too long when there is no one else at home which was the case on this day. That and we wanted to stop and get some post hike grub. You can bet that we will be coming back for a sunset event here very soon.

Tyler Atop one of the rock spires as we make our way back to find a way down off the steeper backside.
This route to the right would be our way down off to the backside
One last shot before I turn back and make my way carefully off the back side to explore the base there.
My first view of the more vertical backside as I am climbing down to the base.
Can you find Tyler ?? He went ahead to show the height of this section of the backside
There`s Tyler !!
Lots of crack here !
Looking up from the base of the backside
Looking back at the precarious route we came down to get to the base on the backside of the cliffs
Following the base along the backside it was apparent it is the road less travelled. Also the ground drops off steeply in this direction revealing the cliffs are much taller on this side.
Tyler makes his way along the base of the backside
Interesting patch of colors we found while exploring the backside
Looking up at the various types of rock found along the backside
It really is all about those rocks, right ?
Here is where the ground really starts to drop off sharply and steeply down the hill so we decided to take our exit and climb back to the top as it would have been a long, briery route or a difficult climb back up had we continued that direction.
There was this cool overhanging rock that formed a small rock cave. I had to wonder if anything resided in there.
I stayed down at the base while Tyler made the climb back to the top so I could get this picture.
Once back on top there is this view of the cliffs that continue down the ridgeline as far as you can see from here and even farther that you can not.
Wishing we could have stayed for the sunset as I predicted it would set right in the center of that sweet spot of mountains seen in this image !
We soaked in as many visuals as we could before we had to leave.
We could not have chosen a better day to be here !

We spent as much time as we possibly could enjoying this beautiful area but, all good things do have to come to an end. As much as I wanted to stay for the sunset, we had no choice, we had to go. It was all downhill back to the truck so it would not be long before we would be enjoying our after hike meal and then hurry back home in case there were any needs or emergencies there.

One last look back at the Grand Entrance on our way out
Good view of the rocks cliffs as they continue down the ridge towards the valley off the backside.
Campsite along the known trail where the access trail comes up at. This was our exit.
Tyler leading the way back down the steep, gully trail
Following Tyler down the steep, gully trail
This trail reminds me more of something found in the jungles of Vietnam !

It had been another amazing day spent in Nature at another fantastic location that I can now check off my personal list. That list is extremely long so, until next time,,,

Post hike grub

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Posted on 13 January '21 by , under RATtreks.

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