If you’re looking for a fun novelty climb in the desert with a distinct flavor, then you’ve got to check out Looking Glass Rock in Utah. This famous landmark is a must-climb at least once.
Sure, there’s more walking up steep sandstone than actual climbing, but it’s position and rope-stretching rappel make it a worthy 2-hour adventure.
This three-pitch bolted climb takes you to the top of the famous Looking Glass Rock in Moab. From here, you’ll have some unbelievable views of the valleys surrounding Indian Creek.
I’ve been to Moab countless times. And as an avid rock climber – I’ve scoured Moab for the most fun-filled roped adventures.
It’s my mission to get you outside like a pro, not a tourist.
So pack up your rope and draws and hit up one of Moab’s best climbs. Here’s how!
About this Guide to Looking Glass Rock in Utah
As a long-time climber, I absolutely love taking people to the top of Looking Glass Rock in Moab. This formation – technically an arch – offers up sweet views, mellow climbing, and one super-fun rappel. Here’s what you’ll find inside the guide:
- When to climb the Looking Glass
- Practical info about Looking Glass Rock in Utah
- Tips for beating the crowds
- Rappelling and swinging info
- Nearby attractions
- Additional Moab trip planning info
When to Climb Looking Glass Rock in Utah?
The best time to climb up this fantastic arch is in the spring and fall. Choose an early morning time! Crowds get intense here – and especially with the swing, it’s not common to wait for an hour or more at the top of the climb.
Not to mention, there’s zero shade and standing on sandstone can feel like climbing up a furnace – so sunup or sundown is preferred.
Keep in mind during May rattlesnakes mate at the base of the climb. It can get a little intense – so avoid Looking Glass Rock during May if you can.
Winter is another great time to climb if you catch a non-snowy, warm-weather day. Be prepared for the cold – it does get windy up there!
Avoid climbing Looking Glass Rock in the summer – it’s simply far too hot.
Pro Tip: NEVER climb any sandstone route during or after a rain. It’s EXTREMELY dangerous. Bolts can easily pull out of wet sandstone. Wait at least 24 hours after a storm.
Where is Looking Glass Rock?
You’ll find the rock formation along a dirt road. Signs mark the way, but there are a few random side roads. Just stick to the most trafficked area and you should be good.
Pro Tip: There is no cell service here. Download a Google Map of the region before heading out so you don’t get lost.
Head south on Highway 191 out of Moab. Then turn right on BLM road 131 (signs for Looking Glass Rock, unpaved). You may have to open a cattle fence or two.
Stick to the main road. Take a right at the first fork, then a left at the second until you reach a small parking area with a few campsites. You’ve made it! You can see the base of the climb from here.
Just follow the obvious trail up and over a small lump of sandstone to reach the base of the climb.
Practical Info About Climbing Looking Glass Rock
Overall, Looking Glass Rock is more of a scrambly hike up the east side of an arch than a climb. In fact, I’d argue there are only a few climbing moves at the very start of the climb and right before the top of pitch 2.
Realistically, this thing can for sure be simuled, soloed (although a slip would be fatal), or climbed in approach shoes.
Newbie sport climbers who are familiar with multi-pitch will absolutely love this climb. It’s a great intro to multi pitch that’s not only fun, but the easy climbing takes a lot of the stress out of the equation.
If you’re looking to take up a newbie friend – then this is THE climb in Moab to tackle. When we did it – we took up two newer climbers – for one it was their first multi-pitch. We all had a BLAST.
Start at the base of the east side of the Looking Glass Arch. You’ll have a steep, short section of climbing to navigate. Afterwards the climbing eases substantially to a 2-bolt anchor. There are 3 to 5 bolts to clip along the way.
The next pitch (which can be linked with the first – just bring extra draws), is super straight forward. Continue upwards. You’ll practically be walking, but towards the top there are a few slabby moves. Move slightly away from the bolt line for the easiest route.
You’ll end pitch 2 at another set of 2-bolt anchors.
Pitch 3 is mostly just walking. In fact, you’ll want to sit to belay at the top (save your back). There are about 2 to 3 bolts along the way. Certainly clip them if you want to feel cozy. We found a couple of alpine draws to be helpful. You’ll be walking, so this stops rope drag.
Difficulty: rated 5.6, but honestly there isn’t a move harder than a 5.4 on this thing.
Approach Time: 5 minutes
Pitches: 3, you can combine 1-2. You’ll be in visual contact with your belayer if you pitch it out.
Draws: 10 if you’re linking, 5 or so if you aren’t. The bolts are certainly spaced, but you have protection when you need it.
Rope Length: A 70m rope just barely reaches the ground. Knot the ends. We were a group of 4 so we used two 70m.
Estimated Time: 1 hour if there is no line, up to 2 hours if there are parties ahead of you.
Highlights: mellow climbing with cool views, and one AWESOME rap!
Rappelling and Swinging
Once you reach the top of the arch, you can un-rope. Looking Glass Rock in Utah is HUGE, so there are no worries. Continue walking up and to the left. You’ll see a slab to the left with a notch in the rock. Head there.
Don’t walk off the backside of the arch – the rap anchor is close to the top of the climb, maybe a hundred meters or so away. This thing gets climbed so much, just look for the worn-down rock.
Getting to the rappel is a little intimidating. You’ll navigate a small, downhill slab (you can hip belay if you’re feeling timid). Then you’ll walk around a corner where hump of rock sticks out.
From here, there’s a slot that drops to the ground. PUCKER FACTOR!
It’s easy walking, but certainly intimidating.
You’ll find a 3-bolt anchor with chains in the slot. Set up your rappel (Bring a PAS or sling with some lockers while you set up).
The anchor will drop you through a slot and into the mighty abyss of the Looking Glass!
Simply rappel down into the slot. Eventually the slot gives way to a free-hanging rap. Soak it all in! The views are phenom and you get a real sense for just how huge this formation is.
If you’re swinging, rappel down and move up towards the base of the rock. You’ll see a small platform.
Take in allllll of the slack, or you might hit your butt on some boulders. Then swing!
Keep in mind, the rope will drag across the sandstone at the anchor. It isn’t horrid – but swinging on your rope will for sure take damage.
People have died here from bad swings, so inspect your gear!
Pro Tip: Always retire a rope that’s been swung on – especially in the desert! Sandstone is rough on gear, so don’t chance it.
Afterwards, simply walk along the sandy trail back around to the base of the climb and back to the car.
Crowds at Looking Glass Rock in Moab
As one of the easiest climbs in Moab (and the only bolted multi-pitch), Looking Glass Rock sees a lot of action.
Get there early if you don’t want to wait. We were the third group up that day and we still waited an hour to rap.
Swinging takes a while since you’ll need to reset your position – so keep that in mind if you’re climbing Looking Glass Rock. Be courteous to other climbers – one swing per person.
Don’t set up a party and let everyone swing a million times. You’ll not only wear out your rope quickly (and potentially have an accident), but you’ll also hold up a huge line behind you.
Hiring a Guide for Looking Glass Rock
Have zero experience rock climbing? No problem! Looking Glass Rock is a great place for a beginner adventure. This route sees a lot of guided traffic – so contact a local climbing guide to learn more.
There’s a lot of amazing things to do in Moab. If you’re looking for more climbing, consider making a trip to nearby Indian Creek. Other awesome attractions include:
- South Six Shooter Peak
- The Needles District of Canyonlands
- Arches National Park
- Newspaper Rock
- Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands
Additional Moab Resources
Planning a trip to Moab? Make it epic with these locally-tailored guides: