Moab, UT: Fisher Towers - Backpacker

Moab, UT: Fisher Towers

This short hike threads through a hoodoo-filled climbing mecca with outrageous scenery and countless sidetrip options.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.2



Location: 38.7248802185059, -109.308815002441

In 2/05, a small group of us visited Fisher Towers to hike and climb. We had blue skies, temps around 65, and an empty parking lot. At the trailhead were 3 Backpacker editors (Dennis Lewon, John Harlin, and me, Jon Dorn), plus Dougald MacDonald.


Location: 38.7231597900391, -109.30876159668

The best time to hike here is dawn or dusk, when the redrock is glowing in the soft sunlight. From this spot, you get your first view of Ancient Art, a classic rock climb up the R pillar of the main formation to your L; the top looks like a crooked hand.


Location: 38.7221336364746, -109.306716918945

Turn R and swtichback uphill away from wash. Along this trail, you'll have towers to your left and washes leading down to your right. You could head down almost any of the washes for an off-trail adventure, even an overnight. The only limitation is water.


Location: 38.7203636169434, -109.30396270752

Grand views of Ancient Art on L. On the R, the Titan, a 500-foot formation and classic multiday rock climb.


Location: 38.7206420898438, -109.303413391113

To reach Ancient Art, the primary feature we came to climb, leave the main trail here, jogging L on a faint track only 20 feet to a climber's path heading sharply uphill.


Location: 38.7188949584961, -109.30281829834

First clear photo op of The Titan, which looms ever larger. The standard climbing route goes from the Finger of Fate (the obvious prong on the L skyline) to the summit. Climbers typically bivy overnight at the base of the Finger.


Location: 38.7164039611816, -109.300094604492

Arches National Park just visible to SW; look for the prominent towers thru the obvious notch. You're also getting better views of Onion Creek to the S and the vast area of wild canyons waiting to be explored to the W.


Location: 38.7109756469727, -109.303688049316

Trail ends atop a big mushroom with expansive views of thousands of acres of crazy sandstone sculptures. Return to car or explore one of many side canyons (if you have a map, GPS, and plenty of water). Stay out of narrow slots in monsoon season.


Location: 38.7207450866699, -109.303512573242

Continue L past a Seusslike formation (The Cobra), then stick to the R side of the wash, still climbing steeply. As the path levels out, you'll wrap around the head of the wash to the L to reach a sandstone bench and the next waypoint.


Location: 38.7213401794434, -109.303901672363

Base of Ancient Art. The route climbs directly up the chimney, then straddles the fin above. The first crux is a few moves up (but it's also bolted). The second is on top--having the guts to walk the gangplank to the final pillar. Return to waypoint 5.

View of Fisher Towers area

Location: 38.7269630432129, -109.309539794922

This shot was taken from a cliff we climbed across the Colorado River, about 5 crow miles away from Fisher Towers. It was just about sunset, and the rock started glowing. To the right are the LaSal mountains.

Wild shapes

Location: 38.7246437072754, -109.30876159668

Once on the trail, the views immediately get spectacular. This photo shows the wild variety of shapes and colors in Fisher Towers.

Dome view

Location: 38.724178314209, -109.308547973633

A view from one of many sandstone domes down into a wash where the trail is winding through on its way deeper into the park. The trail moves up to the base of the main wall that most of the spires lift out of; numerous side canyons drop away from trail.

More wild shapes

Location: 38.7242088317871, -109.308517456055

Looking up from the same wash, you get a great sense of the erosive power of wind and water in a redrock environment.

More Ancient Art

Location: 38.7231216430664, -109.308792114258

First good view of Ancient Art. The route climbs up the backside of the tower to the small ridge in the sun on the right skyline. Then it wraps up and around the back of the Seusslike main feature on top, emerging on the left of it near the last bump.

Ancient Art 2

Location: 38.7230606079102, -109.308731079102

More views of Ancient Art from different points along the trail.

Red wall

Location: 38.7136993408203, -109.301010131836

John surveys the walls for other possible routes.


Location: 38.7212333679199, -109.30330657959

Ancient Art from the backside.

The approach

Location: 38.7190322875977, -109.302963256836

Our group returns from the endpoint of the official trail, heading toward Ancient Art. By mid-morning, the Feb. sun is just strong enough that we’ve shed the thick fleece layers we were wearing. We’ll climb in long sleeves and vests, and feel just right.


Location: 38.7214813232422, -109.304084777832

Dougald, the former editor of Rock and Ice magazine, and John, a longtime Backpacker editor and now the editor of the prestigious American Alpine Journal, grab a bite and get their racks ready for a four or five pitch climb.


Location: 38.7214813232422, -109.303955078125

Dougald’s always smiling, more so when he gets to climb.

The crux

Location: 38.7216339111328, -109.304145812988

John attacks the 5.11 crux in the first pitch. You have to make two friction moves in a concave overhang to reach small, pebble-like holds just above the lip. From there, it’s a matter of keeping feet glued to rock—easier for me at 6’6”.

On belay

Location: 38.7216033935547, -109.304176330566

John belays Dougald with the Titan in the background.

Middle pitch

Location: 38.7215118408203, -109.304176330566

John leading in the middle pitches. The exposure here is starting to get intense.

The gangplank

Location: 38.7216339111328, -109.304176330566

John walks the gangplank on the last pitch of Ancient Art, with several hundred feet of air to either side.


Location: 38.7215423583984, -109.30411529541

John makes his way up and around to the top.

Start climb

Location: 38.7215728759766, -109.30411529541

Climb 2

Location: 38.7216339111328, -109.304176330566

John Harlin leads the route.

Climb 3

Location: 38.7216033935547, -109.304237365723

On top

Location: 38.7216033935547, -109.304237365723

The rappel

Location: 38.7215728759766, -109.30411529541

Me rapping off and walking the plank.

Thin bridge

Location: 38.7216033935547, -109.304084777832

Me walking the thin bridge in size 13 shoes.

The Cobra

Location: 38.7207069396973, -109.30345916748

John leading up The Cobra, a climb just feet from where the climber’s path for Ancient Art branches off the main trail through Fisher Towers.

Dance, dance

Location: 38.7206726074219, -109.303398132324

John dances his Kokopelli dance atop The Cobra.

Ancient Art

Location: 38.7203636169434, -109.304145812988

Ancient Art glows in burnt red as the sun sets.

Sunset glow

Location: 38.7204093933106, -109.304298400879

Sunset makes the walls glow.