Home / Crags / Best Colorado Climbing Areas

The 7 Best Rock Climbing Areas in Colorado (2024 Guide)

Young woman climbing a rock wall in a canyon

Of the 50 states in the U.S., Colorado is one of the premier destinations in terms of rock climbing. Some even argue that Colorado has the best climbing in the entire western part of the country. That’s why if you were to type into your search engine “rock climbing,” “rock climbing Colorado” would undoubtedly appear towards the top.

But no matter where your search engine locates Colorado on the list of best rock climbing destinations in the U.S., one fact remains true. Colorado has something for every climber, from alpine walls to premier bouldering and everything in between.

If you are keen on checking out Colorado rock climbing one day, keep reading to take a look at seven of the best rock climbing areas in Colorado.

Our Selection

Rock Climber Stretches for a Hold on the Colorado Flatirons

Rock climbing in Colorado is world-class. So whether you love to pebble wrestle or plug gear, or maybe a little bit of both, you can find enough rock in Colorado to keep you busy for a lifetime.

Below you will find seven of the best crags in Colorado. I’ve got them listed in no particular order. Instead, I went from the eastern Front Range of the Rockies to the Western Slope and beyond. My priority was to include locations with excellent and diverse climbing and a rich cultural history.

  1. Clear Creek Canyon
  2. Eldorado Canyon State Park
  3. Shelf Road
  4. Lumpy Ridge
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park
  6. Rifle Mountain Park
  7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I love each location and would recommend any and all of them to climbers who want to sample a taste of Colorado’s best rock.

1. Clear Creek Canyon

Two rock climbers with ropes a man and woman along a rock wall in Clear Creek Canyon

Clear Creek Canyon (CCC) is perfectly located just west of the idyllic city of Golden, Colorado. Although CCC may not be an international destination, it’s one of the best and most reliable climbing areas on the Front Range.

Clear Creek is well known for its highly accessible sport climbing on gneiss, schist, and granite cliff walls. It’s the perfect place for an after-work session or an all-day outing with friends.

Whether you learned how to climb and are getting into outdoor climbing or are looking for a new zone with difficult climbs you can project, Clear Creek Canyon has a rock climb for you.

man rock climbing in Colorado

Popular Climbs in Clear Creek

  • Playin’ Hooky, 5.8 (5a)
  • Guppy, 5.8 (5a)
  • Curvaceous, 5.11b (6c)
  • Solid Gold, 5.12a (7a+)
  • Sonic Youth, 5.13a (7c+)

Where to Stay

Due to the nature of the canyon, there is no camping. Because of its location, most local climbers take day trips into the canyon from the Front Range.

The nearest town is Golden, Colorado. However, you could also easily find accommodations in Boulder or Denver.

Tips to Have the Best Experience in Clear Creek

Clear Creek Colorado
  • Celebrate your send with beers from Mountain Toad Brewing (8) in Golden.
  • If it’s hot, send it down the Clear Creek Whitewater Park (9) in downtown Golden.
  • Get to know the crag ahead of time, and be prepared to bring a 70-meter rope for the taller cliffs.
  • Always wear a helmet – Clear Creek gets busy, and there are a lot of overhead hazards from other climbers above you.
  • The canyon gets noisy from the river and nearby traffic, so be ready to communicate clearly.

2. Eldorado Canyon State Park

Sunset In Eldorado Canyon State Park

If you are a fan of rock climbing in Colorado, then you’ve heard of Eldorado Canyon. Eldo is one of the most classic and premier climbing areas the Front Range offers.

The climbing in Eldorado Canyon State Park is characterized by bullet-hard conglomerate sandstone, with some formations reaching heights of 700 feet tall.

Besides the phenomenal climbing, Eldo is well-known for being steeped in a rich climbing heritage. Many of the classic climbing routes were established in the 1960s.

Despite only being a short drive from Boulder or Denver, Eldorado Canyon State Park consistently offers a consistently adventurous experience.

Climber on the classic route Yellow Spur In Eldorado Canyon State Park
Climber on the classic route ”Yellow Spur” In Eldorado Canyon State Park

The towering rock formations shield you from the nearby metropolis, the climbing is technical, and the gear is finicky, Eldo’s infamous wind makes you feel like you’re in the alpine, and the many convoluted descents require a certain level of local knowledge to accomplish smoothly.

Eldo is also known for its sandstone bouldering. The riverside sandstone blocks are super scenic and host a variety of classic boulders, everything from steep overhangs to sandstone slabs. Recently, Shawn Rabatou put up one of the newest v17’s in North America, Megatron (10), located in Eldo.

Popular Climbs in Eldo

  • The Bastille Crack, 5.7 (4c)
  • The Yellow Spur, 5.9+ (5b)
  • Vertigo, 5.11b (6c)
  • The Naked Edge, 5.11b (6c)
  • Genesis, 5.12+ (7a+)

Where to Stay

Similar to Clear Creek, there is no camping in Eldorado Canyon State Park. Therefore, Eldo is a day trip area. Fortunately, climbers can very easily find accommodations in Boulder, Golden, or Denver.

Moon over Eldorado Canyon

Tips to Have the Best Experience in Eldo

  • Get up early to climb during sunrise in the Canyon (and to watch the speed climbers simul The Naked Edge (11)).
  • Leave your crack gloves at home; there is minimal jamming, plus the rock is friendly.
  • Depending on your route objective, get fully racked up beforehand and leave your pack in the car.
  • Have a plan B and C because the Canyon can get busy with other climbers.
  • Afterward, go for lunch or dinner at Southern Sun (12) (bring cash) and stop at Neptune Mountaineering (13).

3. Shelf Road

Shelf road view

Shelf Road is home to some of the best rock climbing in Colorado. As the temperatures cool down every year, climbers from all over the Front Range and State flock to the limestone cliffs of Shelf Road for pocket pulling and crimping on technical and vertical face climbs.

The various crags of Shelf Road, which possess thousands of climbing routes, are just one hour from Colorado Springs. Because of the sheer quantity of climbing at Shelf, there is something for everyone, from 5.9 (5b) to 5.13 (7c+).

The climbing in Shelf Road is easily accessible and well-developed. Everything is single-pitch and can be climbed on lead, however, there are some top-rope options.

Popular Climbs in Shelf Road

  • First Blood, 5.8 (5a)
  • The Opportunist, 5.9 (5b)
  • Silverado, 5.11b (6c)
  • Freeform, 5.12a (7a+)
  • 14 Carats, 5.12b (7b)
Mountain on shelf road Colorado

Where to Stay

There are two BLM-managed campgrounds in Shelf Road – Sand Gulch and The Banks. The climbing community is encouraged to reserve a campsite (14) ahead of time.

Tips to Have the Best Experience in Shelf Road

  • Stop by Cafe Belay (15) in Cañon City for a coffee and breakfast burrito.
  • Depending on the weather, you can chase shade when it’s warm or bask in the sunshine when it’s cold.
  • If you are climbing in winter or early spring, pack your microspikes to help you with the approaches.
  • Try out the nearby Desert Reef Hot Springs (16) in Florence or Dakota Hot Springs (17) in Penrose.
  • Don’t solely rely on Mountain Project for beta; you’re better off with the local Shelf Road Rock (18) guidebook.

4. Lumpy Ridge

Lumpy Ridge Estes Park Colorado

Lumpy Ridge is located in the Estes Park Valley of Colorado. It’s part of the larger Rocky Mountain National Park and the old stomping grounds of one of Noth America’s most prolific big wall free climbers – Tommy Caldwell.

The climbing in Lumpy takes place on granite dome-like rock formations that are splintered with flaring cracks from fingers and tips to offwidths that can swallow you entirely. Solid footwork and crack climbing skills are mandatory at Lumpy, as many of the routes are “old-school” and sandbagged.

If you like rock climbing on vertical and slabby granite and want to train your skills for larger objectives in the National Park or The Valley, Lumpy Ridge is the complete climbing package– moderate approaches, a diverse selection of climbing in a beautiful area, and close enough to town to make it back for happy hour.

Lumpy Ridge scenic mountain views

Popular Climbs in Lumpy Ridge

  • White Whale, 5.7 (4c)
  • Kor’s Flake, 5.7 (4c)
  • Pear Buttress, 5.8 (5a)
  • Romulan Territory, 5.10b (6a)
  • Anaconda, 5.13c (8a+)

Where to Stay

Because Lumpy Ridge is located within Rocky Mountain National Park, all backcountry camping requires a permit. However, although it is possible to stay overnight in nearby backcountry campsites, it’s not recommended for climbers.

If you are going to Lumpy Ridge for climbing, finding accommodations in Estes Park makes much more sense. However, due to its location, it’s possible to make a day trip to Lumpy Ridge from the Front Range.

Estes Park - An autumn afternoon at Downtown Estes Park
Estes Park

Tips to Have the Best Experience in Lumpy Ridge

  • Sign up for a guided day of rock climbing with KMAC Guides (19).
  • Pack crack gloves or tape up your hands.
  • Bring offset nuts and cams to be prepared for Lumpy’s flaring cracks.
  • Wear lots of sunscreen and bring plenty of water.
  • Approach your climb wearing shorts, but bring a pair of pants from the climbing, especially the offwidth cracks.

5. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is a 415-square-mile or 265,807-acre park encompassing a scenic wide variety of mountain ecosystems, including meadows, alpine lakes, and mountain peaks.

Rock climbing has been a popular activity in RMBP since the 1800s. Today, RMNP is one of the premier destinations for granite alpine climbing. However, that’s not to say that climbing in the Park is easy.

Climbing in RMNP is complex and dangerous. To succeed in RMNP, you should be able to mitigate objective hazards, navigate loose rock, route read, approach long distances, and perform well at altitudes between 12,000 and 14,000 feet above sea level.

If you can do that, then you’ll be free to enjoy some of North America’s most classic alpine climbs, like the South Face of the Petite Grepon (20), the Culp-Bossier on Hallet Peak (21), The Barb on Spearhead (22), and Pervertical Sanctuary (23) on the East face of Long’s Peak, also known as the Diamond.

rock climber in Rocky Mountain National Park
©️ NPS Photos, National Park Service

Popular Climbs in RMNP

  • Northeast Ridge, 5.6 (4b)
  • Casual Route, 5.10a (5c)
  • Days of Heaven, 5.10d (6b)
  • D7, 5.11c (6c+)
  • Sarchasm, 5.14- (8b+)

Where to Stay

There are a number of campgrounds located within the bounds of Rocky Mountain National Park. Make sure to plan your visit ahead of time and make reservations (24).

Depending on the climbing objective, it may make sense to stay at a wilderness campsite. All wilderness (backcountry) campsites require camping permits (25).

Rocky Mountain National Park camping tent
Longs Peak from the Boulderfield in late summer ©️ NPS Photos, National Park Service

Otherwise, you can easily find accommodations in the town of Estes Park.

Tips to Have the Best Experience in RMNP

  • Go on acclimatization hikes before attempting your objective.
  • Bring a water filter to harvest water from springs and rivers instead of carrying water.
  • Get up early and finish your climb before the afternoon thunderstorms.
  • Celebrate your send in town with a beer from Rock Cut Brewing Company (26).
  • Go for a swim in one of the many alpine lakes.

6. Rifle Mountain Park

Located just thirty minutes north up the East Rifle Creek from the small town of Rifle, CO, sits Rifle Mountain Park – one of the best limestone sport climbing areas on the Western Slope.

Rifle’s limestone sport climbing is some of the best in the United States, especially for routes from 5.12 (7a+) and higher. Rifle Mountain Park has one of the highest concentrations of 5.13 (7c+) and 5.14 (8b+) sport routes in the country.

If you are a beginner rock climber, that’s okay too–there are a handful of moderate routes (5.11 (6b+) and below) on the lower-angled rock. However, most of the climbing at Rifle consists of slightly and very overhanging limestone walls. Rifle’s routes are often complex and require a lot of power endurance.

Popular Climbs in Rifle

  • Rumor Has it, 5.11b (6c)
  • Easy Skankin’, 5.12b (7b)
  • I am not a Philistine, 5.12c (7b+)
  • Pump-O-Rama, 5.13a (7c+)
  • Bad Girls Club, 5.14c/d (8c+/9a)

Where to Stay

Most climbers camp when they rock climb in Rifle. There is a variety of campgrounds available in Rifle Mountain Park. For example, Rifle Falls (27) and Rifle Gap (28) are nearby State Parks. However, there are numerous other campgrounds owned and operated by the city of Rifle located within the Mountain Park also.

Rifle Falls State Park, Colorado
Rifle Falls State Park, Colorado

Tips to Have the Best Experience in Rifle

  • Bring a stick clip to protect the opening moves of challenging climbs.
  • Take a rest day at the nearby hot springs in Glenwood Springs (29).
  • Take a guided raft trip on the Colorado River.
  • Hike through the Colorado National Monument (30).
  • Visit in the Spring and Fall shoulder seasons. And get up early to beat the crowds!

7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, also known as The Black, has some of the steepest cliffs, tallest walls, and oldest rock in North America. At its deepest point, the canyon is 2,722 feet deep. And the tallest wall, The Painted Wall, is the tallest in Colorado, measuring 2,250 feet.

The Black is a full-on adventure. Unfortunately, information about the Black is relatively limited. But it’s notorious for long, committing approaches down into the belly of the canyon where the only way out is rock climbing.

All the climbs in the Black are multi-pitch traditional routes, many of which can contain suspect rock. The climbing season in the Black (31) ranges from mid-April to early June. Throughout the season, you can expect thunderstorms, poison ivy, and approach gullies with ticks.

Climber Ropes up Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Popular Climbs in The Black

  • The Russian Arete, 5.9 (5b)
  • Escape Artist, 5.10a (5c)
  • Checkboard Wall, 5.10c (6a+)
  • The Scenic Cruise, 5.10d (6b)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.11a (6b+)

Where to Stay

The Black offers two campgrounds (32), one on each rim. However, the typical “climber’s campground” is the North Rim Campground. There is also a campground on the canyon floor called East Portal (33), although it’s located within and managed by the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

Tips to Have the Best Experience in the Black

Phil Lauffenberger climbs on the crux pitch of Crystal Vision 5.11 in the Black Canyon of Colorado
  • Don’t solely rely on Mountain Project for beta; you’re better off with the local guidebook, The Black Canyon Guidebook (34).
  • Although not located in the alpine, The Black Canyon is alpine in nature– so get ready for long approaches, suspect rock, route finding, and big adventure.
  • Hang out with the locals in Gunnison during a rest day.
  • Camp at the North Rim Campground (35) for the whole experience.
  • Bring bug spray for the ticks and watch out for the poison ivy in the approach gullies.

Final Thoughts – Go Climb in Colorado!

Rock climbing at Black Canyon
Rock climbing at Black Canyon – Alimony Wall, Steppin’ Out 01 – ©️ National Park Service

If you’ve never been to Colorado, plan a trip! And if you are lucky enough to live within the bounds of one of the western United States’ best states for premier rock climbing – I hope you know how fortunate you are.

Regardless if your next outing in Colorado is a mega road trip from some other state, an international trip, or just a quick after-work sport climbing session, please remember– have fun and check your knots. 


Clear Creek Canyon Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Eldorado Canyon State Park Rock Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Shelf Road Rock Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Lumpy Ridge Rock Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

RMNP – Rock Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Rifle Mountain Park Rock Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Rock Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Mountain Toad Brewing (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Clear Creek Whitewater Park
City of Golden (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Megatron V17 (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

The Naked Edge
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Southern Sun Pub & Brewery (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Neptune Mountaineering (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Recreation.gov (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Cafe Belay (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Desert Reef Hot Springs (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Dakota Hot Springs (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Shelf Road Rock, 3rd Edition
Sharp End Publishing (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

KMAC Guides (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Petit Grepon Rock Climbing
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

The Barb
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Pervertical Sanctuary
Mountain Project (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Rocky Mountain Campgrounds
National Park Service (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Rocky Mountain Wilderness Camping
National Park Service (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Rock Cut Brewing Company (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Rifle Falls
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Rifle Gap
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Glenwood Hot Springs Resort (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Colorado National Monument
National Park Service (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Rock Climbing – Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
National Park Service (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Camping – Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
National Park Service (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

East Portal Campground – Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
National Park Service (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

The Black Canyon Guidebook by Vic Zeilman
Bentgate (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

North Rim Campground – Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
National Park Service (retrieved on 05/15/2023)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *