Those dedicated to the sport of rock climbing know that the season doesn’t end when temperatures drop. In fact, lower temps are often coveted by climbers, since friction increases in the cold; you just want to stick to crags and walls that are in the sun to avoid getting too cold. The intense sun in Colorado makes wintertime cragging a popular sport; on warmer winter days, you can even spot climbers in T-shirts in mid-February.
Here are some of the best areas for vertical pursuits in the winter:
Clear Creek Canyon
With thousands of climbs, Clear Creek Canyon outside of Golden is one of the most popular areas for rock climbing near Denver. The climbs here offer a variety of styles in terms of steepness, holds, length and protection, making this canyon a spot where any climber can find a project. The walls on both sides of the river get differing amounts of sun, so make sure you are heading somewhere sunny and warm.
Located just south of Boulder, Eldorado Canyon is a classic place for traditional climbing routes, ranging from beginner to highly advanced routes.The length of the climbs in this canyon vary from single pitch to hundreds of feet.
This popular bouldering area in Morrison is ideal for climbing in the winter, as it stays warm most days. The boulders are not the most challenging you’ll find along the Front Range, but they are accessible and plentiful. This is a great option for those who want to get a workout in on some real rock.
North Table Mountain
The south-facing cliff band on North Table Mountain gets consistent, all-day sun that makes this the perfect spot for some outdoor climbing even on chilly days. These crags are located in the heart of Golden, which makes them easy to get to, and the short, moderate climbs are an excellent way for new climbers to get their hands on real rock for the first time.
Located down in the San Luis Valley, Penitente Canyon is certain to be less crowded than Front Range locations. The climbs are primarily bolted and offer a wide variety of holds and styles, from small crimps to large jugs and huecos. Bonus for coming here in winter: The rattlesnakes that populate this canyon will be dormant.
Only two hours from Denver (if traffic is non-existent), this area near Glenwood Canyon is a fine choice for climbers who want to get out of the city for the day. Most of the climbs are sport, with a decent number of routes in the 5.7 to 5.10a range, as well as many more in the 5.11 to 5.13 range, making this location a good destination for climbers of all levels. This climbing spot is privately owned. To access it, climbers must fill out a liability waiver, which can be downloaded here.
Shelf Road is an incredibly popular sport-climbing location near Canon City, and with good reason – there are thousands of bolted climbs here, most of which are graded between 5.8 and 5.12. This makes this area perfect for beginning climbers as well as those starting to push their limits into more advanced grades. Many of the walls get all-day sun, too.
This south-facing rock feature along the South Platte boasts some of the best granite crack climbs in Colorado. Many of these beautiful climbs are also quite moderate in terms of difficulty, making Turkey Rocks an excellent choice for those trying to gain experience with hand and foot jams and placing protection.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.