Situated just minutes from Boulder, Colorado, Eldorado Canyon is a climbing Mecca. Multi-pitch trad climbing enthusiasts flock from across the globe to enjoy the best Eldorado Canyon Climbing.
Soaring routes with fantastic positioning have earned classic status. In fact, some of the best climbing in Colorado can be found in this sandbagged, adventure-filled canyon.
There are all sorts of climbing in Eldorado Canyon, but it takes a special kind of climber to navigate these fortified buttresses.
As an avid Colorado climber, I’ve had the opportunity to swing leads on some of the most classic climbs in Eldorado Canyon.
About this Guide to Climbing in Eldorado Canyon State Park
As an experienced rock climber and local Coloradan of over 11 years, I’m so stoked to give you the inside scoop about climbing in Eldorado Canyon. Let’s jump on the sharp end and dive into it. Here’s what you’ll find in this guide to Eldorado Canyon climbing:
- Practical info about visiting Eldorado Canyon including prices, crowds, parking, and more.
- Types of climbs in Eldorado Canyon
- Eldorado Canyon climbing grades explained
- The best climbs in Eldorado Canyon
Practical Information About Eldorado Canyon Climbing
Before you hit the crag, there are a few key things to know about visiting Eldorado Canyon. First, you’ll need to pay a $10 entry fee per vehicle. Alternatively, you can use a Colorado State Parks Annual Pass to enter the park.
There is a kiosk (in-person and digital) where you can purchase your pass. The road into the park has strict no-parking rules and can be a little rough. Most vehicles should be able to navigate the potholes, but it’s unpaved and can be muddy after rains.
Once inside the park, there are several parking areas, pit toilets, and climbing trails are mostly well-marked – especially to the popular areas.
Local Tip: Eldorado Canyon gets crowded on weekends with climbers and hikers alike so get there early and plan accordingly.
When is the Best Time to Climb in Eldorado Canyon?
Hands down the best time to climb in Eldorado Canyon is from April through October. Summers are warm but typically crowded. Some of the classics (like the Bastille) are great routes for swealtery July and August days thanks to the shade.
Temperatures are typically warmer, but remember that Colorado has a monsoon season that sets in from mid June through early August. It isn’t uncommon to see an afternoon thunderstorm in Eldorado Canyon and the last thing you want is to be waving around a set of nuts in a lightening storm. Do your homework and check the weather before heading out.
You can (and I have) climbed in Eldorado Canyon year round. However, during the winter months, expect cold, sometimes wet, and snowy conditions. However, with a variety of routes you’re sure to find a sunny face on a warmer winter’s day.
Either way, if you want to hop on a classic, be sure to get there early (especially during the busy season).
What Style of Climbing is in Eldorado Canyon State Park?
You can find bouldering, sport climbing (clipping bolts), and trad climbing (placing protective gear) in Eldorado Canyon. Overall, Eldorado Canyon climbing is most known for multi-pitch routes, or routes that require you to climb multiple rope lengths.
Although there is sport climbing and bouldering, there are fare better climbing areas in Colorado for both of these activities. The area is nearly 73% trad climbing, or climbing that requires you to place your own gear.
There are various styles of trad climbs throughout eldorado Canyon. Most of the climbing is multi-pitch and bolted anchors vary. You also may have to rappel or scramble a walk-off route.
Hire a Guide for Eldorado Canyon
The best way to explore the best of Eldorado Canyon climbing if you’re new to the sport is to hire a guide. Although I’m a seasoned climber and mounatianeer, I always make time for a guided experience.
For those new to climbing, guides offer a chance to experience the sport in a safer way. While seasoned climbers can hone their skills and go on more intrepid adventures with a guide.
Whenever I recommend a rock climbing guide in Colorado, I always point people towards the Mountain Guides Colorado. I’ve worked with Mountain Guides Colorado (a division of the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides) for years. They offer exceptional service, employ amazing and well-knowledged guides, and give a fair price. Enquire today about climbing in Eldorado Canyon.
What is the Rock in Eldorado Canyon?
The rock quality in Eldorado Canyon can be a bit…well, punishing. The conngolomorate sandstone takes a little getting used to. It isn’t uncommon to find patches of choss, even on the most famous routes.
Rockfall is super common throughout Eldorado Canyon and although there are a lot of quality routes to choose from, it’s also an adventurous place to climb. Walk-offs are confusing, route lines aren’t always obvious, and climbing conditions can get an alpine feel at times.
But if you pay attention, and spend some time exploring a few tried-and-true climbs, you’ll start to fall in love with climbing in Eldo.
Is Eldorado Canyon Sandbagged?
I like to explain Eldorado Climbing like this. You’ll get excited about the prospect of a route, jump on the sharp end, get humbled, and walk off swearing you’ll never climb that route again. Flash forward a few weeks and you’ll find yourself wanting to get back on lead.
A lot of the routes in the area were set in the 1960’s by a very tall many named Layton Kor. He spearheaded development in the area and his climbs are known to be tricky and reachy for us mere mortals.
As a result, the area is fairly sandbagged. Not quite in a Gunks kind of way, but in its own, uneasy choss and suspect pro kind of way.
I wouldn’t recommend coming to Eldorado Canyon to lead unless you’ve had some trad climbing experience under your belt. There are a few easy routes on the Wind Tower and the Whales Tale, but for the most part, even the easier routes tend to ask for an experienced skill set.
If you’re new, go with someone more experienced and follow. You’ll get a good feel for the area and learn how to judge routes in the area.
The Best Beginner Climbs in Eldorado Canyon
If you have some experience under your belt and you’re looking to break into Eldorado Canyon climbs, there are a few fun areas to warm you up. These might not be the most exciting climbs in the world, but they will give you a flavor of the better side of Eldorado Canyon climbing and are true to the grade.
The Wind Tower offers up an excellent array of easy beginner climbs. Classics like Calypso (5.6) are polished and fairly run out, making them stiff for the grade. However, the Bomb (5.4) or Recon (5.6) link-up to the West Overhang (juggy 5.7 roof) is generally on solid rock.
Breezy (5.6) is a great intro to Eldorado since you’ll have a forgettable bottom pitch with a fun finale. For those looking to up their game just a touch, the Wind Ridge (5.7) offers a few breathtaking, yet awkward pitches to break into more moderate climbs.
If you’re into runout, then Icarus (5.6 R) will take your breath away, especially the virtually un-protectable, airy arete finish. A lot of people love Swanson Arete (5.5) but I found the route to climb more like a 5.6/5.7.
The Best Moderate Eldorado Canyon Climbing
If you’re looking for tall walls with a variety of climbs, then you should for sure look into the Redgarden Wall. Home to countless classics like the 3-star Rewritten (5.7 6 pitches).
Arguably the best climbing route in all of Eldorado Canyon is the Yellow Spur (5.9+, 6 pitches). This climb has it all. Fantastic positioning, fun and engaging climbing with sustained movement.
Other notable moderate climbs on the Redgarden Wall include The Great Zot (5.8, 5 pitches) and Ruper (5.8+, 6 pitches, sustained).
You can’t mention Eldorado Canyon climbing without talking about the famous Bastille Crack (5.7, 5 pitches). Located on the Bastille, this climb literally starts up a beautiful hand crack right along the road.
Handcrakekr Direct takes the cake for the best 5.10a with a beautiful hand crack that will get your heart pumping.
Notable Difficult Climbs in Eldo
Alright, so I may be a highly experienced climber, but I typically don’t climb at tougher grades. After getting into a freak trad accident, I decided that keeping my climbs in the moderate range is all I need to stay satisfied.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an array of challenging climbs in Eldorado Canyon to enjoy. Although I haven’t personally climbed these, they all get high marks from climbers who have a little more gusto than I do
- Center Route (5.11a/b 3 pitches)
- Outer Space (5.10b/c 2 pitches)
- The Naked Edge (5.11b 6 pitches)
- Rincon (5.11a 4 pitches)
Things to Do Nearby
If you’re climbing in Eldorado Canyon from out of town, there’s a variety of nearby activities you can enjoy. Boulder Canyon and the Flatirons offer up more classic Colorado climbs to enjoy.
Alternatively, you can opt to hit the road and enjoy one of the most scenic drives in Colorado along the Peak to Peak highway into Estes Park. Nearby Rocky Mountain National Park has lots to do too.
Where to Eat Post Send
The only unfortunate part about climbing in Eldorado Canyon is that you’re not that close to good eats. Drive into nearby Boulder for an array of awesome eateries including places like The Mountain Sun, Avery Brewing, or Snarfs Sandwiches.
Places to Camp Near Eldorado Canyon
Eldorado Canyon and Boulder, in general, don’t offer up a lot of places to camp. However, if you’re willing to drive, there are a lot of options for free camping near Denver.
Your best bet is to station yourself somewhere in the foothills and scoot out to the canyon in the morning.
Pro Tip: There is no overnight parking in Eldorado Canyon State Park, so be sure to find a different place to sleep!
Overall Eldorado Canyon climbing is a rewarding and fun experience. Be prepared for anything and do your homework before jumping on the sharp end and you’ll find yourself with a smile on your face overlooking boulder from the top of the canyon.
Additional Rock Climbing Resources
- Kick-Ass Climbing Gyms Near Denver
- Climbing Pants You’ll Actually Want to Wear
- Amazing Climbing Gear for Beginners
- How to Start a Trad Rack (coming soon)
- Tips for Overcoming a Fear of Heights