Beat the summer heat in town and climb in the high country
When Boulder Canyon granite burns your toes and bags of chalk won’t keep you from greasing off Rifle limestone, head for the mountains. Here’s a selection of Colorado’s best midsummer sport crags, from east to west. For up-to-date beta, search MountainProject.com.
Just inside the eastern boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park, a row of granite fins looms over Lily Lake like the spiny back of a stegosaur. The climbs on Big Ass Slab and the Dinosaur’s Foot are mostly moderate (5.6 to 5.10); harder routes line the Fin and the Blade. Most climbs get at least a half-day of shade, and with views dominated by the Diamond on Longs Peak, the ambience is alpine. Highway 7, 6 miles south of Estes Park.
Climbers and skiers whizzed by these crags for years before an astute few noticed the potential for multi-pitch sport routes south of Berthoud Pass. Goat Rock is roadside, but the best cliff is Ra, a vertical shield of fine-grained alpine granite, half an hour up the talus. Facing north at over 10,000 feet, Ra is no place to worship the sun. Bring warm clothes, a helmet and big guns for the excellent 5.10 to 5.12 routes. Highway 40, 3 miles north of Empire.
Summit County’s best crag is a ginormous boulder on the flank of 11,803-foot Porcupine Peak, a few miles from Keystone. On one side is a slab with a dozen or so moderate climbs (5.6 to 5.10); the other side is an impressive overhanging plaque with a testy 5.12 called Crystal Ball. Both sides offer big fun in a small package. Montezuma Road, 1.5 miles from Highway 6.
Way off the beaten track in the San Juan mountains, this pocketed volcanic cliff at over 10,000 feet is the playground of hard men and women—the best routes are 5.11 and up. The reward for sore fingers is some of Colorado’s best sport climbing and a remarkable setting beside a perpetual waterfall, with gorgeous views of the nearby 14ers. Henson Creek Road (CR 20), 7 miles west of Lake City.