The Vail valley boasts a diverse array of world-class climbing, and many are just a short drive from town. Whether you are a never-ever or a seasoned pro you will find tons of routes that are fun and challenging. Climbers can enjoy a multitude of sports climbing, trad climbing and bouldering in the area.
Sport Climbing –Sport climbing is the latest trend in rock climbing, where a climber follows a pre-bolted climbing route that allows them to safely clip into pre-placed bolts and anchors. Sport climbers can safely fall repeatedly while trying to solve a tough move or learn a particular route because they are already roped in. It does not require a lot of technical knowledge of equipment and can be done outside or in a climbing gym.
Trad Climbing -Traditional(Trad) climbing is both a demanding physical and an intellectual endeavor that involves carrying and placing protection along the rock as you climb rather than clipping into pre-placed bolts. Climbers must identify and practice route-finding and have technical knowledge of anchors and skill in placing them. Trad climbing is done outside on real rock with no preset bolts and climbers try hard to not to fall on the anchors and protection they have placed.
YDS Rock Climbing Grades – Once you have identified the type of climbing want to pursue then you must decide what grade of climb your climbing skills can support. For example, if you are a beginner you’ll want to stay on easier climbs 5.0 to 5.6, intermediates can play on 5.8 to 5.10 to hone their skills while you need to leave the more difficult 5.11 to 5.12 routes to expert climbers. The United States YDS climbing grade will help you know what type of route difficulty to expect.
The YDS grading system is made up of 3 parts:
Class of Climb: the first number (5) stands for the Class of Climb.
Difficulty of the Climb: the second number represents the difficulty of the climb and ranges from 0-15.
Additional Difficulty Detail: the final part of the rating system is either + or – symbol or letter from A-D to describe, in more detail, the difficulty of the climb. The letter A means it’s easier and scale of difficulty progresses each letter, through the letter D which is the most difficult.
See Also: Best Hexes for Rock Climbing
Wolcott is located 16 miles from Vail and the Wolcott Crags, located right above I-70 offers varied and interesting climbing. These short cliffs are Dakota Sandstone and great for top ropes and easy trad climbing. There are several bolted sport routes. The area also boasts some really fun boulders and easy access camping. Due to their orientation, these sunny, south facing crags can offer climbing all winter long.
The Red Cliff area is just outside of Minturn, CO is one of the more popular areas to climb. Located just a short 15-minute drive from Vail, it offers a variety of world-class, challenging climbing. Red Cliff has many climbing areas with a variety of routes all clustered together in one area. These areas include popular climbs such as:
Hornsilver – Offering 14 popular routes that consist of a majority of sport climbs with some trad and mixed routes in a beautiful setting on granite rock. Includes
Roof Rock A west-facing wall with mostly moderate climbs of 5.7-5.10 and abundant top rope anchors. This area offers easy access and is user-friendly. This route climbs the large roof visible from the parking lot and offers great views from the top.
There is also tons of great bouldering here including the Klettergardens, Moose Lodge Boulders and the Gravity Gardens
Lime Park (Lime Creek) – also known as Lime Creek is located near Sylan Lake in Eagle, CO and offers lots of outstanding, bulletproof limestone sport climbing. Camping is available at the entrance to the canyon within forty yards of the first routes. There are more than 70 sport climbs in this area ranging from 5.7-5.13. Some of the most popular routes include; Blank Check Wall, The Exit Wall, The Grove, North Wall, The Prow, Punch Bowl, The Schoolyard, Secret Stash, Strategy Wall, Team Wall and more.
Just north of Leadville, CO is Camp Hale, home to a variety of sport climbing routes ranging from 5.1-5.12. Including fun areas like Warrior’s Wall, Unknown Crag, Artillery Wall and Practice Wall. It runs the gambit of great introductory climbs for beginners all the way through 5-12 climbing for the advanced. There really is something for everyone here.
Warrior’s Wall – This challenging area features Black Beret, one of the few 5.12 routes in the area. Other routes here include Warrior’s Tears (5.11) and Wounded Right There (5.10).
Practice Wall – A beginner wall complete with a Forest Service vault toilet. The perfect place to introduce climbing to beginners and never-evers. Enjoy breathtaking views of the expanse of Camp Hale from the top of the wall. Lots of top rope routes with modern bolts and hangers. 5.1-5.5
Glenwood Canyon is a spectacular place to climb with varying layers of limestone and Precambrian granite. It is home to many, many rock and ice climbing opportunities. Whether you’re searching for challenging sport routes, multi-pitch trad lines, or stomach turning aid routes, Glenwood Canyon has it all.
Cascade Creek – Located close to Glenwood Springs on the north side of the river before the No Name tunnel, this area offers some short, moderate sport climbs and a large cave for bolted routes.
The Poux Located on the opposite side of the ridge, or west side of the No Name Tunnel, is a fun limestone sport area with numerous sport climbs from moderate to super sick; 5.6-5.13. The Super Poux sport crag which is a short but demanding 5.13 climb lies just above it.
No Name Canyon is a smaller side canyon that extends north from the No Name exit towards the iconic Flat Tops wilderness. You will find a multitude of single-pitch granite cracks in an easy-to-access and stunning setting. 5.6-5.10+
Fountain Buttress, Flag Buttress and the Hanging Lake Slab are located between Shoshone and Hanging Lake on the south side of the river on exposed shaded granite. Climbers can enjoy numerous single-pitch and multi pitch routes on these dramatic buttresses. Climbs here range from moderate to hard 5.7-5.10
WARNING: In August of 2020 the Grizzly Creek Fire raged through the Glenwood Canyon. It affected almost every area so care should be taken when approaching all routes in the canyon. Big wildfires can weaken bolts and other anchors so inspect with care. In addition, intense heat can loosen and destabilize rocks so flaking, scaling and spalling can be expected. Never anchor to a fire-damaged tree.
The diversity and variety of rock climbing in and around the Vail valley guarantees an amazing vertical adventure no matter where you go. However, if you are new or inexperienced go with a guide till you learn the ropes (and the routes) Below is a list of local resources that can help improve your skills and knowledge about climbing in the area.
We hope you found this article about rock climbing near Vail, CO helpful. Where is your favorite place to climb in the Vail valley and why? Are you a sports climber or a traditionalist? What’s you’re favorite type of climb? Please share your thoughts, comments and of course stories about climbing near Vail, we would love to hear them. Thanks for reading.