Boulder Rock Climbing
Home to more than 5,300 climbing routes — arguably one of the highest concentrations of rock climbs in America — Boulder’s variety of terrain, sunny weather and avid climbing community make it a world-class rock climbing town. In fact, the first recorded rock climb in Colorado happened in Boulder in 1906 when the now-famous Third Flatiron was ascended.
"Many people — not just locals — argue that Boulder, together with nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, is the single most desirable all-around rock climbing destination in the United States, and certainly one that rivals the most sought-after international rock destinations." — Alpine Institute
Before you go, read up on more details about rock climbing in Boulder, including seasonal wildlife closures, on the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks rock climbing page.
Help protect Boulder's natural beauty by remembering these Leave No Trace principles when climbing in and around Boulder.
Preserve the beauty of these areas by using existing trails and roads to access climbing routes and using existing anchors when available.
With so many options to choose from, here is a list of Boulder’s most iconic and best climbing areas in and around town.
Arriving in Boulder, only the stillest of hearts are not moved by the iconic, tilting, red-rock formations seen on the city's horizon. Records show these sandstone beauties were climbed even at the beginning of the 20th century, but it's likely that Indigenous tribes have been climbing the striking slabs for centuries.
The Flatirons offer a type of climbing for everyone: legendary sport climb lines like Chains of Love (5.12b) (the only rock climb ever featured on the cover of TIME Magazine), stunning boulder problems such as The Turning Point (V8), and the classically exposed and often scrambled trad routes found along the east faces of any given Flatiron formation.
Explore the heartbeat of the city amongst these sandstone blocks and see why thousands of people flock here every year to stand on their summits.
As one of the most famous climbing destinations in the country, Eldorado Canyon State Park is the mecca for trad climbing in Colorado. Trad climbing, or traditional climbing, is when temporary climbing gear is placed in the rock by the climber, not permanently bolted as in sport climbs, keeping walls free of gear and allowing more creativity in how to reach the summit. And while there may be more than a thousand trad climbs in “Eldo," as the locals call it, there are still a number of amazing sport climbs and boulder problems to explore as well.
Redgarden Wall, the largest cliff in the park and hard to miss for that reason, lies on the north side of the park just across from The Bastille. Both of these areas offer some of the most classic climbs in Colorado, like The Naked Edge (5.11b) and The Bastille Crack (5.7) — cornerstone test pieces of rock climbing in America.
Eldorado Canyon is a very popular state park (pass purchase required) and has limited parking. On summer weekends and holidays, timed-entry reservations are required. Or utilize the Eldo Shuttle, a free summer weekend shuttle to get to the park. Have fun and gear up for an unforgettable day of climbing red conglomerate sandstone!
Pack it in, pack it out: Take everything with you, and yes we mean everything. Wag bags can be found and are regularly restocked at various climbing areas in Boulder to help mitigate waste at popular crags. No wag bag? Cat holes are acceptable for waste management, just be sure to bury your business six to eight inches below the surface.
With more than 400 boulder problems, Flagstaff is the local bouldering area for most of the Front Range. Perched just minutes above downtown with horizon-reaching views, shady trees, an abundance of wildlife and more climbs than you can throw a crash pad at, one can spend an entire afternoon jumping from boulder to boulder testing strength and power.
Many Boulderites have adopted the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle and can be seen running laps on The Monkey Traverse (V4) after office hours. Don’t be fooled by the grades here, though! Flagstaff is notoriously "sandbagged," meaning the grades give the appearance of being easier than they are, and the rock quality is sharp so be ready for your fingers to feel it!
Other classic climbs in the area are First Overhang (V6), The Pillar (V2), Hollow’s Way (V8+), and Trice (V12). Be sure to bring crash pads and don’t forget a permit to park if your car is not registered in Boulder County.
More than 1,800 climbs can be found in Boulder Canyon, and they range from easy trad multi-pitches to one of the hardest bouldering problems in the nation, The Game (V15). Apart from the variety and diversity of climbs, Boulder Canyon is also unique in that the canyon is mostly granite. Most of Boulder and the Front Range consist of sandstone or gneiss rock. Granite, a much hardier and “bulletproof” rock, is less likely to break and gives climbers ease of mind when ascending a wall.
Explore stunning vistas of the Arapahoe Peaks from the top of the classic multi-pitch Bitty Buttress (5.8+), or test your grit on the sporty arete climb Lucid Dreaming (5.12d), perched oh-so scenically above the iconic Boulder Falls.
Perhaps ropes aren’t your thing? The Citadel (V8) is the perfect boulder for escaping the heat during Boulder’s warmer months and has a collection of three climbs of varying difficulty for all climbers in the group. Whatever it is you climb, Boulder Canyon has something to offer.
Let nature’s sounds abound: Keep noise to a minimum at crags. Loud music, dogs and other noisemakers can be dangerous and distracting to other climbers needing to communicate with their partners. Drones are not permitted on any City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land without a permit.
Upper Dream Canyon
Technically a part of Boulder Canyon, Upper Dream Canyon rests high above Boulder Falls and offers some of the best rock climbing in the country. Made of the same tough granite as the rest of the canyon, this is more easily accessed from above than below. Boulder Climbing Community has done a lot of work over the years to help establish a trail with better signage for all climbers to navigate.
While the Canyon offers mostly sport climbs with classics like Divination (5.11b) and Archangel (5.12c), bouldering problems can be found here, too. More notably, iconic trad climbs like China Doll (5.14a), one of the hardest trad climbs in Colorado and steeped in history, beautifully streaks across the Lost Angel Wall, tempting amateurs and pros alike.
When venturing to Upper Dream be sure to respect private property and pack out whatever you pack in to keep this beautifully remote area better than you found it.
Being the rock climbing destination it is, Boulder has a plethora of resources for climbers both on and off the wall. Stock up on gear or sit in on a pro climber talk at the legendary mountaineering shop, Neptune Mountaineering. Resole your old pair of climbing shoes at the local’s favorite cobbler, Rock and Resole. Enjoy a post-send beer and slice at Backcountry Pizza & Tap House or stretch out and rejuvenate your muscles with a yoga session at one of Boulder’s many yoga studios.
Climbing Guides, Tours and Gyms
New to climbing or want a local’s perspective? Going with a climbing guide can get you off the ground and onto a rock wall faster than you thought possible. Boulder's an international climbing mecca, and a wealth of climbing experts live and work here, making this the perfect place to learn how to rock climb. Look to pros listed below to get started or improve your rock climbing skills.
Searching for an indoor climbing wall? Boulder is home to world-class gyms where many pro athletes regularly train and compete. They’re also a great resource for finding belay partners, locals with the inside scoop and a nice place to shower and relax after trying hard.
FAQs about Rock Climbing in Boulder
What's the difference between bouldering and rock climbing?
Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that doesn’t require a rope or harness because you only climb up to 12-15 feet. You'll often see people walking around Flagstaff or Boulder Canyon with giant pads on their backs, which they place below boulders to fall onto while climbing. Climbing with a rope and harness, what climbers might call "rope climbing," is done with a partner and typically reaches more than 75 feet off the ground.
Does Boulder have rock climbing guides for beginners?
Yes, there are many opportunities for beginners to learn how to rock climb in Boulder. Look to the pros listed above to get started or improve your rock-climbing skills
What gear do I need to try climbing?
You will need equipment before you try to scale any rocks or boulders. If it's your first time or you are a beginner, we definitely recommend reaching out to a professional climbing guide in Boulder, which can be found above. A few essentials for climbing are rock climbing shoes, hand chalk and protective equipment, which varies depending on if you are bouldering or rope climbing. If you decide to climb indoors, you can rent all of this equipment from the gym.