With Durango as a basecamp, climbers gain unbeatable access to some of the best routes in the Rockies. From towering granite canyons and sandstone boulder gardens to waterfall hugging limestone, the climbs are as varied as they are scenic.
Hundreds of routes and addictive problems, from traditional to the most obscure, await in this climber’s paradise. Where world-class climbing can be found just down the street, spontaneous vacation extensions are more probable than possible. As you plan your adventure, don’t forget these seven unbeatable destinations.
1. Lemon Reservoir | Granite and Sport
With a healthy mix of sport, top rope, and trad climbing, there’s a route for everyone to try at the Lemon Reservoir. Just 20 minutes from downtown, this little canyon above Durango keeps cool and breezy in the summertime.
Boasting some of the best cragging in southwest Colorado, Lemon Reservoir is one of the few destinations where you can get your hands on real granite. As if by design, the south-facing bouldering area offers beginner and intermediate routes that make for great warmups. From the east side, you’ll find epic sport routes like Brady’s Route and the Holy Grail. From the west side, you can expect more classic trad on routes like the 5.9 Tons of Fun and 5.10 Chucky Bill. The neighboring Transfer Park Campground makes this an easy destination to overnight, which is great considering that new routes are constantly being discovered. Hours feel like minutes and weeks fly by like days at this playground for adventurous climbers.
2. Sailing Hawks | Unrivaled Bouldering
Just minutes from downtown, Sailing Hawks is considered one of the best locales for bouldering in Durango. After finding the dirt parking lot on 25th street, you can prep for a brief hike up to the boulder garden. A worn, looped trail connects a garden of behemoth blocks, where you’ll discover nearly one-hundred different routes for bouldering and a few top rope. With no shortage of overhands, highballs, and tricky traverses, Sailing Hawks attracts veteran climbers season after season because it’s just so addictive. Find the Petrified Boulder for a warm up on V3 Petrified Arete and V5 Three Finger Pocket, and don’t skip the traverses on Euro Boulder.
3. Cascade Canyon | Ice Climbing Park and the Best Limestone
Ice park by winter, sport climbing destination by summer – Durango’s Cascade Canyon is wild, picturesque, and unforgettable. Tucked at the headwaters of the cascade, you’ll find some of the best limestone in the southwest. Enjoy routes like the Reverse Cowgirl and Super Twerk on Headbanger’s Wall, and Close to the Edge on the Garden of Eden Wall. As one of the most scenic climbing locales outside Durango, Cascade Canyon is epic, even on its worst days.
4. Turtle Lake | Scenic Bouldering for All
Home to the infamous V7 Fin and dyno leap to Bird Hole, Turtle Lake offers pretty water views and funky bouldering problems you’ll be talking about for years. With nearly 90 problems ranked V10 to V11, this sandstone is beginner friendly, yet stimulating for even the most advanced climbers. The field, which is climbable almost year round, borders a protected site of Anasazi ruins in Falls Creek Valley, so tread lightly and respect the land. Although it can get a little crowded, there’s an energy of camaraderie at that makes this destination simply fun.
5. Lightner Creek | Obscure Sandstone Bouldering
Compared to other destinations on this list, there isn’t too much variety at Lightner Creek. However, if you’re looking for something funky and different to try, Lightner Creek brings perfect sandstone and plenty of slopers to the table. While there may only be bouldering at Lightner Creek, you’ll find deliciously scary routes like the dyno-required Red-Tailed Hawk and Yonder Goes the Light. With the Lightner Creek Campground and Perins Peak nearby, you can flip between bouldering and mountain biking all day before tucking in the sleeping bag.
6. The Golf Wall | 100% Sport Limestone
The Golf Wall has been described as “steep and pumpy” and for good reason. For those looking to up the ante, the Golf Wall poses some of the most difficult limestone routes in the region. The easiest routes, 5.9-5.10, can be found at the aptly named Girl Scout Wall. You’ll find some mid-difficulty routes on the ‘Right Side,” and the biggest challenges at the Country Club Cave. With 45 climbs total, you’ll learn quickly that the bigger the challenge, the greater the scenic reward.
7. Vallecito Crags | Alpine Quartzite
With a refreshing change of pace and a sincere mountain vibe, the Vallecito Crags offer as great of an excuse as any to get out of town. Trad climbers will love quartzite routes on massive rock faces. With an elevation at 9,500’, pay attention to the weather, especially in the summertime. The crags are remote and secluded, which is great as long as you keep safe. Climb the sport 5.11 a/b Centerfold on the Penthouse or ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade,’ a 5.9 trad route on the Vertical Wall. Whatever you do, don’t forget the snacks and take a moment to enjoy the view.
Before venturing out, stop in to one of Durango’s local gear shops for the newest edition of Durango Sandstone, the local guidebook. For those looking for more information and support, visit Rock Lounge, the local climbing gym, or Kling Mountain Guides, for a guided adventure through the southwest.