Before I visited cousins in Arrowhead, Colorado for the New Year 2020, I didn’t know anything about Eldorado Canyon. When discussing what to do on our last day before we fly out, I heard the words “climbing outdoor.” Those words turned my head quickly to say “What!?!?”. Is that possible on a snowy and cold day like today?
Eldorado Canyon State Park Colorado was brought up by one of the cousins. I quickly searched using my Mountain Project app and it was not too far from Boulder. It was kind of on our way back to Denver where we would be flying out. We did not bring along our climbing gear but a trip must be in order since we were so close.
It took us approximately 2.5 hours from Arrowhead to Eldorado Canyon. The temperature in Arrowhead was lingering in the 20s. However, it was a clear day. When we arrived in the Canyon, the temperature was in between the high 50s and low 60s with no snow and very minimal snow residue in sight.
As we arrived closer to the entrance, the sign to Eldorado State Park stated “Full”. We didn’t know what that meant exactly so we drove up to the canyon hoping that we will not be turned away. I didn’t do much research about the canyon by the time we arrived and had no idea what to look for. On top of that, the Park is “Full”. Yipe! I can hear my husband rant and rave in my head “Another one of Ha’s wild goose chase for nothing.”
After a three or four more miles of semi pave road on Eldorado Springs Drive, we arrived around 12:30 pm at the front park entrance. The park ranger said the park was full; however, once a car leave than we can enter. We hung out and took some pictures. We were very lucky. It took about 5 minutes and a car was exiting. The climbing crag was much closer than we thought. After we parked, we hiked less than a mile and saw lots of people climbing off the sides. There are bouldering, sport routes and lots of trad routes at different levels from easy to hard.
History of Eldorado Canyon State Park
Eldorado Canyon State Park located eight miles south of Boulder, CO was selected as one of the Ten State Parks You Can’t Miss by Smarter Travel.com. It offers over five hundred technical rock climbing routes attracting climbers around the world to the “Eldo’s” golden cliffs.
The word “el dorado” means gilded or covered with gold in Spanish. The golden color may refer to the color of the lichen on the cliffs. We can go back way before the 1800s and before the European Settlement when the Ute Native American tribes who were the first visitor of the canyon for its warm springs, health, and spiritual renewal. However, since we are focusing primarily on rock climbing, we will not go back that far. If interested to know more about Eldorado Canyon, please click Eldorado History to learn more.
The first groups of technical climbers came to the canyon in the 1950s. They were called “marmots”. It was named after the rock-dwelling mammals. After many changes of owners, the State of Colorado purchased the canyon in 1978 to preserve the canyon and prevent the previous canyon owner to sell the area for a rock quarry.
Usage Fees and hours
For more detailed information on pricing, please visit or click Eldorado Canyon State Park Website.
Here is a quick synopsis of the Parks Passes:
- Individual Bike In/Walk-In Pass: $4.00
- Vehicle Entry Pass: $9.00
- Annual Pass (Non-transferable): $80.00
Amenities: ADA-compliant, pets on leash allowed, picnic area, restrooms, retail shops, vending and machines.
Activities: Biking, fishing, hiking/backpacking, horseback riding, nature/interpretive trail, rock climbing/rappelling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Park hours: Dawn (1st Light) to Dusk (Last Light). If there is no ranger at the entrance, please use the self-pay station. Accepted forms of payment include exact cash or credit cards.
Park location: 9 Kneale Road, Eldorado Springs, CO 80025
Office Hours: typically 9 am – 5 pm Daily. Please call ahead before visiting to confirm.
Please call ahead to make sure you can get in. Eldorado gets pretty busy during the summer. The park was full when I was visiting and that was January 4, 2020, when the weather was between high 50s and low 60s. When the park is full, the ranger will let you in when a car leaves.
To find out the current condition of the park you can also click ==> Eldorado Park Conditions.
Where to Stay?
Day use only at Eldorado Canyon State Park and not permitted camping after sunset. There are nearby campgrounds (Colorado State Parks, U.S. Forest Service Campgrounds, or Boulder County Fairground) within an hour’s drive of the park. You can find more information on campgrounds by clicking ==> Camping Grounds.
Staying more than a few days and take your time to enjoy the sceneries? What about vacation rentals at Eldorado Springs? Here is a VRBO website to click on and find out the availability of rentals ==> VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner
Eldorado Canyon State Parks is approximately 8 miles south of Boulder, CO so there are plenty of hotels from $60 to $250 to serve your needs.
Where to Climb?
Eldorado Canyon is one of the world’s most famous climbing areas. Its wall of sandstone is up to 700 feet high. The quality of the rock is more of granite than soft sandstone found through Utah and Arizona.
This canyon is known for multi-pitch and mostly traditional or trad climbing where traditional removable gear placement skills are mandatory. There are a few bolted sport routes in the canyon starting at 5.10 and opportunities for top-roping do exist but limited. You do need gear to set up anchor. There is relatively little crack climbing.
There are so many locations in Eldorado Canyon to climb I do not know where to start. I can make a list of different names but it might not mean anything to you until you look into it yourself. I am going to list some names and resources for you to do your research. Otherwise, your eyes may be glazed over with the overwhelming names and data just like mine when I first stumbled across Eldorado Canyon. For this article, my climbing information is from MountainProject.com.
First of all, each crag or also known as a climbing location has multiple walls or a group of walls and each wall has multiple routes. Each wall or group of walls has a name and each route has a name as well as a grade of difficulty. The names can be very interesting…
Here is a list of cliffs or walls for you to check out while at Eldorado Canyon: The Redgarden Wall, The Wind Tower, The Bastille, The West Ridge/Rincon, Cadillac Crag, Shirt Tail Peak, and the Peanuts Walls.
The Redgarden Wall is a few thousand feet wide and the largest cliff at Eldorado Canyon. It has a collection of classic climbing routes. Many of these routes were created in the 1960s by Layton Kor, Pat Ament, and Larry Dalke. It also holds the longest route (multi-pitch) and also offers one pitch climbs as well. The rating of difficulty for the routes on Redgarden Wall varies from 5.4R up to 5.13+, mostly trad climbing with a few sports and top rope. According to MountainProject.com, many people feel that The Yellow Spur (5.9) on Redgarden Wall is the best route in the canyon.
The Wind Tower is a great place to go for beginner climbers as well as some scary 5.10 routes. Meanwhile, the Bastille offers a 350-foot high vertical cliff of very steep climbing. The West Ridge/Rincon contains the base concentration of one pitch routes with different ranges of difficulties.
To learn more details about each of the cliffs or walls, please visit MountainProject.com. They also have a MountainProject App you can download to your phone.
It is helpful to get yourself a guidebook and research the area you would like to climb ahead of time. The internet access is poor in the canyon. Here are a few guidebooks you can find on Amazon:
– Comprehensive Rock Climbing Eldorado Canyon by Richard Rossiter
My Final Thoughts
Even though we didn’t get to climb while we were visiting Eldorado Canyon in Colorado, it was an exciting visit. It gave us goals to achieve. I am not yet an experienced trad climber. Now, I have more reasons to learn trad climbing and get additional trad experiences under my belt.
It was a beautiful clear day with cool temperatures in the low 60s on January 4, 2020. The canyon was filled with climbers and hikers. We enjoyed an epic view of Eldorado Canyon. What really cool was that we didn’t have to hike very far to the climbing spots. Everything was available within less than a mile from the parking lots.
Even though there are several locations for parking, there are still limited spots. Parking fills up very quickly especially during the summer or on a nice day. Call ahead or arrive early. When the parking is full, you will need to wait for a car to exit before you can enter.
Eldorado Canyon is an inspirational place for me to come back to. Too bad for me, there are no mountains in Florida. For now, I will need to practice locally in Tennessee, Georgia, or Alabama. =(
I would love to hear your thoughts on climbing at Eldorado. Have you been there before or would you want to ever visit after reading this article? Any pointers, questions, suggestions, or comments are appreciated. Please leave your thoughts below.