Experience Incredible Outdoor Climbing Adventures At This Western US State Park

El Dorado Canyon State Park is conveniently located near Boulder and Denver, making it easily accessible for city-based climbers. The park's stunning natural beauty and diverse climbing routes make it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts in Colorado and nationwide. To get to the park from Denver, take US-36 West to Boulder, then follow CO-170 South towards El Dorado Springs. Once in town, look for signs directing you to El Dorado Canyon State Park.

A reservation is required to enter the park on weekends and over the park's busy summer season between May and September. Reservations can be made on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website. Along with your reservation, you must pay a $10 vehicle fee and a $4 individual pass to enter or use your Keep Colorado Wild Parks pass. A free weekend and holiday shuttle service is also available throughout the summer to bring travelers in from areas around Boulder, which doesn't require a reservation. Parking is limited to 220 spots, so it's best to arrive early or take the shuttle if possible.

In addition to entrance fees, any commercial activities require permits. This includes any photography, rock climbing instruction, or placing or removing fixed hardware for sport climbing. The park offers some of the best sandstone climbing in the United States, with over 500 routes to choose from. For experienced climbers looking to master certain climbing skills, area instructors offer classes and guided climbs.

Traditional climbing for all skill levels

Whether you're a beginner or an advanced climber, El Dorado Canyon State Park offers routes with various difficulty levels, often rated using the Yosemite Decimal System. You can find traditional routes ranging from easier 5.0 climbs to 5.15a routes that test all your rock climbing techniques. Climbers can try their hand at multi-pitch routes on Redgarden Wall, a rock face on El Dorado Mountain, the park's highest peak.

According to the Mountain Project, Redgardens Wall's routes set El Dorado Canyon apart from other climbing areas. With over 300 climbs in the sections of the Redgarden Wall, climbers can find moderate routes like Swanson's Arete (5.5) up to difficult routes like C'est La Vie (5.11). Climbing access trails are marked by signs, but climbers should bring a guidebook for more detailed information on specific routes and ratings. Be sure to check for seasonal and other closures. Wildlife closures are typically in effect in the area from February to late July. 

The Naked Edge is another classic traditional climb in the Redgarden's Tower Two section. This 6-pitch route offers a mix of face and crack climbing, with the crux coming at pitch 5. The 5.11b climb is challenging for experienced climbers, with exposure and runout sections to test their skills.

Rock types and sport climbing routes

The geology of El Dorado Canyon State Park is incredibly diverse, offering climbers a variety of formations and route types to explore. One of the most prominent rock types in the park, Fountain Sandstone, provides excellent friction for climbing. You'll find classic routes like Yellow Spur (5.9) on this type of rock as well as routes in Redgarden and Bastille.

The park's rock faces offer an array of challenges and multi-pitch routes. Sport climbers can lead or top rope using bolts placed into the rock for protection rather than traditional gear, and boulderers can hone their skills at a lower height without the need for ropes. The Bastille, a colossal sandstone formation, offers some of the park's toughest traditional and sport routes. Experienced climbers can take on the popular Bastille Crack 5.7 route to test their skills.

On the Bastille's west face, Sunset Boulevard is a 5.11b sport route that offers a challenging and picturesque climb. In the Peanut Walls section of the park, tricky sport climbs like the 5.11c Air Guitar and 5.11c Sunrider offer challenging and technical routes for experienced climbers. In addition to traditional and sport climbs El Dorado Canyon State Park also offers opportunities for bouldering, a form of climbing without ropes on shorter rock formations. With around 146 bouldering routes around the West World, Gill Boulder, and Milton Boulder areas, boulderers can find routes ranging from V0 to V13.