The Gunnison Country offers up some of the most diverse rock climbing in Colorado. Desert granite, alpine limestone, and one of most spectacular and foreboding canyons in the country are all within an easy drive of one another.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Climbing
There is a lot to be said about the Black Canyon, but only by being in it can you truly appreciate its immense and staggering power. The river provides a constant soundtrack of white noise and the black walls tower above, deep in the belly of the earth. Routes here stretch multiple pitches up 2000 feet of often loose granite.
There are boundless potential climbing spots in the Black Canyon, but some of the classic areas are North Chasm View Wall, The Painted Wall, and Checkerboard Wall. Access to these areas are located along the North Rim of the Black Canyon and down steep boulder-chocked gullies until you reach the bottom.
The shoulder seasons are often the best times to visit the Black Canyon for rock climbing especially if you’re on the way out to Moab anyway. April and May are great because the poison ivy hasn’t sprouted yet, but bluebird fall days with the sun on your shoulders last from September to November
This place deserves respect and is not a beginner or even intermediate climbing area. That being said there are several guide services in Gunnison-Crested Butte that are permitted to lead trips into the Black Canyon National Park. Groups that want to scope out the classics are recommended to have a guidebook, a versatile rack, and the mental fortitude to spend the night out if they need to.
Hartman Rocks Climbing
Hartman Rocks often draws comparisons to Joshua Tree from well-seasoned climbers who live or visit. This sculpted paradise of granite lies just outside the Gunnison city limits, and its not unlikely for residents to ride their bikes to the crags just to go for a ride after. That’s right, Hartman Rocks is also a world-class mountain biking destination.
Top-rope, sport, and trad routes run the gamut from beginner to professional. Spectacular bouldering clustered around the main walls are a great way to spend a sunny afternoon with a few friends, crash pads, and a dog or two. Beginners should check out the aptly named “Beginner Slabs” or the “Pinnacle Gully.” If you only have a little bit of time to climb at Hartman Rocks then try out the “Quintessential Pinnacle” for a tried and true Gunnison classic. For more beta stop by Rock and Roll Sports on US 50 while you’re coming through town.
Taylor Canyon rock climbing lies at the multi-sport heart of Gunnison County. The most popular crags are located within a quarter mile of the paddling takeout for the Upper Taylor, the exit of Doctor’s Park mountain bike trail, and superb trout fishing.
First and Second Buttress are just two of several climbing areas in Taylor Canyon. Located just past Harmel’s Ranch and just before South Bank takeout, its hard to miss this towering set of cliffs from the road. If you’re looking to meet up with fellow climbers your chances are high that several groups will be staying in one of the two campgrounds within walking distance of the routes.
If Taylor Canyon is crowded or if you’re looking for a little more adventure then you have to check out Spring Creek. In a 5 mile stretch of improved dirt road there are over 24 developed walls, towers, and crags. Some are within easy reach of your parking spot, while others require tedious exploration of the gullies and crevices stretching down to the road.
As you reach Harmel’s in the Taylor Canyon be on the lookout for Spring Creek Rd (FSR 744). There are lots of possibilities to explore as Spring Creek slithers down a long granite canyon. Almost all established routes here are traditional and there is lot of loose rock around. Check out the Spring Creek Spire, it’s the most prominent rock feature as you drive through the canyon.
The main crag at Cement Creek can be seen as you drive from Gunnison to Crested Butte. The Caves is an outcropping of pockmarked limestone that features top-rope and sport routes. Further up Cement Creek are two more crags, Disco Inferno and Anarchy Wall. Anarchy Wall is easily visible from the road around mile 4 and a large parking/turnaround exists below.
Upper Loop Boulders
The Upper Loop boulders can also be spotted from Highway 135 if you have a keen eye for rock. They are located along the base of Mt. Crested Butte above the Skyland neighborhood, and you can access them from town by following Tony’s Trail up to Upper Loop. Check in at the Alpineer in Crested Butte if you want more information about specific routes.
Lost Canyon Road
Lost Canyon Road is a classic Gunnison bouldering area and sees a lot of local traffic after work and between classes. The routes range from 10-20 feet and feature numerous holds which makes it great for climbers just getting into the sport. Local talent has exceeded the difficulty of Lost Canyon so harder routes have certain holds that are off limits. To get there turn onto County Rd. 10 as you drive north out of Gunnison. Turn onto Lost Canyon Rd. and follow it until you reach the obvious sandstone outcropping.
Rock Climbing Guide Services
Crested Butte Mountain Guides
Scenic River Tours
Adaptive Sports Center
Rock Climbing Guide Books
Gunnison Rock by Leo Malloy