Best Beginner Sport Crags in Colorado's Front Range

"Sport climbing is neither." !?!?!?

BAH! Sport climbing is your first jaunt on the sharp end, and it can be quite daunting. As in toproping, Colorado’s Front Range has a ton of options for the beginning or intermediate sport climber, but when you're new (and scared!) it can be difficult to know which are the best crags with the best number of moderate routes. Well, here they are!

These crags are sure to help you transition from the gym to outside, gain confidence in climbing outside, and meet other new climbers. I've listed these not in the order of quality or number of routes, but more or less in the order you probably want to explore them on your journey to becoming a  sport climber.

Be prepared to queue up on the popular routes on warm weekends, regardless of season. New climbers - please read these tips on being a safe and considerate climber, and make sure you've read all the beta for the crag and routes on mountainproject.com!

1. East Colfax
Clear Creek Canyon

Normally the psyche isn't high for spending a day on East Colfax, unless it's the East Colfax crag in Clear Creek! This is without a doubt the best crag really close to Denver/Boulder to take new sport climbers. Get your very first lead tick on For the Children or For the Grandchilden, then work your way up to the fun overhangs on the namesake route and Hunting Party. And join Val and I for our tradition of climbing Steve's Turkey Day (5.7) on Thanksgiving! This place gets packed on weekends, so get there early. PLEASE limit your group to 4 or less climbers, 1 route at a time, and follow the tips on being a safe and considerate climber

Routes: 25 single-pitch 1 2-pitch , 5.4 - 5.11, average 5.6, good number of 5.11
Bring: 60m rope, 12 draws + anchor
Mountainproject: 1) East Colfax guide. 2) Clear Creek Canyon area. 
Guidebook: Rock Climbing Clear Creek Canyon, Kevin Capps & Matt Lloyd, Fixed Pin Publishing.

2. Catslab
Clear Creek Canyon

We're in Clear Creek, so we'll mention the other two popular crags to take beginners. When East Colfax and Canal Zone are packed, head on down to Catslab. There's 11 sport routes here from 5.4 - 5.11. There's a couple longer ones here that work well for a 70m rope. This one also gets pretty popular early. PLEASE limit your group to 4 or less climbers, 1 route at a time, and follow the tips on being a safe and considerate climber

Routes:  11 single-pitch, 5.4 - 5.11, average 5.10
Bring: 70m rope, 14 draws + anchor
Mountainproject: 1) Catslab guide. 2) Clear Creek Canyon area. 
Guidebook: Rock Climbing Clear Creek Canyon, Kevin Capps & Matt Lloyd, Fixed Pin Publishing.

3. Canal Zone
Clear Creek Canyon

Canal Zone rounds out the top 3 sport crags for beginners in Clear Creek. This one is closest to Golden and has the biggest parking lot, but also fills up quickest on weekends. PLEASE limit your group to 4 or less climbers, 1 route at a time, and follow the tips on being a safe and considerate climber! Canal Zone's got some shorter routes with an average higher grade than the other two Clear Creek crags mentioned here. 

Routes: 20 single-pitch, 5.8 - 5.11, average 5.10
Bring: 60m rope, 10 draws + anchor
Mountainproject1) Canal Zone guide. 2) Clear Creek Canyon area. 
Guidebook: Rock Climbing Clear Creek Canyon, Kevin Capps & Matt Lloyd, Fixed Pin Publishing. 

4. Radio Head, Devil's Head
South Platte

Looking for something good outside of Clear Creek? Devil's Head is a newly developed area in the Rampart Range area of South Platte that's getting a lot of attention. There's a lot to explore here, but Radio Head is a good place to start with 30 routes from 5.7 - 5.13 and a bit of something for everyone. There's some amazing views here with quality routes to match. Since there's a lot of new granite here the friction is really high, something you'd be hard-pressed to find on the other spots on this list! 

Routes: 100+ single-pitch, 5.7 - 5.12, average 5.10 - 5.11 but also a good number of easier moderates
Bring: 60m rope, 12 draws + anchor
Mountainproject: 1) Radio Head guide. 2) Devil's Head Area.
Guidebook: South Platte Climbing: The Northern Volume, Jason Haas, Fixed Pin Publishing.

5. The Bank
Shelf Road

If you're willing to make the drive south to Canon City and challenge your new leading abilities, many people consider Shelf Road to have some of the best sport climbing in Colorado and The Bank has a ton to offer. This place gets really hot in the summer, so winter, spring, and fall are the primary times to climb. 

Routes: 100+ single-pitch, 5.7 - 5.12, average 5.10 - 5.11 but also a good number of easier moderates
Bring: 60m rope, 12 draws + anchor
Mountainproject: 1) The Bank guide. 2) Shelf Road Area.
Guidebook: Shelf Road Climbing, Bob D'Antonio. 

6. (BONUS) Bihedral
Boulder Canyon

Ready to tackle something slightly more adventurous? The Bihedral at Boulder Canyon has about 50-60 sport and mixed routes waiting for you. No, the mixed doesn't mean rock+ice, it's bolted routes where you'll want to place a cam or nuts for extra pro. So now that you're getting comfortable with sport leading, Bihedral can be a good place to ease into trad climbing and placing pro. But there's also plenty of regular bolted routes too. This area can get crowded, though not as bad as Clear Creek. 

Routes: 60 single-pitch, 5.6 - 5.11, average 5.9
Bring: 60m rope, 12 draws + anchor, basic trad rack
Mountainproject: 1) Bihedral area. 2) Boulder Canyon Area.
Guidebook: Boulder Canyon Rock Climbs, Bob D'Antonio, Wolverine Publishing. 

 

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