This is by no means an exhaustive list of climbing areas near Denver. If you’re looking for climbing options with good, affordable (or free!) camping, this is a good place to start. These areas will provide you with van-accessible camping options and enough climbing routes in each of them that you’ll be left with a yearning to come back, and they’re right outside of Denver. All of these areas are great for kids as well, with minimal approach times and good amenities.
Location: Shelf Road is located in Cañon City, just a mere 2 Hours and 30 Minutes outside of Denver.
Background: Shelf Road is one of the first sport climbing areas in the US, with development dating back to the early 80s. The area has been developed quite a bit since then, and in terms of accessibility, the density of high-quality sport climbs in the area. Camping, shelf road is the perfect destination for the beginner to an advanced climber, offering a wide range of grades for all skill levels.
Season: Climbing is available here year-round if you follow the sun. When it’s cold out, South West facing walls on a sunny day will be your best friend.
Rock Type: Shelf offers high-quality, vertical, pocketed limestone and enough cliffs to make you blush.
Where to Camp:
There are two main options for dispersed BLM campervan camping on Shelf Road. These areas do not require reservations and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Background: Whether you’re a boulderer, sport climber, or trad dad, RMNP has something to offer everyone. RMNP is one of the most iconic alpine areas in the world with legendary climbs scattered throughout with trailside boulders to deep alpine, all-day trad excursions, and only being 1 hour and 45 minutes from Denver, that’s pretty hard to beat.
Season: Summer is the most ideal time to visit RMNP unless you are looking to dig your piolets into some frozen waterfalls.
Rock Type: Mostly Gneiss and Schist.
Where to Camp:
All National Park Services campgrounds information can be found on their website here. You won’t be able to campervan camp deep in the backcountry, but RMNP is accessible through the town of Estes Park, which offers a multitude of camping options.
Background: Guanella Pass is home to many high-quality boulders if you’re looking to get out for an easy sub-alpine pebble-wrestling trip. With easy access to boulder problems of all grades with minimal approach times, this area makes for a great trip for everyone at the party.
Location: Only a little over an hour from Denver, Guanella Pass is set in an idyllic, quiet area at the base of some gorgeous larger peaks. Take I70 West into Georgetown and follow signs to GP. Your general parking area for 7 Mile Boulders is at these coordinates.
Season: Summer/Early Fall. If you go in Winter…well…you may be snowshoeing over the boulders.
Rock Type: Schist and Gneiss
Where to Camp:
Clear Lake Campground – First-come-first-serve Paid Campground with toilets.
Guanella Pass Campground – Reservation Based Paid Campground with water, toilets, and dumpsters. Reservations can be made here.
High-Altitude Dispersed Camping – First-come-first-serve, unpaid campground. Beware, at high altitudes. Temperatures can drop considerably even in the summer. So check your weather reports!
Background: Vedauwoo is THE crack climbing mecca of the super-front range area, but it is not for the faint of heart, and you may want to add a full number grade or two to any of the grades you see in the guidebook. That being said, it is truly an amazing place to behold if not only for its perplexing landscape. As you drive through miles of high plains in Southern Wyoming, all of a sudden pops up the wondrous Woo. Piles of the strangest rock formations you never expected to see crowding the rolling grasslands. If you plan on climbing, bring your tape and/or crack gloves. You won’t be jamming here without protection…trust me. This spot is perfect for a climbing van trip that isn’t too far from Denver.
Location: Between Cheyenne and Laramie on Route 80 in Southern Wyoming. Right across the border from Colorado in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.
Season: Spring and Fall, but Summer is good too if you don’t mind a little bit of heat. Just climb in the shade!
Rock Type: Crystalline Sherman Granite.
Where to Camp:
Vedauwoo Campground – This paid campground is on a first-come-first-serve basis but offers toilets, water, picnic tables, and very easy access to multiple climbing areas and hiking trails in the park.
Vedauwoo Dispersed Camping – With 97 free designated campsites, it’s hard not to find a spot. All camping is on a first-come-first-served basis, and the dispersed spots do not have running water or restrooms, but there is a vault toilet at the Nautilus parking area at the entrance to the park, and there are streams to acquire filtered water around the park as well.
Background: Carter Lake is an excellent, long-established climbing area just about an hour and 15 minutes van trip from the heart of Denver. It offers some very unique and technical lines that require good skin and footwork. These lines can be tough for the grade and challenge you in ways you won’t expect!
Location: The Reservoir is nestled in the foothills of Berthoud, just outside of Longmont. The bouldering area parking lot is located right at the trailhead that takes you through the boulder field. Some of the problems are off the trail in their own areas, but many are located right on the trail itself.
Rock Type: Sandstone with some texture.
Season: Late Spring/Summer/ Early Fall. Summer days can get quite hot in direct sunlight, so keep that in mind, and some days can be VERY winter in this area due to shifting pressure systems coming right down from the Rockies, which you have a wonderful view of from the climbing areas!
Where to Camp: Carter Lake Campground – This is a reservation-based, paid campground that offers water, toilets and trash bins, showers, and fishing access, and it’s great for kids!
We hope you have an amazing van trip climbing the best spots outside of Denver. For more climbing information, check out our article about our Top 5 Colorado Climbing Crags. Don’t forget to share your adventures with us on social media @Nativecampervans