Climbing Overview: Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

  • Climbing in the park ranges from novice climbs with easy access to difficult technical routes. Most peaks are granite and offer great views in addition to great climbing. Bouldering is plentiful but most climbers come to the park for the summit climbs.
  • Lumpy Ridge is a great climbing area near Estes Park. Start hiking from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, and look for the recognizable Twin Owls rock formation. Choose from routes of three to six pitches. Highest elevation is 10,068 feet, which is low compared to most of the park. Abundant winter sunshine makes this a year-round favorite.
  • The Diamond Face of Longs Peak is considered one of the premier climbs in the park, or anywhere in the country for that matter. The numbers say it all: 1,000 vertical feet of wall, starting at 13,100 feet of elevation with 30 routes ranging from 5.10 to 5.13 in difficulty.
  • Not as famous but right next to Longs Peak is Mount Meeker. Pick a route on the north face and enjoy.
  • Notchtop and Hallet's Peak are also among the most notable of the high altitude peaks. Several routes range from 5.4 to 5.9 for Notchtop and 5.7 to 5.8 for Hallet's Peak.

Rocky Mountain National Park offers a variety of challenging ascents for the climber throughout the year. Rocky Mountain encompasses 113 named peaks over 10,000 feet and 71 over 12,000 feet. The park contains a stretch of legendary high peaks, including Hallett Peak (12,173'), Otis Peak (12,486'), McHenry's Peak (13,327'), Chiefs Head Peak (13,579'), Spearhead (12,575'), Half Mountain (11,482'), and the renowned Longs Peak (14,256'). Some climbers claim that the Diamond cliff of Long's Peak is the best alpine wall in the U.S.

Technical climbs do not require registration either at the trailhead or in advance, but registration is always required for overnight bivouacs. It is your responsibility to leave details about your destination with someone who can report your absence if you happen to be overdue. See a park ranger for information about permits and regulations. Minimum impact climbing techniques are essential to the preservation of this proposed wilderness area. Motorized drills are prohibited to avoid damaged rock, disturbance to raptor habitat, and to eliminate noise from undeveloped areas in the park. Climbers are urged to leave no trace by using brown-colored chalk, neutral colored webbing, and traveling on established trails. Pack out what you pack in, so that others may enjoy their climbing experiences.

High-elevation travel should never be attempted without adequate knowledge or experience. Longs Peak, the highest of the park's 113 named mountains, can be negotiated, during late summer, without technical equipment. The north and east faces are for technical climbing only. Even though technical equipment is not needed, the lengthy climb via the Keyhole route is demanding. The elevation gain is 4,700 feet (1,433 meters) and the 16-mile (26-kilometer) round-trip can take 12 hours. Be sure you are acclimated to high elevations and in good physical condition before you try this rigorous trip. When ascending Longs Peak, as with any climb in Rocky Mountain National Park, be prepared for sudden changes in the weather and start before 6 a.m. to avoid afternoon lightning storms.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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