Colorado’s mountains, cliffs, and rugged landscapes aren’t just for summer adventures; ice-clad and frozen, they offer thrill seekers a unique winter adventure. Ice climbing, an exhilarating activity that combines strength, skill, and connection with nature, is abundant in the frozen waterfalls and cliffs of the Centennial State. In this guide, we’ll explore the 10 best ice climbing spots in Colorado, each offering a unique blend of stunning vistas and challenging ascents.
1. Ouray Ice Park – Ouray, CO
Known as the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray boasts one of the world’s premier ice-climbing destinations. The Ouray Ice Park, the world’s largest man-made ice climbing venue, features over 200 ice and mixed climbs over the Uncompahgre Gorge. From beginner-friendly routes to challenging vertical ascents, the park caters to all skill levels. To create the ice park, the gorge’s canyon walls are irrigated with overflow water from the City of Ouray. The ice park does not offer guide services or gear rentals, but visitors may hire an outside guide service for their visit.
The Ouray Ice Park also hosts the All In Ice Fest and the Ouray Ice Festival & Competition. The Ice Fest is a climbing festival spanning 3 days, intended to connect the climbing community and promote access to climbing opportunities and the outdoors. The Festival & Competition, also a 3-day event, celebrates ice climbing with clinics, vendors, presentations, and dance parties.
2. Bridal Veil Falls – Telluride, CO
Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride is Colorado’s tallest free-falling waterfall and transforms into a mesmerizing ice climb during the winter. Accessible by a scenic hike or by skiing, the falls offer a variety of routes catering to different skill levels.
Another popular and incredibly difficult ice climb nearby is the iconic Ames Ice Hose. This challenging vertical route is a favorite among experienced climbers and begins at the lower Ames Falls.
3. Lake City Ice Park – Lake City, CO
In the San Juan Mountains, the Lake City Ice Park is a well-kept secret among ice climbers. This secluded area offers three ice-climbing areas with 75 different routes, hosting a range of climbs for beginners through experts. The Ice Park provides a serene and less crowded alternative for those seeking an ice-climbing experience. Visitors may also enlist third party guides athird-partyrs for their Lake City Ice Park experience.
The Lake City Ice Park hosts an ice climbing festival with competitions in several ice climbing categories.
4. Lincoln Falls – Independence Pass, CO
Nestled in the stunning Independence Pass and on the face of Mount Lincoln, Lincoln Falls is a mecca for ice climbers seeking challenging multi-pitch routes. Its natural formations and breathtaking surroundings provide an immersive alpine experience. To access the area, hike the road along the reservoir, turning onto a trail that leads to the base of the falls.
Climber routes vary in difficulty and offer mixed and ice climbing. Top routes include Center Flow Slab, Jensen’s Crack, and Main Flow Right.
5. The Ribbon – East Vail, CO
East Vail’s The Ribbon is a classic ice climb with a stunning aesthetic. This wide, flowing ice feature does not form every year, but when it does, it reaps an amazing Colorado ice-climbing opportunity. The ribbon allows climbers to choose their line, making it suitable for varying skill levels, yet can prove difficult due to its length and the time it takes to climb. The Ribbon is not only a favorite among locals but also draws ice climbers from around the region who appreciate its versatility and challenging ice conditions.
6. Horsetail Falls – Telluride, CO
Horsetail Falls in Telluride is a breathtaking ice-climbing location known for its beauty and technical challenges. The route offers a mix of steep pitches of ice and mixed climbing, and it should be only undertaken by experienced climbers. The backdrop of the San Juan Mountains adds an extra layer of grandeur to this already spectacular climbing spot. This climb is also in view of an overlook, allowing friends or other visitors to observe
6. Loch Vale – Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Rocky Mountain National Park is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, and during winter, Loch Vale transforms into an ice-climbing paradise. With a variety of routes ranging from moderate to advanced and opportunities to conquer mixed climbs, free hangs, top ropes, and sheer ice, climbers can enjoy a wide variety of climbs in an unbeatable alpine setting.
7. Cascade Canyon – Durango, CO
Durango offers a fun and scenic opportunity for ice climbers at Cascade Canyon, located within the San Juan Mountains. Cascade Canyon represents several waterfalls connected by a hiking trail and climbing routes of mixed and ice pitches.
This off-the-beaten-path location provides a secluded and peaceful ice-climbing experience. The frozen waterfalls in Cascade Canyon vary in difficulty, catering to both beginners and seasoned climbers. The area is known for its natural beauty, with the icy cascades surrounded by snow-covered evergreens reaping stunning views.
8. Eureka – Silverton, CO
For those seeking a more remote and challenging ice climbing experience, Eureka in Silverton, just south of Ouray, is a top choice. Accessed through a stunning alpine approach, Eureka offers a range of routes, including steep ice walls and mixed climbs.
Eureka is also a former mining town, that became a ghost town in 1938 when its mill closed. Today, its mountains and outdoor opportunities, including backcountry and cross-country skiing, represent Eureka’s greatest assets. The Eurek campground also hosts an ice climbing hut, offering bunks for climbers and a wood burning stove.
9. Lime Creek – Durango, CO
Lime Creek, situated just north of Durango, boasts a variety of ice climbing opportunities. The canyon is a favorite among locals for its easily accessible frozen waterfalls and mixed routes. Lime Creek provides an excellent playground for climbers looking to hone their skills in a less crowded and serene setting.
10. Hidden Falls – Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
Hidden Falls, another exciting climb in Rocky Mountain National Park is an 85-foot-tall climb and an easier climb ideal for beginners. The climb offers a ledge after 15 feet, then leading to a steep column and an easy finish and exit.
Colorado’s diverse and stunning landscapes provide an extraordinary playground for ice climbers of all levels. From the iconic Ouray Ice Park to the remote routes around Silverton, each ice climbing spot offers a unique adventure against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
Whether a seasoned climber or a beginner eager to learn, Colorado’s waterfalls and cliffsides invite climbers to ascend frozen waterfalls, navigate challenging routes, and enjoy the wonderful winter vistas. Enjoy the best of climbing in the winter months, and we can’t wait to welcome you back to our thrilling Granite Via Ferrata or Mount Blue Sky Via Ferrata courses in the spring!