Bouldering can be an amazing way to mentally and physically challenge yourself. I would best describe it as climbing at lower heights without a rope. The sport involves very little gear. Ideally, you need a pair of climbing shoes, bag of chalk, and a bouldering pad. It’s best to have a spotter, too! We love it because it’s more social than rope climbing. You can quickly pull together a group of friends – maybe even bring your kids – and hit the great outdoors.
As a beginner to bouldering, it’s important to understand the difficulty ratings. V0-V2 problems are a good place to start, and difficulty goes all the way up to V14. V14…that’s definitely not in my future – ever! 🙂
The following is our list of the best beginner bouldering areas near Denver.
Top 5 Beginner Bouldering Areas Near Denver (From North to South)
1. Carter Lake (Berthoud/Loveland, CO)
Carter Lake is a finger-friendly sandstone bouldering area with mostly moderate climbs and a few decent spots for beginners. Some of the landings can get a little dicey. Mars Wall is the first lower wall when entering from north on the Fawn Hollow Trail. It has a number of V2 routes you can tackle. There are another couple of V0s at the Doughboy Boulder. The Flaky Hooker (V1) is one of our favorite problems in the area.
How to get there: Bouldering is located about an hour away from downtown Denver to the north. Follow I-25 north to CO-56. Take exit 250 for CO-56 and head toward Berthoud. Continue onto CR 8 through Berthoud. Continue north onto CR 23. Turn left onto CR 8e. Turn right onto S CR 31. There is a nice parking area on the right side when the road gets close to the lake. Park here, cross the road, and then you’ll see the boulder to the south all along the shoreline.
2. Mount Sanitas (Boulder, CO)
Sanitas’s bouldering is great for beginners. It has a number of easy problems and good landings. Most problems face to the west (so it’s great for afternoon in the winter and morning in the summer). Mount Sanitas has a lot of V0 to V5 problems.
How to get there: From the Mount Sanitas Trailhead in Boulder (west of Sixth Street on Mapleton Avenue), hike about 15 minutes from the trailhead to the northwest. The first rock will be on your right. The boulders continue up the hill.
3. Flagstaff Mountain (Boulder, CO)
The Monkey Traverse wall, one of the notable problems in the area, faces to the west. It’s best to get there in the morning during the summer and afternoon in the winter. The Monkey Traverse is a fairly strait forward V4, and there are some other simpler problems V1-V3 in the immediate area. The rock is sharp and will definitely chew up your fingers.
How to get there: About 1.5 miles up Flagstaff Road, look for a parking lot on the left side. Park and go south on a well-established trail. It’s a short walk to the Monkey Traverse.
4. Morrison Bouldering (Morrison, CO)
It’s definitely a little overrun, but Morrison is the closest outdoor bouldering place to Denver (about 20 minutes away). Furthermore, it’s a great place to boulder on a winter afternoon. Problems range anywhere from V0 to V11, and they tend to be overhangs. We highly recommend starting out on Nautilus or the Tree Slab (basically directly up from the the main parking area described below)).
How to get there: From C-470, head west on Morrison Road. Right before you enter the Town of Morrison, you’ll see a parking lot on your right side (on the north). Park there and walk up to the rock to the north of you.
5. Castlewood Canyon State Park (Castle Rock, CO)
Castlewood Canyon is a great area to the southeast of the Denver Metro area. Cherry Creek cut out a narrow canyon that holds some of the area’s best climbing and bouldering. The rock varies from crumbly shale to sharpe quartz and sandstone. The easiest problems in the area are in the Fountainbleau Area: Rocket Ship (V1+) and the east slab on Rocket Ship (V0).
How to get there: From the west entrance of Castlewood Canyon State Park, park at the first small lot beyond the Homestead parking lot. Take the trail to the west and hike to the base of the cliff. Follow the cliff to the north (right) end of the wall. The boulders are located about 50 yards below (to the right of) the north end of the wall (aka Grocery Store Walls).
Quick Outdoor Bouldering Fixes in Denver – Man-made Options:
Can’t find time to drive 20 minutes or so to Morrison? You can enjoy a couple nice man-made boulders/walls in the heart of the concrete jungle that is Denver. Two spots we recommend visiting are Greenwood Village’s Westlands Park (the “God’s Hands”) and Denver’s Central Park in Stapleton. Central Park in Stapleton has a 30-foot long, 8-12 foot tall, artificial rock wall that is padded at the bottom with wood chips.
Other Well-known Bouldering Locations Worth Exploring Near Denver:
- Horsetooth Reservoir (Fort Collins)
- Boulder Canyon (Boulder)
- Flatirons (Boulder)
- Eldorado Canyon (Boulder)
- Terrain Boulders (Boulder)
- Aldefer/Three Sisters Park (Evergreen)
- Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs)
Beginner’s Guide to Bouldering Basics
Chalk keeps your hands dry. We suggest using it sparingly. If you see chalk on boulders while you’re hiking, it’s a telltale sign you’re in a decent bouldering area.
2. Boudering Pad
You don’t necessarily need a bouldering pad, but it’s definitely worth the investment in your body. Pads greatly reduce the chance of injury. Bouldering pads will help out your knees, foot, ankle, and back and are highly recommended.
As a spotter, you want to prevent the person/boulderer from hitting their head, while trying to get them to fall on the bouldering pad. Don’t try to prevent the boulderer from hitting the ground. Instead, try to gently and artfully guide the person to the best fall zone.
4. Bouldering Shoes
Your climbing shoes should be snug. Leather shoes stretch out, so remember to get a tight fitting shoe from the store. However, you don’t want your shoes to be too tight. I’ve made that mistake a couple of times and ended up regretting having black and lost toe nails.
Do you know of a bouldering location near Denver that are worth sharing? Help us help others by commenting below.