Skip to content

Breaking News

Jeremy Fields and Piper Musmanno climb in the Ouray Ice Park. The ice park is one of the best places around to learn to ice climb.
Jeremy Fields and Piper Musmanno climb in the Ouray Ice Park. The ice park is one of the best places around to learn to ice climb.

Get iced

For a little online help with where to go, seek out “CO Ice & Mixed” on .

And since ice climbing really is dangerous, get some instruction — the Colorado Mountain School and CU’s Outdoor Program have courses through the winter.

For RMNP ice conditions reports, check and ; for the park plus other destinations, check and the Mountain Project forums.

Disclaimer: Ice climbing is kinda sketchy and dangerous.

But if you’re foolish enough to want to try it anyway, welcome to the fun club. Let’s get you started.

The Ouray Ice Park is one of the best places anywhere to get started climbing ice, and the University of Colorado’s Outdoor Program runs trips there on the first weekends of February and March this winter. The park offers plentiful ice with a short approach. Those approaches are quicker with a car, but it’s not required — if you stay in town, it’s easy to walk into the park. The park’s upper reaches, like the moderate ice in a section of the canyon dubbed South Park, will be a longer hike. But even a trek to the far end of the park will feel reasonable compared to many of the approaches to ice in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ouray’s great for a long weekend, but if you don’t have the time, there are several day-trippable options from the Front Range. Check out some of these hot spots to take a newbie friend or get an experienced pal to show you the joy of the ridiculousness of ice climbing:

Hidden Falls

Wild Basin, Rocky Mountain National Park

As one of the closest frozen falls to Boulder, and as one with a shorter approach than any other ice in Rocky Mountain National Park, Hidden Falls suffers a bit from its popularity.

It’s still super fun to hook your way up the climbs there, though. Just get up early to ensure your access to the ice — oftentimes on weekends, the crag’s full if you arrive late.

The bonus beauty of Hidden Falls — if you get there early enough — for beginner ice climbers is that you can easily walk around to the top of the cliff to set up a toprope. And if you’re just getting onto the sharp end with ice, you can do a short, low-stress lead on the left side of the falls.

Get there: From Allenspark, take Colo. 7 (the Peak to Peak Highway) north about two miles to the turn (west, left) toward the Wild Basin ranger station and trailhead.

Park at the end of the road and hike the rest of the way — it’s gated in the winter — on the road to the trailhead. Keep an eye out for ice on your left as you pass signs for Copeland Falls, then cross the stream (carefully!) and follow what is likely a well-beaten path to Hidden Falls.

Loch Vale Gorge

Loch Vale, Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’d like to sample a little bit of everything, Loch Vale Gorge is an entertaining place to spend a day. From the (sometimes — depends on conditions) fat flow down the gully to drytooling classics like Mixed Feelings (WI4 M4), the only thing missing is multi-pitch ice… which you can get plenty of elsewhere in the park, if and when you’re more experienced.

New mixed climbers: Set up a toprope on the right side of the cliff to test your tools on thin smears and mossy ledges. For more experienced climbers, bring a little rock pro and take a stab at Mixed Feelings.

Get there: Park at the Glacier Gorge parking lot, on the Bear Lake Road in RMNP. The quickest route is to take the (unmarked, unmaintained but usually well traveled) winter trail to the junction of Glacier Gorge and Loch Vale. From the junction, head toward The Loch, descend to the creek before the first switchback and cross the creek to reach the ice.

Silver Plume

West of Silver Plume

What Silver Plume lacks in wilderness aesthetics — you can see it from I-70 — it makes up for in convenience, especially for those seeking out easy climbing. The drive isn’t bad, the approach is short, and the climbs max out at WI3.

You could even stop in for a few routes before or after skiing further up I-70.

Get there: Exit I-70 at Silver Plume and take Water Street west out of town to the ice, just beyond old mining structures.

Lincoln Falls

Between Alma and Breckenridge

Flowing off the lower flanks of fourteener Mount Lincoln, Lincoln Falls will easily provide a full-day outing — if you don’t mind the two-hour drive from Boulder.

It’s worth the trip, though, especially if you’re getting out to the national park often and want a change of pace.

The main area at Lincoln has two-pitch lines that usually come in on the early side of the season. Love drytooling? Lincoln has several mixed climbs in the neighborhood of M5/M6.

Get there: To avoid ski traffic, try taking U.S. 285 to Fairplay, then take Colo. 9 past Alma. Before Hoosier Pass, follow a dirt road west to Montgomery Reservoir. The ice will be visible across the reservoir, up a scree slope.

Boulder Canyon

East of Nederland

As the closest ice to Boulder, the ice near BoCan’s Castle Rock gets a little, ahem, over-loved.

There’s no glorifying it. But for a quick thwack before or after class, you can’t beat the backyard ice.

Bo Can’s ice usually doesn’t come in until January, so now that winter’s getting serious, drive by and check to see whether it’s in — it’s visible from the road.

Get there: For the Lower Falls, park at Castle Rock, cross Boulder Creek and head up canyon toward the ice.