Rocky Mountain Highs: A Guide to Rock Climbing in Denver

By: Will McGough

January 2, 2014

Visitors to Denver will be pleasantly surprised by how far the city has come along as a metropolitan area, but there’s no question that most tourists still come to Colorado for one thing: the Rocky Mountains. And with the foothills only a half-hour drive from downtown Denver, there are many ways to experience them at an entry level. Take a look at our introduction to rock climbing in Denver and start planning your next adventure.

Traditionally, casual tourists stick to hiking, biking, skiing or camping, mostly because they’re familiar activities to those coming from out of town. But people who really want to push their limits should consider trying their hand at one of Colorado’s most adrenaline pumping activities: rock climbing.

Flatirons | Rock Climbing in Denver

The Flatirons rise above Chautauqua Park and serve as a symbol of the city of Boulder © Will McGough

The town of Boulder, north of Denver, is considered one of the top places in the world to rock climb due to its multiple types of rock and beautiful landscape, including the Flatirons rock formations, which, believe it or not, can be climbed by tourists after only a day’s worth of training from Colorado Mountain School. That’s right – you can show up in Colorado not knowing the first thing about rock climbing, and two days later you’re standing at the summit of the gateway to the west.

Rock Climbing in Denver

A guide from the Colorado Mountain School collects slack rope near the summit of the first Flatiron © Will McGough

The entry-level programme for beginner climbers has two parts: a training session in the gym on day one followed by a guided climb outdoors on day two. During the training session, you’ll learn all about the lingo, equipment, strategy and technique of climbing, about figure-eight knots and a friction device called a “belay” that prevent climbers from “decking,” the term for a fall that results in contact with the ground.

Rock Climbing in Denver

The view from the first Flatiron in Boulder © Will McGough

Don’t worry – this won’t happen! There are certainly more extreme climbing techniques and terrains that increase the difficulty and make the sport more dangerous at an advanced level, but the sport isn’t as complicated as one might think at the entry level. Baseball has a tee, bicycles have training wheels, and rock climbing has top-rope climbing, a style which uses an anchor system to prevent the climber from falling, which means you can literally take your hands and feet off the wall and hang. This allows the beginning climber to focus on going up instead of worrying about the growing distance below.

Rock Climbing in Denver

The author reaching the summit of a route in Eldorado Canyon just outside of Boulder © Will McGough

This is an incredible opportunity for visitors to Colorado to not only experience one of the state’s alternative adventure sports, but also to conquer the Rockies in a way they might not have thought possible. If for nothing else, those who enjoy hiking will also enjoy climbing for the reward that comes at the end in the form of a killer view. For more information on pricing and programs, visit Colorado Mountain School’s website.

Written by Will McGough

Visiting Denver has never been easier with our partnership with Delta with daily flights across the Atlantic.

Have you been rock climbing in the Denver area? What tempts you to the Rockies?


Will McGough

Will McGough is a writer focused on all types of travel, from swimming with pigs to parties in ice hotels. He is inspired by the spectrum of ways in which people live their lives in the different parts of the world. He enjoys the idea of waking up every day to new opportunities, new landscapes, and the new feelings that the former inevitably evoke. When not on the road, he makes his home in Denver at the foot of the Rockies, and writes about his adventures on his blog, Wake and Wander (

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