The Ultimate 64-Hour Weekend: Climb Shelf Road - Backpacker

The Ultimate 64-Hour Weekend: Climb Shelf Road

Trade snowy trails for sunny rock on three day adventure from Denver.
climbing getaway

Photo by: Andrew Magill/Flickr

Published in partnership with Arc'teryx.

When the spring sun starts to shine, it’s high time to give your legs a rest with a campout at the crag. For Denverites, Shelf Road is that sport climbing getaway: The 60- to 100-foot tall limestone cliffs have close to 1,000 bolted routes, in the middle of arid wilderness, less than a 3-hour drive from the city’s bustling downtown. Accessed via a rocky trail system, the climbs’ difficulty ratings range widely from 5.6 to 5.14a, so the area is a go-to for all skill levels. Best of all, the rock basks in tasty spring-like conditions nearly year-round. While summer months reach toastier temperatures—an average high of 86-degress Fahrenheit from June to August—the daytime temperatures dip to the mid-60s from March to May.

Friday: Leave mid-morning to avoid traffic and snag your camp spot at The Banks campground, which provides the closest access to climbing routes ($7 per night; 8 people max; first-come, first-served). Speckled with Juniper shrubs, Pinyon Pine, cholla and prickly pear, the 6,450-foot high desert plateau offers one exquisite birds-eye panorama of the pearl and charcoal-toned gorge. Friday afternoon, squeeze in a few neaby: Check out The Bank Wall, which lines the canyon on the north side of The Bank campsites, or The Dark Side. Overflow option: Drive approximately ¼-mile south to Sand Gulch campground.

Saturday and Sunday: Get vertical to your heart’s content. With more than 150 routes, Cactus Cliff is lined with a huge variety of climbs, sun exposure and wide-open valley views. For an escape from the crowds opt for a short hike (approximately 1 mile) to Menses Prow, which is equipped with both sunny and shade-protected routes.

What To Pack: Dog leash for the pup, sunblock, hat, firewood, water—none available on site.

Be Aware: Rattlesnakes slither in this zone.