Discover One of Colorado’s Most Stunning Climbing Destinations
Head to the West End for a truly unforgettable climbing getaway. Photo Credit: Metro Newspaper Service
The fragile desert landscape that defines Colorado’s West End, a rural and historic region along Colorado’s Western Slope, is home to wildlife, unparalleled views, and dramatic red rock canyons. From dinosaurs to ancient native peoples, from miners to contemporary recreationalists, this unique corner of Colorado has always drawn those in search of the road less traveled and other-worldly landscapes.
This Colorado destination is also home to some of Colorado’s most storied climbing routes. Whether you’re into bouldering, sport climbing, or crack climbing, there’s truly something in this remote destination for every climber, including those with less experience. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite hidden gem crags, but the remote nature of the areas makes it admittedly difficult to describe how to get there! If you’re feeling up for an early fall adventure, grab a map, your harness, your high clearance vehicle, and your tent, and head to the West End for a truly unforgettable climbing getaway.
Sport Climbing and Crack Climbing
Expect to find sport climbs and crack climbs in this remote desert destination. The grades range from 5.9 and under to 5.12 and harder. If you bring your camera, you’re guaranteed to get one of those iconic “climber-on-the-wall” shots.
Getting there: The easiest way to get to the crags is to begin at Basin, a tiny community off of Highway 141 between Naturita and Norwood. Follow Road U29 westward for about 15 miles until you reach the intersection of 16Z. Turn left and follow the road for about 3.8 miles to a pullout on left, the most popular camping spot on this BLM land. Note that the road is rough and a high clearance, 4×4 vehicle is necessary for this drive.
2. Atomic Energy Crag
With over 35 routes and extensive opportunities for bouldering in addition to the sport and crack climbs, Atomic Energy Crag is a local favorite. The Dakota sandstone rock can get hot in the summer, but this crag has been frequented since the 1980s when the first bolted routes were established.
Getting there: This crag can be found off of the EE22 Road in Paradox, Colorado. Bring a map and plenty of water because cell service is sparse out here!
3. Psycho Tower
This 200-foot Windgate sandstone tower rises dramatically along the Black Wall. The scenic crag is a good choice into late fall because it often remains warmer here than in other nearby destinations and there’s a campground nearby, about a half-mile beyond the Psycho Tower parking area.
There are three routes up this wild tower ascent: Psycho-Path, Nameless Face, and The Bear. Psycho-Path is rated as a 5.9 route, while Nameless Face is a 5.11, and The Bear is 5.10+ with a crack at the start.
Getting there: Follow Road 20R for about 12 miles from the intersection with Highway 141.
The best bouldering and camping in the West End are along Long Park Road, also known as EE22 Road. High quality rock, stunning landscapes, and protected terrain make this destination amongst the best bouldering destinations in Colorado. It’s also much more accessible than some of the more remote, larger crags, so it’s perfect for a shorter getaway or for a family adventure.
1. Bitter Creek – Garden Boulders
This is one of the most secluded and beautiful bouldering spots in the West End. Park at the top of the hill on Road 4044 and hike up to the boulders just north of the road. This is a great adventure for both beginner and expert climbers alike.
2. Bitter Edge
Another excellent bouldering spot along Long Park Road, expect to find short climbs in addition to the boulder and great camping right by the boulders.
3. Dead Log Area
This popular spot that can be seen easily from Road EE22 has plenty of boulder and top-roping on small cliffs and some of the larger boulders. You’ll also find great camping here as well.
4. Bitter South
Located southeast of the Dead Log Area, the Bitter South bouldering area features pebbly rock and good camping in perfect proximity to the boulders. Sounds like the perfect spot for a sunrise climb!
For more information about specific routes and crags, seek out Charlie Fowler’s guidebook, “The Wild Wild West“, one of the most comprehensive guides to climbing in the West End. Additionally, the Unaweep-Tabeguche Interpretive Visitor Center in Naturita, Colorado is a great resource for everything you need to know about exploring the West End. Always bring a handheld map or satellite GPS as well as plenty of water and supplies to these kinds of remote areas because cell service can be spotty. Enjoy the adventure!