Climbing in Clear Creek Canyon

Over the last few decades climbing on rock, and more scarily to this CCLC member, ice, has become a popular year-round activity in Clear Creek Canyon.  Thirty years ago, the Canyon was almost all private land with rock climbing and any other access strictly prohibited.  As Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) has acquired the entire inner gorge, and climbing became allowed, the canyon has become a rapidly expanding local climbing mecca.  Now there are several climbing guides to the area and “Rock Climbing in Clear Creek Canyon”by Kevin Capps is in its second edition.  Over 1,100 routes from one to six pitches and of all difficulties have been described.

Climbing is mainly on Precambrian gneiss and small granite bodies in the inner gorge’s narrow, relatively unfractured sections, concentrated at the Oxbow by tunnel 5 where CCLC holds a conservation easement, by tunnels 2 and 3, and on the south side cliffs at the canyon mouth above the Welch Ditch.  Cliffs on the north side of Mt. Zion are also in use.  When you see cars parked along Highway 6 and people walking along the road shoulder, these days it is more likely that they are climbers than fishermen.

As JCOS further develops the Peaks to Plains trail with its attendant parking lots, climbing access will be improved, and the current dangerous roadside parking will be restricted.  Most routes are accessed from creek level, but higher routes have been pioneered that are accessed from the Beaver Brook trail.  You may have seen permanent climbing protection bolts on rocks below popular overlooks along the trail.  While CCLC and other landowners are protected from liability by Colorado’s Recreational Use Statute (C.R.S. §33-41-101, et seq.), it may someday become necessary for the landowners along the trail to make some management decisions if use and attendant impacts become more prevalent. What do you think about climbing access from the Beaver Brook trail?  Send your thoughts to info@clearcreeklandconservancy.organd be part of the conversation!