A short drive north of Cañon City on County Road 9 will lead you to some of the best, most challenging rock climbing in Colorado. Head to the popular Shelf Road Climbing Area where you’ll find hundreds of quality sport routes on quality, vertical limestone. Spring and autumn are the best seasons to climb, but even in the heat of summer, there are routes that offer shade. A sport climber’s paradise, Shelf Road is a great location off the beaten path but close enough to town to enjoy a great meal and a cold drink at the end of the day.
The following are Shelf Road’s largest climbing areas and also the most popular.
The Bank is an area with a very large concentration of climbs with ratings from 5.9 to 5.13, many in the 11-12 range. Some of the best climbing at Shelf is found on the southern section of the right side of the bank on walls called 2150 Wall, Back to the Future Wall, and Surreal Estate Wall.
Getting There: Park at the lot outside the Bank Campground and use the road to begin access to any of the Bank’s wall.
Cactus Cliff faces South-Southwest, gets great sun, and can be climbed most of the year. The rock is typical of Shelf Road in general and is like The Gallery. Cactus cliff is often considered the most well-rounded sport crag in Colorado as it includes at least one route of every grade from 5.7 to 5.14a.
Getting there: Park in the newly expanded parking area at The Bank Campground and take the trail leading to Cactus Cliffs from The Bank. This is the fastest, most convenient way to approach the area.
The Gallery is visible to the west of the Sand Gulch Campground and consists of three walls—The Far Side, The Menses Prow, and The Mural Wall.
The Menses Prow includes the prow proper as well as the Bulge Wall around the corner. Both this area and the Mural Wall have high concentrations of quality routes on good rock. Ratings run from 5.7 to 5.13, most routes in the 10-12 range. You can find morning shade on Mural Wall and Bulge Wall and afternoon shade at the Far Side.
Getting there: Park at the Sand Gulch campground and follow the trail that begins between campsites #9 and #10. Follow this trail for 2 minutes downhill to a wash, cross the wash, and arrive at the old Gallery parking area.
Sand Gulch is yet another top-notch Shelf crag, known particularly for its outstanding collection of moderates. The cliffs here are taller and more monolithic than most, offering long, continuous routes of impressive quality. Routes range in difficulty from ~5.8 to 5.12b. The various cliffs that comprise the Gulch face in various directions make it possible to chase sun or shade at any time of day.
Getting there: Park at the loop at the end of the Sand Gulch Campground road. A trail departs from the north end of this loo, and quickly drops into the sandy wash that flows from the mouth of the gulch. Trails for the Contest Wall and the Free Form Wall lead from this wash.
- Know the rules and regulations of an area
- Always use durable surfaces in climbing areas
- Dispose of human waste in 6-8″ catholes or pack it out
- Pack it in, pack it out
- Minimize the use of chalk and clean up spills.
- Learn about seasonal raptor closures
- Keep dogs under control and don’t monopolize a climb
- Minimize your impact and don’t jeopardize crag access