Weekend Getaway | Sport Climbing at Shelf Road

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A weekend getaway is sometimes just what you need to keep your weekend warrior sanity.

Hiking into the Vault at Shelf Road
Christian, Amber and Derek hiking into the Vault at Shelf Road

This past weekend, Christian and I jumped into the car with Savannah and headed down for a two-day weekend adventure on the Shelf Road limestone sport climbing cliffs located just outside of Canon City. We met up with two new climbing partners and spent Saturday at the Vault. We expected to find crowds of climbers and burning sunshine. Instead, we were greeted with a photogenic blanket of clouds and a crag all to ourselves. It’s amazing that on a super crowded weekend, when every single campsite was taken and every single parking lot was overflowing, we were still able to find a peaceful crag all to ourselves.

Gem Wall rock climbing at Shelf Road.
Derek working his project at the Gem Wall.

On Sunday, three of us headed up to Freeform wall at Sand gulch. Christian had his eye on the wall’s name sake, Freeform. There, we found barking dogs, crying babies, and climbers of every experience and skill level. In almost any other scenerio, I would have described it as a circus,  yet we found ourselves surrounded by over a dozen of the nicest rock climbers I’ve ever met, at Shelf Road or anywhere for that matter. We shared stories, climbing beta, training tips and laughs as we exchanged ropes and one by one sent our climbs. It reminded me of the climbing community I miss from back east and it was greatly appreciated. We’ve been to Shelf Road over a dozen times before, and I can honestly say that this was my favorite trip down there.

Rock climbing selfies at Freeform Wall.
Selfies at the crag! Savannah wasn’t too excited about it.

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway from Denver, and jumping in the car and driving the six hours to Indian Creek or Ten Sleep, Wyoming is just too much after a long week of work, I would highly suggest considering taking the 2.5 hour stroll south down to Shelf Road.

The best time to climb at Shelf is in the Spring and Fall.

A few notes. Right now camping is TIGHT. If it’s a prime weekend, get there early if you want a site. They’re working on improving the situation, but until they do, I only expect it to get worse. Also, bathrooms are limited to three. One at each campground and another back by Cactus Cliff.  If you’re feeling generous, you can help get more outhouses at Shelf by going to www.gofundme.com/shelfroadbathrooms and make a donation!

Go fund Me for Shelf Road Bathrooms
We found these stickers on our car after climbing.

If you like coffee, I highly recommend stopping at Coyote Coffee on your way down. It’s a cute little coffee shop with an awesome Mexican Mocha (or hot chocolate) right off of 115, a few miles before you hit route 50. And if you like cheap, delicious Mexican (read – amazing Mexican in a gas station setting), check out El Reynaldos. You won’t regret it.

Coyote coffee Den Mexican Mocha
Christian couldn’t resist a Mexican Mocha from Coyote Coffee Den.

Total trip cost: Gas, camping + one coffee ($28+$7+$4) – $39


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