Five Places to Rock Climb in the Winter

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The onset of winter doesn’t have to signal the end of rock climbing for the year. These five sunny destinations offer world-class climbing, beautiful scenery and a break from the cold and snow that much of North America experiences this time of year.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Winter in Joshua Tree National Park brings an average high temperature of 60°F and a low in the 30s. With thousands of quality climbing routes, Joshua Tree is great for beginners and experts. However, some say that a 5.7 at Joshua Tree feels like a 5.8 elsewhere.

You’ll find mostly trad climbing in cracks and on slabs and steep faces. The monzogranite rock is notoriously rough on your hands, so bring tape and expect to use it.

The national park has nine campgrounds, some of which offer advance reservations, but most are first-come, first-served. Check the National Park Service website for more information. The nearby towns of Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms offer hotel lodging.

  • Approximate driving distance/time from Palm Springs International Airport: 45 miles/45 min.
  • Approximate driving distance/time from Los Angeles International Airport: 146 miles/2 hrs. 30 min.

Red Rocks Climbing

Red Rocks, Nevada

Located less than 20 miles from Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers something for everyone. There are long multipitch climbs, short sport routes, crack climbs and fun bouldering problems on red sandstone rock.

High temperatures in winter are typically in the mid 50s, while the average lows are in the upper 20s to low 30s.

The national conservation area has one established campground with 72 individual sites and 7 group campsites. The individual sites are not reservable, but the group sites are. See the Bureau of Land Management website for more information.

The close proximity to Las Vegas offers easy access to restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and nightlife.

  • Approximate driving distance/time from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport: 20 miles/22 min.

Hueco Tanks, Texas

Located about 30 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas, Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site offers excellent bouldering and climbing opportunities throughout winter. The park includes long multipitch climbs and short sport routes, but it is most known for its abundance of high-quality boulder problems.

Expect daily winter highs in the 50s and 60s, and lows in the mid 20s.

Some areas of Hueco Tanks can only be accessed on a guided tour. For reservations and more information, call the park at (512) 389-8900.

The state park has one campground with 20 sites. Advance reservations can be made by calling the park; reservations are limited to three days.

A few miles away, Hueco Rock Ranch, owned by the American Alpine Club, offers bunk rooms and private rooms in the ranch house and tent camping outside. Check the website for availability. The Hueco Rock Ranch encourages climbers to stick around, offering a 10% discount for two-week stays or longer.

  • Approximate driving distance/time from El Paso International Airport: 26 miles/42 min.

St. George, Utah

With more than 300 days of annual sunshine, mild winter temperatures and climbs for all abilities, St. George, Utah, is a primo spot for winter rock climbing. The many sandstone crags located in and around the city feature primarily sport climbing, but there are some opportunities for trad climbing.

Black Rocks, Chuckawalla Wall, and Prophesy Wall get a lot of winter sun and offer a variety of climbs and from 5.7 to 5.12.

To really test yourself, check out the steep limestone walls of the Virgin River Gorge, located 20 miles southwest of St. George, just over the border in Arizona. VRG features some of the hardest climbs in the country and offers only a handful of routes rated under 5.12.

Winter nighttime temperatures in St. George can dip just below 30°F, while the daytime temps reach the upper 50s and low 60s.

The city of St. George has hotels and inns for lodging. There a few RV parks within the city limits that allow camping or you can pitch your tent in Snow Canyon State Park, located just north of the city.

  • George has a small municipal airport that you can fly into, or you can drive from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City.
  • Approximate driving distance/time from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport: 127 miles/2 hrs.
  • Approximate driving distance/time from Salt Lake City International Airport: 307miles/4 hrs. 15 min.

El Potrero Chico, Mexico

This sport-climber’s paradise is located about 150 miles south of Laredo, Texas, in warm and sunny Mexico. El Potrero Chico features towering limestone walls with well-bolted sport routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.14, and multipitch climbs up to 23 pitches. The majority of the climbs are only a 10-minute walk from the small town of Hidalgo.

There are ample options for lodging and food in Hidalgo, with La Posada being one of the most popular. It offers a campground, private rooms, large bathrooms, a swimming pool, communal kitchen and restaurant, all just minutes from the climbing walls.

Winter temperatures are typically in the 60s and 70s during the day and low to mid 40s at night. This online guide to Potrero Chico is an excellent resource for planning your trip.

  • Approximate driving distance/time from Monterrey International Airport in Mexico: 27 miles/39 min.
  • Approximate driving distance/time from the U.S. border crossing in Laredo, Texas: 150 miles/2 hrs. 45 min.
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