Scenic destinations

By Libby Sherwood
Staff Writer

Red Rocks, Nevada
Activity: Climbing, hiking, cycling
Driving time: 5 hours

Most people do not think of beautiful mountains when they think of Las Vegas, but for some, the mountains at Red Rocks are Vegas’ most redeeming quality.

Red Rocks, outside of western Las Vegas, has a unique blend of gorgeous red and white striped Aztec Sandstone. Even tourists who only see these gorgeous features from the distance of their cars respond with amazement. The area includes 10 major canyons and thousand-foot vertical rock-faces that rise up out of the desert floor. The National Conservation area is a heyday for climbers, hikers, cyclers, adventurers and tourists alike.

The climbing itself suits a wide variety of palates. Whether your forte is short, pumpy sport routes or multi-day big-wall adventures, you will get your fix. On the long traditional routes, you cannot avoid gazing back at the remarkably unique mountain foreground, juxtaposed against the urban backdrop. Bring lots of slings and your sense of adventure. Those with difficulty trail-finding take note: It is not unheard of to use cacti for repelling in emergencies; leave plenty of extra time and daylight to avoid this.

Ouray, Colorado
Activity: Ice climbing, skiing, hiking
Driving time: 8 hours

An ice climber’s mecca.

Sandwiched between the jarring peaks of the San Juan Mountain Range in southwestern Colorado lies the small town of Ouray. People have been guiding expeditions through these mountains since the 1700s when the Ute Nomads made Ouray their summer home. It blossomed in the late 19th century as a mining town and currently relies on tourism as its main source of revenue.

Since the mid 1990s, the town has been “farming ice” in the canyon on the south side of town to create aesthetic ice-columns and daggers to challenge even the most advanced climbers. Within walking distance from town, the canyon provides an excellent training ground for newbies and seasoned climbers alike. Less than 30 minutes from popular backcountry skiing and an hour from Telluride, the nationally-renowned ski resort Ouray may be considered an ideal winter location.

Jacks Canyon, Arizona
Activity: Sport-climbing
Driving time: 3 hours

This hidden limestone gem provides one of the most condensed areas of sport-climbing routes in Arizona.

Literally in the middle of nowhere, you could easily miss this canyon while walking nearby. Just to get to the primitive camping area, which is near the rim, you have to drive 10 minutes on a dirt road that can be easily missed from the highway. Fear not, it is worth it. Once there, all the climbing has fairly short approaches, with quality climbs of all different grades. Founded in the late 1990s, the area receives a wide range of national and even some international traffic. The latest edition of the comprehensive guidebook can be found at Granite Mountain Outfitters.
Looking for an intimate camping setting or somewhere to begin leading sport routes? Enjoy the seclusion of the canyon, remembering that you are not too far from the car.

The Enchanted Tower, New Mexico
Activity: Sport climbing
Driving time: 6 hours

Arguably the best sport climbing in New Mexico, the climbing at the Enchanted Tower can be described simply by one word: Fun.

Here you will find sharp crimps, huge pockets and dramatic overhangs filled with what climbers refer to as 5.11s (this means they are challenging). This area may be small, but its quality makes up for any disadvantages in its location or size. The best time of year to climb here is spring and fall, as summer days bring dreadful heat and winter days boast wind and unpleasant icy-cold rock.
Do not forget to stop in at Pie-O-Neer in nearby Pie Town for a slice of fresh strawberry-rhubarb or New Mexican apple. They close at 4 p.m. and spontaneous days of the week, so be sure to call ahead and chef and owner, Kathy Knapp, will save you a few slices (or an entire pie, upon request).

This article appeared in the March 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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