Great Dog-Friendly Crags in the Southwest

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Sharing nature and your passion is such a fun thing to do with your dog!

If you have never brought your dog climbing with you before, check out this post about how to get ready.

The most important thing is to be responsible and ensure the safety of your dog and others.

Just remember:

  • It’s okay to take it slow
  • Some dogs just do better at home
  • Be courteous to other climbers!

Here is a list of some beautiful, dog-friendly crags that are sure to leave you both with wagging tails!

Shelf Road

If you’re looking for some classic Colorado sport climbing this is for you. The approaches are short, you can climb in the winter, and most routes are one pitch, so you never have to leave your dog completely alone.

It is a very popular destination and can see lots of other people and dogs.

Shelf Road is ideal for a crag dog that is:

  • Social
  • Comfortable around people and not made anxious by loud noises or commotion
  • Responsive to commands.

The short and easy approaches make it great for older and small dogs.

Things to consider:

  • Can get hot, bring adequate shade and water
  • Be flexible, this place can get busy, but there are lots of great climbs so consider moving to a wall that is less crowded.
Easy hiking at Shelf

Indian Creek

A crack climber’s paradise, Indian Creek is home to the highest concentration of world-class sandstone splitters. Combine that with the fact that a ton of routes are single pitch and you and your dog are sure to have a great time.

The biggest issues here are heat and crowding.

Indian Creek has exploded to be one of the most popular climbing destinations in the world.

On any given day in the spring or fall you could see 30+ people and 10+ dogs at one wall!

Indian Creek is ideal for a crag dog that is:

  • Social and friendly
  • Comfortable around other people and dogs.
  • Not easily distracted
  • Responsive to voice commands
  • Athletic

Many people love to climb here and the ecosystem is quite fragile.

Things to consider:

  • Be weather conscious. If it is incredibly hot, try to hit a shady crag and bring LOTS of extra water. Or take a rest day in Moab and lounge in the parks with your dog.
  • Familiarize yourself with the area and be ready to go to some smaller, less popular crags. The climbing is still awesome, but you don’t have to feel worried about so many people.
    • Popular crags to avoid in peak season include: Battle of the Bulge, Supercrack, Cat Wall, Way Rambo, Donnelly Canyon, and Scarface.
Guarding the rope at the Creek

Devil’s Head

Nestles up in the foothills of the front range of Colorado, Devil’s Head is a beautiful climbing area home to excellent sport and trad lines.

A lot of single pitch climbs make it great for those wanting to bring their dog. It is usually easy to find a quiet place to climb here so shier dogs can still have a great time.

Typically the most people you encounter will be on the approach trail itself, as this is a popular hiking trail.

Devil’s Head is ideal for a crag dog that is:

  • Athletic
  • Responsive to commands
  • Calm

As with any popular climbing or hiking area, it is important to follow some rules.

Things to consider:

  • Keep your dog on a leash when on the trail or at the crag. Lots of people enjoy this spot, and even if your dog is incredibly friendly, not everyone appreciates their kisses.
  • There are lots of walls to be had here, some more popular than others. Be willing to be flexible and move around if needed.
  • Bring lots of water. Between the altitude and the sun, if you aren’t climbing in the shade, it can get hot here in the summer. Be prepared.
Afternoon nap in a pack sandwich at Devil’s Head

Turkey Rocks

A mecca of granite splitters right near the front range of Colorado, Turkey Rocks is a great place to get ready for an upcoming Yosemite or Squamish trip, and bring your dog.

The plethora of great single pitch splitters and shady spots make this an ideal climbing destination. Turkey Rocks is often crowded with people and dogs on the weekend in the spring and fall,

Turkey Rocks is ideal for crag dogs who are:

  • Friendly and social
  • Comfortable with other dogs
  • Athletic

Though located at 8,000+ feet, it can get quite hot in the sun.

Things to consider:

  • Bring lots of water. You can usually find a shady spot, but a shelter might be nice to have.
  • Keep your dog leashed. As a popular dog spot, nothing is worse than two dogs off-leash causing a scene and both owners are climbing. Be respectful.
More rest in the shade of Whimsical Dreams (5.11) at Turkey Rocks

Thunder Ridge

Another South Platte favorite, Thunder Ridge is home to some of the best sport and trad lines on the Front Range.

The approach is smooth, though a bit long, and some of the walls offer great flat spots.

The trail into Thunder is on a private road, so it is best to keep your dog leashed to prevent any problems with the owner’s dogs.

Thunder Ridge is ideal for crag dogs who are:

  • Excellent at voice command response.
  • Able to hike at least a few miles at altitude, since the approach and hike out is a few miles round trip.
  • Agile on boulders and low class scrambling. Though not necessary, a lot of great climbing requires a bit of boulder hopping. It will give you more options if your dog can move around. Just be sure to supervise in case he takes a tumble or gets somewhere he can’t cross.

Thunder has exploded in popularity over the past decade. It is not uncommon to wait for certain popular climbs on nice weekends.

Things to consider:

  • Thunder is a recovering ecosystem since the Hayman fire. Please be aware of you and your dog’s impact. Leave No Trace ethics are important.
Watching his Dad crush Starlight (5.12) at Thunder

This barely scratches the surface of some of the amazing places to climb in the Southwest!

Go to your local gear store, online, even the library, and you can find lots of resources and guidebooks on other wonderful places to climb.

Don’t be afraid to venture to new places and explore. There are so many excellent climbing and hiking playgrounds out there, so go find them!

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