If you’re intrigued by the idea of climbing around on iron rungs, ladders and other hardware, you’re in luck — there are several via ferratas throughout Colorado. Most of them are new, having opened in the last three years.
If you’re going with a guiding company, chances are they’ll provide a harness, shoes and a helmet, so all you really need to pack is some water and sunscreen (though be sure to call ahead).
Add these six via ferratas to your summer adventure plans. Also coming soon: a new via ferrata at Arapahoe Basin, slated to open summer 2020. Know of a via ferrata that we missed? Let us know.
One of Colorado’s newest via ferratas is in Cañon City at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this summer. The via ferrata joins other exhilarating attractions at the park, including a zip line across the gorge and a bungee jumping-esque skycoaster. When you visit the gorge, you can choose from three beginner routes and three longer, more advanced routes, climbing between 200 and 500 feet in elevation, depending on what you choose. Because of the unique setting, the via ferrata routes offer unparalleled views of the gorge from the inside, the bridge from below and the Arkansas River from above. “It’s really for all ages — from 8 to 80,” said Brent Hargrave, chief operating officer of Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. “Everybody can do it, and we love that.”
Another brand new via ferrata is in Estes Park, created and guided by Kent Mountain Adventure Center. This via ferrata, which opened at the end of June, climbs roughly 600 vertical feet but includes plenty of traversing as well. “The first half goes across the middle of this giant cliff and it’s really exposed, so that’s more mentally demanding,” said Dustin Dyer, director and co-owner of Kent Mountain Adventure Center. “The second half is more like a knife ridge, with views in all directions.” Along the way, you’ll see panoramas of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park and the valley below. If you’ve got visitors in town or you just want to plan an adventurous staycation in Estes Park, The Stanley has a special via ferrata package.
The Mount Evans via ferrata in Idaho Springs opened in the summer of 2017. Built by the team at Arkansas Valley Adventures, which has been leading whitewater rafting trips and other excursions since 1998, the course blends a via ferrata route with zip lines, a 70-foot rappel and a 50-foot free fall. The course, which you’ll tackle with the help of a guide, spans a little less than a mile and climbs roughly 300 feet in elevation, reaching a maximum altitude of 7,830 feet. “We saw a need for something a little bit more extreme than a zip line but a little less extreme than a full-on rock climbing trip,” said Jocelyn Criswell, a spokeswoman for AVA.
Thanks to the popularity of their Idaho Springs via ferrata, AVA built another hybrid via ferrata/adventure course just outside of Buena Vista that opened to the public last summer. The Granite via ferrata starts at 8,700 feet in elevation and gains 220 feet in a little more than a mile. You’ll take a zip line out to the course, then begin climbing the via ferrata at the base of the Collegiate Peaks. Next, you’ll free-fall 60 feet before crossing several suspension bridges and high wires. The course ends with a 70-foot rappel down the rock face. Since the course is built above the Arkansas River, you might catch a glimpse of some rafts from up above, too.
Located at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park in Manitou Springs, this via ferrata opened in the summer of 2018. You’ll spend roughly two hours with a guide navigating the limestone cliffs and rock walls of Williams Canyon. (Some parts of the route are very exposed, so you’ll definitely feel a thrill here.) After testing your skills on the rock face, a cargo net and a balance beam, you’ll finish the course on a zip line.
The Telluride via ferrata is a bit like a “choose-your-own-adventure” route — you can access it from either the east or the west end (though most people travel east to west), and you can decide whether to make it a loop or an out-and-back. Built primarily by late Telluride climber Chuck Kroger starting in 2006, the route is often referred to as the “Krogeratta” and offers stunning views of Bridal Veil Falls, the San Juan peaks and the town below. Though you’re not required to have a guide on this route, it’s really best that you work with a local mountain guiding outfitter, like San Juan Mountain Guides, Peak Mountain Guides, Telluride Mountain Guides, Mountain Trip or San Juan Outdoor Adventures. Plus, when you hire a local guide, a portion of your fee is donated to route maintenance and sustainability, coordinated by the Telluride Mountain Club.