Elevation: 8,584 ft
GPS: 39.508, -106.378 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 16,548 total · 81/month
Shared By: Richard M. Wright on Mar 15, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac
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Access Issue: Private Property Details


Gilman Canyon has always left me a bit under-whelmed as a climbing destination, however, set at the foot of the Holy Cross Wilderness as it is, Gilman is worth an exploratory trip now and then. The crags are just off the RR tracks, on the right, with most of the approach entailing a hike along the tracks. The stone is a highly featured black colored granite that produces edge and pocket climbing on largely vertical walls. Most routes are between 40 and 80 ft in length, West facing, but low in the canyon. The individual crags hold only a few routes each but they are scattered along-side the tracks for half a mile. Most approaches from the tracks are under one minute in duration, although some crags higher up the canyon have been developed. Route development has followed a more or less reluctant acceptance of bolting and as a result many of the lines will use trad gear, pins, and bolts as needed. Many of the lines are pure trad, so don't forget to bring a rack with wires and a full set of camming units. This is an alpine setting and climbing won't really take off until the middle of April, and even then it can be chancy or cold. Mid-summer of course is a good time. For simplicity, numbering begins close to the parking and follows the right fork in the tracks. An additional crag sitting left of the second set of tracks has been climbed.

Getting There

Gilman Canyon is about 20 minutes West and South of Vail and is most commonly approached from I-70, making it a 2 hour drive from Denver. West of Vail, take exit number 171 for Minturn and pick up US 24 running South to Leadville. About five miles South of Minturn you will come to the spectacular Redcliff bridge. Immeditely South of the bridge is a turn off that will take you down to the railroad tracks, Gilman Canyon, and the Eagle River.

Park along the road that goes into Red Cliff. Do not park at the water treatment center.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Gilman Canyon

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There use to be a photo copied guide available at the one and only decent climbing shop in Vail (the name of which escapes me). They charged two bucks for it but it's worth it. There are really a lot of routes in this canyon and some of them are pretty good. The Checkerboard wall is my favorite. It's located about 10 minutes of walking down the tracks and is the second west facing crag as the tracks turn north. There are about 6 bolted sport routes, all of which are fairly long, and a few of which are pretty moderate in difficuty. Further down the tracks, as they turn west again, there are some good topropes with bolted anchors, but no bolts on route. If you are in the area and jonzing for some climbing it's worth checking out. It beats playing golf with the snobs in Vail May 8, 2002
I think the name is The Bag and Pack Shop, and the copy of the map is free now. Jul 25, 2002
Mountain Quest Sports in Edwards can help you out with info about Gilman and other local climbing. Sep 2, 2003
Legs Magillicutty   Durango
It's been a while since the last posts regarding the map and/or guide. Is it still available? We decided to end our day climbing in Gilman yesterday. As underwhelming as it may appear, I thought the quality of the rock was very interesting. It's not like anything I've climbed in the Front Range. Some of the crags resembled Clear Creek while other formations seemed like frictiony volcanic rock. Is it all granite down there? The rock above the canyon on the road appeared to be limestone but the rock in the canyon did not strike me as such. May 30, 2006
The rock down in the canyon is ancient Precambrian schist and gneiss, a swirly mess of stuff that climbers often refer to generically as 'granite'.

The cliffs above the road in the vicinity of the bridge are made of quartzite; above these are limestone, shale, and a whole menagerie of sedimentary choss.

Gilman was the subject of one of those hyperbolic 'check out my rad new crag' articles from Rock & Ice in 1993: "A trip to Gilman is akin to stumbling on a mini Gunks in the Wiessner era....With its unlimited climbing potential and secluded beauty, Vail rock just might be the high-country gem for you!"

Well, it's 13 years later and comparisons to the Gunks have tapered off. The consensus seems to have settled at something like 'worth a visit...if you don't have to drive too far.'

None of this will matter if and when the giant trophy-home project planned for the Gilman townsite comes off. If the Vail Valley has unlimited potential for anything, it's empty 6,000 sf 'homes' for sale. Perhaps, if we grin and shuffle nicely enough, us downvalley trash will still be permitted to climb beneath the elk-antler bedsteads and Navajo blanket couches of Gilman's absentee owners and their Western fantasy mansions. We can only hope. Jun 29, 2006
Princess Mia   Vail
All climbs in Gilman are on private property, including the access road. Tread gently and practice LNT! Area could close to climbers in the future.
On a side note, The Town of Red Cliff has the best little mountain restaurant in Colorado. Mango's is well worth a visit. Jul 17, 2006
Legs Magillicutty   Durango
Just out of curiosity, who owns it?

I think the Minturn Country Club is the best place for food, especially when they do their cheap date night. . .holy moly. . .mouth is watering. Sep 22, 2006
meghan c.
el paso, tx
meghan c.   el paso, tx
No written guide is currently available for this area at either Bag and Pack shop. The approach crosses private property, such a publication would encourage trespassing and jeopardize access for us all. Jun 24, 2007
Kirk Miller
Golden, CO
Kirk Miller   Golden, CO
I first stumbled onto the crags and climbed in this canyon when I was living in Minturn and teaching school in Red Cliff and Vail in 1986 and 1987. Along with anyone I could recruit from the few local climbers at the time, I was able to get Noel Childs to help me clean and develop a handful of trad climbs that ranged from 5.9 to 5.11 and quite a few cool, harder top rope lines. I don't know if every route we did was an FA, but based on the necessity to clean loose rock and flakes on the obvious natural lines we guessed we might have got there first. Jun 24, 2007
The Bag & Pack does not have the photocopied guide anymore, but the employees can help steer you in the right direction- just stop in or call and ask. Aug 27, 2009
2 days ago I attempted to hike into Gilman Canyon via the usual approach (noted @ this site) and found it to be off limits. The city of Redcliff is upgrading their sewer system and has signs prohibiting the usual parking and hiking for Gilman. Also parking above, Frontage Road shoulder, is off limits. A person could find their way into the canyon and climb, but it would require a longer approach (maybe from the Kluttergarden parking area). Also hiking in on the right side of the tracks might be difficult to access because of the construction, etc.
City of Redcliff stated that the usual approach and parking will be available next summer.
Good luck! Oct 15, 2009
coop Best
Glenwood Springs, CO
coop Best   Glenwood Springs, CO
The new wastewater treatment plant is proposed to start up soon and construction to end in the next few months. If you have one of the paper guides or the old R&I issue, please contact me as I would like a copy. Thanks. Sep 23, 2010
Princess Mia   Vail
The wastewater treatment plant is finished, but it is illegal to park at the pullout, and the sheriff does do a drive by every day. One can park along the road in a few places, but be aware of rockfall from above. The best parking is at the Klettergarden.

Also, the railroad tracks and the crags close to the tracks are owned by the railroad (go figure), and the crags further uphill from the tracks are owned by Ginn. It is all private property, but access has not been a problem, yet!!!!! Jun 1, 2012
Chris Perkins
Buena Vista, Colorado
Chris Perkins   Buena Vista, Colorado
Bag and Pack has been closed a few years now. I was trying to figure out if the railroad was abandoned or not through the rails to trails conservancy but was unable to find out for sure.
If anyone would like to help....
I sent an email to Eagle Valley Land Trust to see if they would be willing to look into this project. Who would like to see a path from Minturn to Leadville?
railstotrails.org/ourWork/t… Aug 16, 2014
Alex Palombitch
Bozeman, MT
Alex Palombitch   Bozeman, MT
Hey, does anyone happen to have a copy of the guide avaliable at the Bag and Pack shop? I've been exploring the climbing of Avon area for the last few months and would love to see what I've missed.
If anyone could be so kind to send me a copy, I will make it worth your while. Thanks, guys. Jul 20, 2015
Alex, I have a copy of that photocopied guidebook. I live in the area if you want a copy of it. I check here fairly frequently. Otherwise email chrisbuch88@hotmail.com. Mar 17, 2016
Tom Willard
Avon, CO
Tom Willard   Avon, CO
I'd love a copy of the hand drawn guide to Gilman if anyone has one to share? Thanks. Also have the Wolcott guide if a copy of that is still needed! Jun 1, 2016
Solid background piece on Gilman:
mountaintownnews.net/2016/0… Dec 29, 2016