Elevation: 7,591 ft
GPS: 40.272, -105.428 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 21,352 total · 106/month
Shared By: Richard M. Wright on Sep 24, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac
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Big Elk Meadows has been well covered at a competitor's web page (frontrangebouldering.com), but its inclusion here may offer some opportunity for commentary and new problem updates. Presently BEM is exclusively a bouldering area, although it is only a matter of time before the larger crags see route development (trad and sport). On my first visit, I hit the 30 Minute Boulder (cool little crag V0 to V5), The Traverse Wall (steep V0 to V4), The Sanctuary (V0 to V8), and checked out many of the other boulders. I saw two main divisions: The Dragon's Den lies five minutes uphill from the creek (turn at a big cairn) and hosts numerous terrific boulders (V0 to V8) while many of the named boulders, including The Sanctuary, lie along the creek. The setting is as good as it can possibly be, nestled along a pretty little creek bed surrounded by tons of rock and lofty mountain slopes. I encountered only one climber/boulderer in an entire Sunday at BEM. The boulders are granitic, well featured, are very solid, but can be ominously large, although rarely as overhanging as in other areas. For many boulders the landings are dead flat, but this is not always true. The area probably has 25 well developed boulders with considerably more potential lurking behind every tree. Most of the boulders lay smack-dab in the path of the Big Elk Fire, and it is still very eerie around the Dragon's Den where the fire burned over the rocks and even burned the chalk into the rock. Dead, charred remains of the forest are all around, although I did not find this a distraction so much as a reminder of just how delicate the balance can be between life and death. Despite the fire, the bouldering here can be serene and challenging and entirely devoid of the Flagstaff scene. Bring a pad or two.

Getting There

Big Elk Meadows lies just off Colo 36 between Lyons and Estes Park, approximately one mile North of the edge of Pinewood Springs. The old forest access road has been paved for close to four miles, and the turn off Colo 36 now sports a sign for Big Elk Meadows. Drive 2.3 miles from the intersection with Colo 36 and park on the right in the larger, dirt pullout (of 3). Some boulders lie just across the road from the parking; however, most will be encountered along the trail and off the trail that descends to the creek from the parking. The hiking to the Sanctuary, presently the most distant bouldering site, may take as much as 20 to 30 minutes, less if you are cruising and not gawking.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Big Elk Meadows - Boulders

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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The Double Trouble boulder is somewhere near Big Elk Meadows. Anyone have good specific directions? Or info on status of the rock post-fire? Sep 27, 2002
Last I saw (just driving up to the Park) everything north of the road was torched, I did not see far enough up the canyon to see what double trouble boulder was like, It would be nice to hear from a reliable source. Oct 3, 2002
Patrick Vernon
Estes Park, CO
Patrick Vernon   Estes Park, CO
the double trouble boulder is about 1 mile up the canyon on the left. Look for a largeboulder (not double trouble) just off the road on the right down near the stream and park just before this. Follow a faint trail just up the road from the parking on the left up the hill for three minutesand the boulder will appear. The double trouble boulder was not affected at all by thefire and the main area wasn't affected much at all it is still very beautiful andsecluded. I did not go to the dragons den. I question the quality of a fewof the problems however.-pat Oct 9, 2002
Dragon's Den is black beyond belief. The climbs are still ok, but expect to come back wearing a suit of soot. I found a lot of this stuff to be very sharp on the fingers, and still a little dirty. It likely hasn't seen much traffic yet, but being mostly moderate, is an immensely enjoyable outing. Jul 11, 2003
I was wondering if there was route potential there. If you walk the trail to the bouldering areas if you pass the trail heading up to the Den and keep going straight there are a lot of nice rock formations on the left that are a couple hundred feet high. Could be interesting, is this where the routes are? Nov 22, 2004
I suspect the lines being put in are being put in across the road from Big Elk's main bouldering areas .. ie: straight uphill behind the Double Trouble Boulder, which harbors Get Over It. I can testify that it is not a fun hike, although there are cairns that I helped put down. ~ 3/4 mile hike that feels like 2 because of all the downed trees and crappy game trails that dead end into gullies and branch gauntlets. It's only a 700 foot elevation gain on the hike, but it feels worse because there's no REAL trail. I hike up there with 2 big bouldering pads, put up a few silly problems and left the place for good. The only problem I named is called The Hike from Hell, so you get the picture. The potential for SEVERAL several hundred foot lines is there, so if you're into that kind of thing enjoy. Nov 22, 2004
Hi Danno - the cliff above Double Trouble Boulder is called The Palace (and I'm sure a host of other names). I haven't been there in a few years, and there may have been some new routes put up in the interim. Not sure about the left line of bolts (4 of them) -- looks like it may access some intermittent crack climbing. I have in my notes that Ryan Fields was associated with that line (anyone know Ryan? If you're listening, email me via this site: I need the proper name for this route, which is currently listed as Left Bolts in my guide to North and South St Vrain Canyons). My brother and I did the crack line in the overhanging prow immediately right of Left Bolts (5.10+, quite good). One pitch to anchors at 95 feet. We top roped a second pitch, but didn't add a couple bolts that would make it a safe lead (it goes at 5.10a R). Right of that is a big RFD that has a very enjoyable first pitch (5.9), and a lesser-quality second pitch (5.10b). I believe this is also Ryan's work. On the right side of the wall is a 5.11d put up by Cameron Landis; look for two bolts through the crux panel. Finally, Ross Swanson reports a top rope solo some years ago where he chucked a rope off the top and climbed back out at 5.11. I have no idea where this is.

The Palace is a nice hunk of rock, and there's room for a number of new routes. I suspect it will fill in over the next decade. You'll get full details when my book hits the stores (I'm finished with it; it's in the final stages of production, and will probably be available before the end of the year). Aug 9, 2008
Ross Swanson
Pinewood Springs
Ross Swanson   Pinewood Springs
The Flood on 12 Sep 2013 wiped out the approach trail. It may be better to continue on Rt47 for additional 0.3 miles then hike in 0.2 miles over the long ridge.
Jan 20, 2014
LEFT MY 5.10 Guide Tennie mids at the Matterhorn Boulder last Thursday! Please call or text me if you have them. 5102926409. Thank you. Mar 17, 2018