Chaos Canyon Bouldering Climbing
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For additional information about raptor closures, please visit the Rocky Mountain National Parks area closures website.
General NPS climbing regulations for RMNP posted here.
Chaos Canyon, situated in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park, has gained international status and become a household name in the world bouldering scene. Located at 10,000 feet, in a spectacular alpine setting, "Chaos" as it is typically known, has something to offer every kind of boulderer. With an abundance of highly featured, steep walls and overhangs, the boulders of both Upper and Lower Chaos have produced quality problems from V0 to V15. Little wonder that boulderers willingly brave the 45 minute hike to Lake Haiyaha or the hour plus to Upper Chaos Canyon.
However this bouldering paradise has not been without problems. This is a fragile area, where plant and animal life struggles to maintain a toehold in a severe and barren environment. User impact has been hard to avoid noticing over the past six or seven years. Some climbers have been too ready to disregard the wilderness ethic in favor of a group mentality that emphasizes doing the problem at any price. Offenses include stashing pads overnight, landscaping landings, destruction of vegetation, and so on. The rangers at RMNP are watching the situation and it is up to every single visitor, regardless of climbing ability, to act as a good steward of a vital living natural resource. Otherwise painful and restrictive regulations could change forever the freedom that many have taken for granted in the mountains.
If you want to add any problems in RMNP check to make sure there is not an area or boulder already set up that it can be added to. Do not add individual problems to this site unless there is an area and boulder description in place. If there aren't any, feel free to add them but make sure the descriptions are detailed and accurate for all three, area, boulder, and problem.
From the parking lot, you can head up the trail for Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Lake Haiyaha. However, since you will likely be carrying a pad or two, sharing the trail with other hikers can be difficult. The trail is narrow and often filled with families and other groups. Please remember to be courteous and friendly to other hikers. If they ask what you are carrying, explain clearly and nicely and move on.
At Nymph Lake, head up another steep section for another 10-15 minutes to the junction for Dream and Emerald Lakes. For problems such as the Kine Traverse, head right to Emerald Lake. This is also the approach for Hallett Peak. For Chaos Canyon, head left and tackle a steep pair of switchbacks that lead up to beautiful views of Long's Peak before a short dip and the stream that leads to Lake Haiyaha. From the parking lot, you can expect to take between 30 and 40 minutes to get here, depending on fitness.
To access Lower Chaos Canyon, look on the right, from where the short descent ends, for an obvious trail heading right into the trees. Look under the section for Lower Chaos Canyon for specific directions from here. For Upper Chaos Canyon continue around the lake to a forested area where the trail ends. Continue heading uphill and west. Specific directions are found in the Upper Chaos Canyon section. Plan on at least an hour for the approach to Upper Chaos Canyon.
It is worth remembering that finding specific boulders in Chaos Canyon can be difficult (It is named Chaos for a reason!). The general drift of the canyon is east-west so as you look up the canyon you are looking west. To your right is north and left is south. This will be helpful on a number of descriptions.
A final point has to do with conditions. The season for Chaos Canyon runs from approximately June to October, depending on snow. Visitors to RMNP should be prepared for any kind of weather. This includes baking sun, cold drenching downpours, hail, and potentially lethal lightning strikes. The hike back down can be complicated by maneuvering across slippery talus which can lead to a twisted or broken ankle or worse. Make sure you have brought a warm waterproof jacket and plenty to eat and drink. Watch out for altitude sickness if you are coming from lower elevations.
Remember that the landings for 95% of the boulders is jagged talus, making a crashpad, preferably several, virtually mandatory. If you seriously injure yourself, you are 2.2 miles and 800' elevation from assistance. Bouldering alone here therefore can be a serious matter. Be very careful. It is worth noting that cellphone reception is generally good in Upper Chaos Canyon and spotty in Lower Chaos Canyon.
Classic Climbing Routes at Chaos Canyon Bouldering
Days w Precip