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El Rito Sport Area

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El Rito Sport Area Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Location: 36.3905, -106.1956 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 82,543
Administrators: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Anthony Stout on Jan 20, 2006
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [2 people like this page.]
Shot of the Milky Way from the El Rito campground.


Fun, vertical to overhanging “conglomerate matrix of metamorphosed sand and mud with inclusions of smooth, rounded cobbles of all sizes. The cobbles, and the holes they leave when they fall out of the matrix, form excellent holds that allow relatively moderate climbing for such steep rock. Fully overhanging routes can be below 5.11, and anything less than vertical will probably clock in at 5.8 or below. All routes are sport bolted, so you can concentrate on the climbing instead of the protection.” (text copied from Gary Clark's online guide: )

Getting There 

El Rito is located about 50 miles north of Santa Fe (please see a road map to find El Rito). From the east end of the village, turn north on Forest Road 44 (dirt). Drive 3.75 miles from the pavement, and park to the left just after the sign “Cañada del Potrero.” Camping is available at several locations up this spur road, which ends in about a half-mile. Now walk across the road to a trail paralleling it headed south. The trail crosses a bridge, then turns south up the sidehill to the crags. (~15 min.)
The primary parking area is relatively small. Please park head-in and save space for other vehicles.

More Beta 

Gary Clark created free PDF guides for the El Rito sport and trad climbing areas. Gary has moved from New Mexico and Jason Halladay has adopted the guide updates. The most recent update is from 2014 but is still quite valuable and helpful for navigating the areas.

Climbing Season

Weather station 4.0 miles from here

122 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',4],['3 Stars',44],['2 Stars',47],['1 Star',16],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in El Rito Sport Area

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for El Rito Sport Area:
The Green Chile Two Step   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Sport, 40'   Rad Wall
Super Arete   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Super Slab
Walt's Wall Waltz   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Walt's Wall (aka The Outsid...
Mini Me   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 35'   The Balcony
Scurvy Dog   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 60'   Pirate's Wall
Slacker Ken   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport   Rad Wall
Clast Action   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 80'   Super Slab
Boltaneer   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 85'   Super Slab
Blackballed   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Gnar Wall
Balls to the Wall   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Gnar Wall
Cobble Wobble   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 65'   Big Pine Wall
Blackbeard   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 80'   Pirate's Wall
Full Sail   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Sport, 90'   Super Slab
Jug-or-Naut   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 40'   The Balcony
Booty (aka Long John)   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 88'   Pirate's Wall
Village Cobbler   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 45'   Beer Block
Walking the Plank (aka The Buzz)   5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a     Sport, 75'   Pirate's Wall
Bolting Barbie   5.11c/d 7a 24 VIII 25 E4 6a     Sport, 50'   Rad Wall
Stroke Me   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 50'   Rad Wall
Crack Attack   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 65'   Rad Wall
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in El Rito Sport Area

Featured Route For El Rito Sport Area
Rock Climbing Photo: Way up high on the route working through the crux ...

Walking the Plank (aka The Buzz) 5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a  New Mexico : El Rito : ... : Pirate's Wall
There is a difficult start to a high first bolt. You get a good rest ledge before starting up the increasingly steep top section. Crux near the top. Big holds on an overhanging wall - great route for working on endurance....[more]   Browse More Classics in New Mexico

Photos of El Rito Sport Area Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: When it's flowing, the creek at the beginning of t...
When it's flowing, the creek at the beginning of t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Cobbles that wobbled long ago...
Cobbles that wobbled long ago...
Rock Climbing Photo: El Rito sport climbing area overview from Gary Cla...
BETA PHOTO: El Rito sport climbing area overview from Gary Cla...
Rock Climbing Photo: Ryan getting the HIV on everything!
Ryan getting the HIV on everything!
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking at the sport area from the trad area.
Looking at the sport area from the trad area.

Comments on El Rito Sport Area Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 18, 2017
By Jerry Cagle
From: Tucson, AZ
Jul 4, 2006
Unless you have titanium testicles bring a stick clip. B1 is consistently well off the deck. This is an odd concept for my feeble mind to grasp. Why create a route with a serious groundfall risk on the start, then bolt the remainder into submission?

For purposes of comparison: If these routes were in AZ or CO they would usually get a full number grade less than the online guide gives for the difficulty.

Kudos to the developer(s) for the excellent lower out anchors. All sport routes would benefit from a similar setup. I'm sure the cost was not minimal.

Overall this is one of the best sport areas I've seen for both the average as well as the elite climber: Beautiful surroundings, nice approach trail, unique rock with interesting features. Clark's online guide is a gem. Well done Gary...!
By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Nov 27, 2006
"If these routes were in AZ or CO they would usually get a full number grade less"

Apparently you've never been to Shelf Road (CO) or Jacks Canyon (AZ) :)
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Jun 25, 2007
Gary Clark's website is no more but never fear! The online content from his site moved to the LA Mountaineers website including the excellent El Rito Sport guide.
By tim naylor
Sep 2, 2007
a full number grade, come on now. I think these routes are graded pretty similar to rifle, Where in Az has steep climbing like this besides "Dry Creek"?
By ZachS00
From: Denver, CO
Feb 18, 2009
How will the temps be in mid-March?
By LeeAB Brinckerhoff
From: ABQ, NM
Feb 18, 2009
It should be OK in March. The cliffs mostly face west so if it is cool you can just get a lazy start and climb in the afternoon. I doubt it will be too warm to climb in the sun but it can be hot in the summers forcing you to find shade after the sun comes around. I would guess 60-70 for day time highs but pretty cold in the mornings.

A word of caution, try to avoid driving in after dark on a Friday or Saturday night as the turn off onto the dirt road is a local drinking hang at these times and bad things have been know to happen.
By ZachS00
From: Denver, CO
Feb 23, 2009
Lee -

Seriously? That's somewhat unnerving. Thanks for the weather beta though.
By LeeAB Brinckerhoff
From: ABQ, NM
Feb 23, 2009
Yeah several years ago some friends driving in after dark on a Friday night lost every window in their Tundra to a barage of rocks. I think if you are camping it's fine though as you are several miles in and the locals seem to just hang at the turn off.
By ZachS00
From: Denver, CO
Feb 24, 2009
Right on, we'll take notice, thanks.
By Scott Price
Mar 4, 2009
While I don't doubt the rock throwing incident, that is by no means the norm as I've driven in many a late Friday night and have never even seen a party.

A full number grade? Seriously. Often, the ratings seem off by a letter, but never more.

If the ratings are so soft, why the stick clip? In all seriousness though, it is certainly not necessary to have a stick clip for an enjoyable visit.
By manuel rangel
From: Tempe, Arizona
Nov 11, 2009
Nice area and well worth a visit. The routes were fun and graded close enough to true for me. Very user friendly. The rock reminded me of a couple cobblestone areas in Spain.
By jauernigg
From: edwards, co
Jun 18, 2010
had a fun trip there, felt the ratings were soft, and never felt the need for a stick clip
By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
May 19, 2011
As of two weekends ago the road was in very good shape and passable with a standard passenger vehicle. It did snow here in northern NM last night and today so it might be a little sloppy tomorrow but should dry up well by Saturday morning.
By Realseth
Feb 1, 2012
first of all, the routes here are no more soft or hard than anywhere else in the states. Ive climbed at shelf, the red, ten sleep, eldo, rifle, and many other places. every area has its hard routes and its sandbags..cant we stop arguing about the grade and just have some fun?
By Natalie Rose
Apr 23, 2012
Spent last week here! First time! Really fun! Tons of great moderates! Recommend the Rad Wall! And Ojo Caliente hot springs rest day! (though try to go mon-thur, it's more expensive on weekends)
Great online guide! Would love more information on any further sport developments in the area.
By David Kozak
Sep 18, 2013
Just uploaded 12 new sport routes to the El Rito Sport Area. Look under El Norte for location and descriptions. Some of the routes still need more cleaning, and we will hopefully be able to get back this fall to work on the trial. Enjoy.
By zacharygraham
From: Manhattan,NY
Oct 8, 2013
Came out here last weekend. It seems that the "Cañada del Potrero" sign was gone but it's pretty obvious where you should park. The grades seemed right on and overall the rock was solid. The only issue was a few loose hangers on the anchors on the Schoolhouse Slab but we tightened them up with a Leatherman. Overall, it was nice and a relatively easy hike to get there.
By munge
Dec 25, 2013
Yeah, I did not see a sign yesterday, so didn't know how to orient myself to the crags. Found bolts down by creek at south end.
By Tay Thomas
From: Hobart, Indiana
Apr 16, 2015
FOUND GRIGRI!!! yesterday at Rad Wall-- if you've been the past week contact here and can send to you... those things are costly!
By ninjadan
From: Los Alamos, NM
May 15, 2015
Hello Tay I believe that you found my grigri. I tried to email you but I am not sure you got it! you can contact me directly at
By Garçon Rouge
Jun 18, 2017
This page is kind of funny, probably the most I've seen grade argued about on this site.

I went to El Rito for the first time last week and in my opinion it felt like gym grading. So yes, a little soft for your average crag, but not too far off.

I got on a 5.10b for warm up thinking it was a 5.8 and thought it was a little stout for a 5.8 but not by much. Also sent my first two 5.12s.

Ultimately it's all very relative though, to location and individual style/preferrence of climbing.

Who cares though? this place is beautiful and fun. Shut up and climb!

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