Just north of the Purgatory ski resort, sits Cascade Canyon home to what is probably the best limestone in the Durango area. A recent resurgence, as well as an appearance in a Rock and Ice magazine feature story, has put this somewhat forgotten canyon back on the radar for local and visiting climbers. In addition to the climbing the canyon serves as an ending point for a series of waterfalls making it a unique gem situated on the edge of mountains and wilderness. The season is relatively short for rock climbing, as the rock seeps moisture quite a bit, but ice climbing is popular here in the winter.
What Makes It Great
The movement on these vertical limestone walls is a nice compliment to the overhanging juggy nature of the nearby Golf Wall, which is also limestone. The setting cannot be beat: a waterfall and pool of crystal clear water sit at the end of the canyon, and the temperatures remain cool, even in the hottest summer months. Plus, there’s a feeling of resurgence here as each summer more and more new hard sport routes are being developed. The locals are determined to see this area come to its own as can be witnessed by their tireless dedication in developing the area.
Most of all this is a very unique place that is typically quiet; therefore it has a different vibe than many sport climbing areas in Colorado. And, when you’re tired and worked from the climbing, hanging out at the pool is a special experience.
Who is Going to Love It
Any lover of limestone will enjoy Cascade Canyon. Of course, like most limestone sport climbing areas, the real fun begins at 5.11. Close To The Edge, the classic 5.11c that sits just above the waterfall is a perfect example. More modern routes like Reverse Cowgirl (5.12c) and El Rancho (5.13a) are two other routes that the accomplished sport climbers will enjoy. There are fine moderate routes too as well, like Funky Crack (5.8) and Hand Crack Corner (5.9) that take gear surprisingly well. The bottom line is that if you like limestone and a beautiful setting then Cascade is worth a visit. You’re likely to be back for more, just like the locals.
In winter, ice flows are prevalent in the canyon, and it is a popular place for ice climbing.
If you’re into jumping waterfalls, this is also a popular destination for that. A wetsuit is recommended as the water is seemingly always ice cold.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Cascade is located about a half an hour north of Durango. From downtown Durango drive north on Highway 550. Go past the Purgatory ski resort for a few miles and there will be a sign for Cascade Canyon at a hairpin turn. Go right and follow the dirt road briefly until a small parking lot on your right. The trail is on the right and leads into the canyon.