Located northeast of Durango, and just north of the actual Lemon Reservoir, Lemon probably offers the best granite cragging experience in the area. A great summer crag, Lemon sits at a higher altitude than some of the other crags, and at around 8,400 feet the temperatures remain climbable even throughout some of the hottest summer months. Lemon is characterized by its East Side and West Side. In the spring one must commit to one side or another, but when the river flow slows down it’s easy to cross back and forth, in order to chase the shade or sun.
What Makes It Great
The walls are located right down by the river, which often roars so loud that it impedes communication from climber to belayer. This creates a fun setting as climbers play around on the granite walls with the raging river rushing by behind them. While most of the climbs are bolted, some gear is needed and the area has an adventurous feel to it. These are far from grid bolted climbs, and some runouts should be expected. A wide variety of ability levels will enjoy this place from the 5.8 climber to the 5.13 climber. Additionally, many of the climbs can easily be set up as topropes, as the top of the crags are easily accessible.
Who is Going to Love It
For the climber who thinks that Durango only has sandstone and limestone to offer Lemon is a welcome surprise. Situated amongst the pine trees, it’s only a half hour away from town, yet very different than the crags that surround Durango.
The West Side will be enjoyed by the moderate climber, with a variety of routes starting at 5.8. There are a couple 5.11s, but the real gems starting at 5.11 are across the river on the East Side. Many classic 11s and 12s await on the East Side, and will be challenging for even the strongest granite aficionado.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown Durango head out towards Florida Rd. Follow this for about 12 miles until you reach the intersection of County Road 243. From there stay left and get on CR 243. Follow this for about five miles until you reach a gate. Both the East and West Sides have different entrances when the river is high and you cannot cross it. When the river is low the East Side can be easily accessed from the West Side and vice versa.
To access the East Side: From the gate at the north end of Lemon Reservoir, continue straight up the rocky dirt road for about a 1/4 mile to a dirt parking area on the left. Find a climbers’ trail that leads through the trees and follow it for about 15 minutes to the cliff.
To access the West Side: From the gate at the north end of the reservoir go left across a bridge and through the campground to the Transfer Park trailhead. Hike through the campground, and respectfully pass through the sites, down a short trail with a fixed rope that leads to the base of the wall.