This sandstone boulder field hidden beneath the shade of scrub oak offers a wide collection of bouldering problems for beginning to advanced climbers. Turtle Lake is Durango’s year-round outdoor bouldering gym.
This sandstone boulder field hidden beneath the shade of scrub oak offers a wide collection of bouldering problems for beginning to advanced climbers. Turtle Lake is Durango’s year-round outdoor bouldering gym. With nearly ninety sandstone problems (rated V0 to V11) and a relatively disused smattering of trad and sport climbs, Turtle Lake is one of the many reasons Durangatangs can brag about their hometown. Because of its easy access to the city center, Turtle Lake can be quite crowded, especially during the peak summer months.
What Makes It Great
The Turtle Lake Boulder Garden sits on the border of what many locals call the Hidden Valley, just down the road from some of the oldest Anasazi ruins in the United States (dating back to 200-500 CE).
Road Boulder, named for obvious reasons, is a great spot to warm up on with an assortment of V1s, 2s, 3s, and 4s. For beginners, the neighboring Penny Boulder offers four nice V1s to practice on. As you work your way deeper into the garden, you’ll find more advanced problems on Big East Block and West Block, with a couple of 10s and 11s. The Fin, a V7 on the Big East Block, and Beckoning the Call, a V8 on the West Block, are two local favorites. Bird Hole Right (V3 on the Big East Block) and Pocket Pool (V3 on Road Boulder) are worth checking out as well.
The routes are evenly distributed, with plenty of grades for all levels. The boulders are fairly close together, so you can work quite a few in one session. Be sure to pick up a copy of Ian Allison’s “Durango Bouldering” for a comprehensive guide to the area.
Unlike the larger Sailing Hawks bouldering area, which is usually closed during the winter for wildlife habitat, Turtle Lake can be climbed at all times of the year, weather permitting. With a 15-second approach and short drive from downtown, Turtle Lake is the perfect spot for an after work climbing session or a lazy afternoon workout.
Who is Going to Love It
Because of its variety of problems, beginners and advanced climbers alike will get a kick out of Turtle Lake. Get the kids started young on the V0s and keep yourself entertained on the more challenging routes. Locals will head out to Turtle Lake at any time of the year, enjoying the nice sandstone routes even in winter.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Drive north on US 550 from downtown Durango and hang a left on 25th Street on the North end of town. This will eventually turn into CR 204. At the intersection of CR 204 and CR 205, take a right and drive around the lake. Shortly after passing Chapman Lane, you’ll see a dirt pull-off on your right. It’d be easy to miss the first time if it weren’t for the string of parked cars, appropriately labeled with all the right bumper stickers. You can see Road Boulder directly across from here. It’s about 5.2 miles from downtown.