Rising east of where Sledgehammer Gulch drains into the South Platte, “Arch Rock” is one of several fine, granite domes in Elevenmile Canyon. Home to several routes, from single pitch to multi-pitch, and trad, sport and mixed, “Arch Rock” has something for all sorts of climbers. “Arch Rock” treats climbers to dynamite views of the South Platte River as it rumbles through the Elevenmile Canyon. Although burn scarring from the 2012 Springer Fire visible across valley, Arch rock remained untouched by these flames and healthy, shade-bearing trees still grace the base of the feature (along with a few stunted pines at the summit).
A few tactical notes:
• The summit can be reached via grippy third class scrambling, which makes for pleasant down climbing.
• Be aware that noise makes for difficult climbing communications, as river noise, traffic noise from washboarded dirt roads and squeals from river feelers conspire to make quite the racket. Be prepared to communicate via rope tugs or radios.
• The morning puts most of the routes in cool shade, but expect to be sunbaked in the afternoon (a good thing on cold days, but pure misery in the summer heat).
• Arrive early to secure your turn on the 5.5 classic trad line The Staircase.
Driving From Hwy 24 in Lake George
• Follow CR 96 to the mouth of the canyon. There is a welcome booth here where a small (presently $5) fee is collected. From here, the road is graded dirt/gravel, suitable for travel in a passenger car. Occasional wash board is annoying, but high clearance is not needed.
• Arch Rock is located 4 miles up the canyon on the south / left side.
There is a small (1-2 cars max) rough parking area immediately below the formation. Or, continue ¼-1/3 mile up the road to the parking area for the Elevenmile Picnic Ground (where there is also a vault toilet).
I encourage you to view this fantastic area map contributed by Ed F for the location of “Arch Rock”.
• Note: Elevenmile Canon is managed by the Pike National Forest. This is NOT part of the Elevenmile Reservoir State Park, and your Colorado State Parks pass is not valid for entry.
• A fee of $5 is required upon entry to the canyon, at the welcome kiosk.
Several first-come, first-served car camping sites are operated by the Forest Service in Elevenmile Canyon. SP contributor Ed F has graciously listed these in order from the northeastern entrance of the canyon southwest toward the reservoir.
• Riverside Campsite
• O'Brian Gulch Campsite
• Springer Gulch Campsite
• Wagon Tongue Campsite
• Cove Campsite
• Spillway Campsite
I encourage you to view this fantastic area map contributed by Ed F for the location of camp sites in Elevenmile Canyon.
Weather & Seasons
Summer: The Elevenmile Canyon area can be a bit hot and dusty in the summer, and very crowded, but the road should be dry and accessible and the breezes on top of “Arch Rock” pleasant.
Spring: The snowpack is less deep here than in the high country and melts out faster than higher areas to the west. None-the-less, be aware that encountering ice on the routes up “Arch Rock” could be unpleasant.
Fall: Cooler temperatures and relatively dry conditions (before the snows hit) would make autumn a nice time to visit “Arch Rock.”
Winter: Thanks to proximity to US Hwy 24 and “primary dirt road” 96, this dome is accessible year-round, though deep snows/drifts and dirt road closures would limit accessibility. Also, encountering ice on any of the routes up “Arch Rock” could be unpleasant.
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