Our Favorite North American Ice Climbing Towns

Ouray, Colorado

Where to Climb: Ouray Ice Park. This canyon is an ice climber’s paradise! It is filled with over 200 manmade ice and mixed climbs. Most climbs are within a 15-minute walk from the park entrance and thanks to efforts by the volunteers over the past year, almost all climbs now feature permanent anchor chains. Oh, and it’s absolutely free. You can (and we highly recommend that you do) buy a voluntary membership to support the park for $40 which gets you discounts on many shops and restaurants around town. Those skilled in backcountry climbing can spend a day up at Camp Bird Mine Road playing on the handful of fun, multi-pitch climbs with less of the crowds.

Après: After you get done swinging tools at the ice park, head to the Ouray Hot Springs to soak those aching muscles away. For $20, you get a towel and can soak the night away in the varying degrees of outdoor pools while the snow falls around you.

Stay: There are plenty of hotels in Ouray to choose from but we always head to Box Canyon Lodge. The rooms are comfortable, warm, and spacious enough to dry gear out each night, breakfast is free, and best of all it’s a short walk to the ice park each morning.

Gear: If you are in need of any and all sorts of ice climbing gear or want your tools, crampons, or ice screws sharpened, head on over to see Bill at Ouray Mountain Sports. This is an outdoor shop institution. As a female ice climber, you will be pleasantly surprised by the gear selection that TK brings in for us each year.

Eat & Drink: For a town that spans just a few blocks, there are plenty of good places to eat and drink. Our favorite? Buen Tiempo. Grab an El Jefe, snack on the bottomless basket of chips and salsa, and feast on classic Tex Mex fare such as fajitas or green chile stew. This is a great place to rub shoulders with all the famous climbers during Ouray Ice Fest time. For those more into brew pub fare, head down the street to the Ouray Brewery and order a pint of San Juan IPA and a burger. And for all you football fans who just can’t miss a game, O’Briens Pub is the place to go.

Bozeman, Montana

Where to Climb: Hyalite Canyon. With over 150 ice routes in less than 3 square miles, Hyalite Canyon represents the most concentrated, natural ice climbing venue in North America. Home to all-time classics like Winter Dance and The Scepter, many legendary climbers, such as Conrad Anker and Joe Josephson, call this place their local training ground. Hyalite rests south of Bozeman, about 45 minutes from Downtown, depending on road conditions and routes range from 10 minutes to 2 hours from the car.

Après: On your way back into town, head straight to Montana Ale Works at the east end of Main Street  for happy hour.

Stay: For old school Wild West charm, head to the Western Heritage Inn on the edge of downtown. You will share the free breakfast buffet with an enormous stuffed grizzly bear that dons a Santa hat during the holidays. The new hipster kid on the block, however, is The Lark, conveniently located on the middle of Main Street with the most amazing taco truck perched just out front in the parking lot.

Gear: While Bozeman has a rather large REI, we like to head to Northern Lights Trading Company for any climbing gear we might need.

Eat & Drink: Before driving out to Hyalite, grab a latte and breakfast burrito from Wild Joe’s on Main. Stock up on snacks and lunch food at the Co-op — a community owned grocery store chain in Bozeman, open since 1979. Whatever you do, don’t forget to buy a bag of locally made Béquet Caramels. They are the most amazing treats you will ever eat. Seriously. As for dinner, Montana Ale Works serves a mean bison burger but if you want a big and juicy Montana steak, head to Open Range. Finish the night drinking whiskey and shooting pool at the dive bar Scoop.

Canmore, Alberta

Where to Climb: Take your pick! There is so much wild ice within an hour or two’s drive of this quaint Canadian mountain town that you will be spoiled for choice. If you want an ice crag to warm up on for the first day or two, head to Haffner Creek. Here, you will find a handful of top-rope-friendly single pitch ice and mixed climbs with not too long of an approach.  If you find yourself at high-avalanche risk days, don’t sulk in the pub. Check out the Cave and get your dry tool on.

Après: Head to the Grizzly Paw Brewing Co. for a microbrew in a beautiful and airy wood and glass building — the Rundlestone Session IPA makes a great recovery drink. If alcohol is not your thing, Grizzly Paw also makes their own line of sodas including Ginger Beer and Black Cherry Cola. For more of a traditional pub feel, pop into the Rose & Crown to enjoy a pint of Guinness or two by the roaring fire.

Stay: The affordable Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge features rustic but large rooms for drying all your gear — some with kitchenettes. It’s within walking distance of downtown and offers easy access to the freeway for those o-dark-thirty commutes to the climbs.

Gear: Hands down, Vertical Addiction is the best little shop you will find in the Canadian Rockies for all your climbing needs.

Eat and Drink: For family or low key fare, we love the food at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. The Maple Bacon Mac & Cheese will carbo-load you up the Weeping Wall. For a more fine dining experience, head to Sage. Built into a log cabin with huge bay windows overlooking the mountains, you can choose between Canadian bistro fare in the main dining room or head upstairs (our personal choice) to the wine lounge for a glass of red and tapas-style cuisine.

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