Seven Awesome Ice Climbing Destinations in the U.S.

Year-round climbers don’t let a lit­tle win­ter get in their way. Instead, they head for the ice and begin their ver­ti­cal ascents. Along­side expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge, with a lit­tle assis­tance from cram­pons, ice axes and a strate­gi­cal­ly placed ice screw or two, ice climb­ing is a pop­u­lar win­ter activ­i­ty that keeps its patrons warm through­out the sea­son. Across the cold­er part of the nation, both man-made and nat­ur­al ice falls are wait­ing to be climbed, and whether you find your­self look­ing for ice climb­ing in New Eng­land, the Upper Mid­west or the Amer­i­can West, you’ll find plen­ty of routes worth your win­ter atten­tion.

Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Col­orado
When speak­ing about ice climb­ing in North Amer­i­ca, Ouray Ice Park is always a part of the con­ver­sa­tion. Fea­tur­ing frozen water­falls lin­ing the Uncom­pah­gre Gorge of the San Juan Moun­tains, Ouray earns the top spot with over 200 named routes, an abun­dance of guid­ing com­pa­nies to show you the ropes and a com­mu­ni­ty that has real­ly come togeth­er to enjoy the adven­ture. Built by ice farm­ers and sprin­klers each win­ter, Ouray is an ice-mec­ca thanks to col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts between the city, the Ouray Ice Park non-prof­it group and local landown­ers. One of the best ways to enjoy the Ouray Ice Park is the annu­al Ouray Ice Fes­ti­val, which shines a spot­light on the friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty that sur­rounds these ice walls.

Sand­stone Ice Climb­ing Park, Sand­stone, Min­neso­ta
Just over an hour north of the Twin Cities along Inter­state 35 en route to Duluth, Sand­stone is a real hotspot for Mid­west­ern­ers and beyond for ice climb­ing. Serv­ing as Minnesota’s first farmed Ice Park, Sand­stone Ice Climb­ing Park is sit­u­at­ed with­in Robin­son Coun­ty Park and a for­mer sand­stone quar­ry. These dug-out canyon walls pro­vide the per­fect place to freeze with water, effec­tive­ly cre­at­ing an ice-climb­ing mec­ca in Min­neso­ta. The sea­son at Sand­stone real­ly kicks off each year with the Sand­stone Ice Fes­ti­val in Jan­u­ary and lends access to all abil­i­ties and inter­est lev­els through­out the win­ter.

Key­stone Canyon, Valdez, Alas­ka
Sit­u­at­ed on the south­ern shore of Alas­ka, sur­round­ed by the Chugach Nation­al For­est to the east and Wrangell St. Elias Nation­al Park to the west, Valdez is a half-kept secret for adven­ture in Alas­ka. Locat­ed on the apt­ly named “Adven­ture Cor­ri­dor” of Alas­ka, Valdez is home to a lot of alpine action, includ­ing some of the best ice climb­ing around. Of par­tic­u­lar note, Key­stone Canyon draws expe­ri­enced climbers from around the world, offer­ing deep-blue water­fall routes that require mul­ti­ple pitch­es to climb. Much like every­thing in Alas­ka, Key­stone Canyon takes the adven­ture to a whole new lev­el, requir­ing dense logis­tics to get to the trail­head, a self-sup­port­ed endeav­or, and a wilder­ness expe­ri­ence to always remem­ber.

Franken­stein Cliff, Craw­ford Notch State Park, New Hamp­shire
Among the many New Hamp­shire State Parks to vis­it this win­ter, Craw­ford Notch State Park should be on the top of the list. A pic­turesque des­ti­na­tion set against the White Moun­tains, Craw­ford Notch pro­vides cross-coun­try ski­ing, snow­shoe­ing and qual­i­ty ice climb­ing. Fea­tur­ing a wide vari­ety of ice routes for most skill lev­els, one of the more pop­u­lar road­side spots to climb in Craw­ford Notch is Franken­stein Cliff. With easy access and mul­ti­ple route options to sharp­en your skills, every ice climber in the North­east has heard the tale of Franken­stein Cliff.

Pro­vo Canyon, Wasatch Moun­tains, Utah
Besides pro­vid­ing a great set­ting for auto­mo­bile tour­ing, High­way 189 out of Pro­vo, bet­ter known as the Pro­vo Canyon Scenic Dri­ve, also lends to a bur­geon­ing selec­tion of ice climb­ing routes. Regard­ed as some of the best ice climb­ing in Utah, Pro­vo Canyon lends to road­side access and steep pitch­es, as well as a smat­ter­ing of dif­fer­ent grad­ings to devel­op new skills. An ambi­tious and impres­sive ascent to aim for at Pro­vo Canyon is the Stair­way to Heav­en, a 10-pitch pic­turesque route you’ll have to work for.

Lake Willough­by, Willough­by State For­est, Ver­mont
The North­east High­lands of Ver­mont is always a great win­ter get­away, and one of the best ways to enjoy the cold sea­son is to climb high onto the ice of Mount Pis­gah near the shores of Lake Willough­by. Locat­ed less than two hours north of Franken­stein Cliff and Craw­ford Notch State Park in New Hamp­shire, Lake Willough­by ice climb­ing is rat­ed as more dif­fi­cult, and can pro­vide the right kind of chal­lenge for expe­ri­enced climbers. Longer approach­es, hard­er ascents, and more pitch­es, that’s the name of the game at Lake Willough­by, includ­ing one of the largest con­cen­tra­tions of dif­fi­cult ice climbs in the nation.

Peabody Ice Climb­ing, Fen­ton, Michi­gan
Fea­tur­ing two iced-over tow­ers on a retired apple orchard, Peabody Ice Climb­ing pro­vides a cool way to stay active this win­ter. Ide­al for ice-climbers look­ing for train­ing and prac­tice, or begin­ners tak­ing a first inter­est in the sport, the two eye-catch­ing frozen tow­ers at Peabody are also accom­pa­nied by a warm­ing hut, gear rentals and a heat­ed bunkhouse for overnight adven­tures. Through­out all sea­sons at Peabody Ice Climb­ing, ice climbers can con­tin­ue to get some vert with the indoor dry-climb­ing wall and a sim­u­lat­ed high-alti­tude work­out cham­ber