Looking to rock climb in Tensleep, Wyoming this summer? Check out this complete climber’s travel guide to find everything you need to know about Tensleep climbing!
Wyoming is a pretty ridiculous state. It’s got Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP, the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, climber’s paradise Lander, the Wind River Range, Laramie, the Cloud Peak Wilderness, AND Devil’s Tower! I mean honestly—are you kidding me?
It’s incredible and to top it off, as if Lander, Laramie, and the Tetons weren’t enough for the avid climber, Wyoming is also complete with Tensleep Canyon!
I honestly kinda want to keep Wyoming to myself however, more climbers rush into Wyoming each summer whether I like it or not.
And they should, it’s a climber’s paradise! While nearby Lander is full of amazing year-round climbing spread throughout the greater Lander area, Tensleep is a summer-sending paradise, like Disneyland for sport climbers.
In this blog, we’re breaking down a climber’s guide to visiting Tensleep so that you can make the most of your climbing trip to Wyoming plus, we’ve included some other tips to reduce your impact on the bustling canyon!
As always, we want to help you plan a great climbing trip but please make sure you support the town and those who put in the work to but the canyon by purchasing the Tensleep Climbing Guidebook in town. You can grab the guidebook at Dirty Sally’s General Store or at the Tensleep Brewery.
Table of Contents
Important Notes on Tensleep Climbing
Tensleep has recently gone through a history of conflict with some climbers manufacturing unethical routes. The whole story isn’t too important but it furthers the focus and importance of maintaining the canyon responsibly.
- Leave NO trace. It’s no surprise locals get irritated by the crowds considering how many Denver gym rats flock to Tensleep (no offense to gym rats). Just saying, respect the canyon and the locals who are trying to preserve some amazing rock. This means packing out all waste, and leaving the crag better than you found it 🙂
- There is no new route development allowed.
- Come prepared with food and supplies because there is only one small general store with necessities.
- Top rope through your gear.
- Be aware of a few remaining altered routes which may be dangerous to climb due to chopped bolts or filled pockets. There aren’t many anymore and I the most popular areas aren’t a corner. You can find a current list at bighornclimber.org.
Where is Tensleep, Wyoming
If you thought Lander was small, think again because Tensleep has a population of about 100 people. Yes, you read that right. Honestly, Tensleep is more of a destination than a city.
Tensleep is located in west-central Wyoming in the mountainous region that juts up directly west of Buffalo.
Tensleep itself lies on the base of the west side of the Cloud Peak Range. Climbs in Tensleep Canyon extend from the town up to Meadowlark Lake, which is a 30-minute drive in full.
Getting to Tensleep, Wyoming
Tensleep is about 3 hours north of Lander and one of the best stops between Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore. Tensleep is not particularly close to any big cities but that doesn’t seem to discourage climbers from flocking into to town when summer comes along.
- Jackson Hole to Tensleep – 4.5 hours
- Denver to Tensleep – 7 hours
- Salt Lake City to Tensleep – 7 hours
- Rapid City to Tensleep – 4 hours
- Bozeman to Tensleep – 5 hours
Driving in from the west is a flat open road however do note that coming from or leaving to the east is a large mountain pass. The grade from Tensleep eastbound is steep but not too bad, then there’s a long plateau section in the middle before the grade drops steeply into the town of Buffalo.
I mention it for big rigs however people double-tow over the grade all the time.
Best Time for Tensleep Climbing
Tensleep is best climbed from mid-April to mid-October. Spring and fall can be sprinkled with a few chilly days which require planning to climb the most sun-exposed walls.
Winter climbing is, for the most part, not a thing here but I suppose the occasional 50-degree day in mid-winter can make it climbable.
Summertime can get quite hot and you’ll want to avoid full sun amid summer. Though most of the cards are on the south-facing side of the highway, many of the walls get sun for only half the day. Getting a late start is usually the better way to go in August and September. You can also avoid the heat by climbing up at the fantastic crag of Lake Point at Meadowlark Lake, which is usually about 5 degrees cooler than the Canyon crags below.
Related: Climber’s Guide to Lander, Wyoming
Tensleep Rock Climbing Areas
Tensleep consists of at least two dozen different walls, some of which have sub-areas. The larger areas include Valhalla, French Cattle Ranch, and Lake Point, These areas have many different walls within the areas. Other popular crags include Wall of Denial, Circus Wall, Hound Dog Crag, Home Alone, and many more.
The climbing in Tensleep is accessed from different parking areas along the highway. Lake Point is the highest elevation and it’s a downhill grade as you drive down to Tensleep.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular areas in order of closest to furthest from Tensleep:
Old Road Crags + Home Alone
The Old Road Crags plus Home Alone are the first crags you’ll reach when driving out of Tensleep.
Home Alone is worth noting for being the first bolted routes in the canyon and great place to climb in the heat of summer.
The 100’ Home Alone routes, known as the first bolted route in the canyon are fun for every the most advanced climbers but there are plenty of challenging 11s, 12s, and 13s in this small crag. The lines are more of an adventure here with some difficult moves for the grade and occasional runout for shorter folks (like myself).
The Old Road Crags contain a mix of great lines like Godfather 1 (10c) and 2 (11a) and adventurous routes on the Waterfall Walls. These crags lie off of the dirt road, Old Highway 16, a junction of the major Highway 16 about 10 minutes out of town..
After you pass Home Alone and the Old Road Crags, there are about a dozen different walls accessed from two different pullouts. These walls contain some of the most commonly climbed moderate routes in Tensleep including classics like Death Flake from Hell (10a), Big Bear Memorial (10b), Ice Station Zebra (10c), and Circus in the Wind (11a/b).
After driving beyond the switchbacks, Mondo Beyondo is the first crag you’ll reach. Mondo had more than 100 routes with many great lines from 5.10-5.12. It’s an ideal place for intermediate climbers.
Valhalla is along the same cliff band as Mondo Beyondo but is typically accessed from one pullout past Mondo. The Valhalla area contains some of the newest and highest quality lines in the canyon making for some great send opportunities.
Much like Mondo, most of the 100+ routes in Valhalla are in the 5.10-5.12 range. Unlike some of the lower crags, the routes are yet to become polished and are spectacular.
French Cattle Ranch
French Cattle Ranch is accessed from the same parking lot and trailhead as Valhalla. It contains the fantastic area known as the Back Forty plus Big Kahuna Pillar. There’s something for everyone here with some especially great moderates and gnarly hard 12s & 13s.
The fine print here is that it’s a longer hike than any other area in the canyon but it’s worth it.
Lake Point is the surprising gem of Ten Sleep. You usually think of Tensleep Canyon as being in a canyon so you might not think that the ridge that towers above the canyon contains the best routes of Tensleep.
Lake Point is a sports climber’s dream, full of amazing juggy picket lines. Lake Point has plenty of great 5.10-5.11 routes but it’s also one of the best areas for beginners with its easy lines on Tilt-a-Wall.
Tensleep Climbing for Families
Want to climb Tensleep with kids in tow? You’re going to be looking for shorter approaches, shade, and possibly some easier routes.
If you’re looking for easy routes to get kids on, Lake Point is definitely your best choice despite the approach time (30 min).
If you’re looking for a shorter approach and a comfortable area for them to hang out, Circus Wall, Wall of Denial, and Home Alone are great options.
Pro tip: Avoid Hound Dog Crag with kids.
Most of the belay areas at Valhalla are relatively spacious however it’s a moderately long approach. The same goes for French Cattle Ranch but with an even longer approach.
Visiting Tensleep With an RV
Tensleep can be visited very easily with an RV, however, parking can be difficult in the mid-summer months.
Some of the pullouts aren’t particularly large and can only fit one or two dozen cars. Not only is it hard to grab parking, but you might feel bad taking up three parking spaces.
Fortunately, you only have to be concerned about this in July and August otherwise, you shouldn’t have trouble parking.
In July/August, I recommend sticking to the bigger parking areas of Mondo Beyondo, Valhalla, and French Cattle Ranch.
Where to Camp for Tensleep Climbing
You can camp in various spots along throughout Tensleep Canyon. Depending on your vehicle and desired experience will affect which campground you choose. Wherever you stay, the most important thing to remember is to pack out ALL trash and waste!
Where to Camp in Tensleep
Camping near Tensleep
Down at the bottom of the canyon in the town of Tensleep, there are two different camping options.
Tensleep Brewery, the climber’s choice evening hangout, has a large grass parking area in which they allow camping for $5 per person per night. Camping here can be a great vibe since the grass is right outside the brewery patio and, the brewery also offers paid showers for campers. The brewery allows campers with tents, single axle trailers, truck campers, vans, and small less than 30’ class C but do not allow Class A’s or 5th Wheels.
Larger RVs can stay at the RV Park in town, great for if you want amenities and site hookups.
Up the canyon, near the Old Road Crags, there’s a campground called Leigh Creek which is great for tents and RVs 30’ and under. There is running water and pit toilets here.
Self-contained vehicles such as RVs can overnight park in pullouts if necessary which we often do if we’re just passing through.
Camping in the Upper Canyon
Note that all the National Forest Campgrounds don’t open until May 1st.
Camping near the top of the canyon is a real magical experience. Not only is Tensleep a climbing destination, but it’s also home to amazing hiking through the national forest. At the road junction which heads out toward the hiking trailheads, there are a couple of beautiful NF campgrounds. These campgrounds have water and pit toilets and can fit RVs up to 35’. Our favorite is Boulder Park Campground shown below.
At the trailhead to Lake Point, there is a small NF campground with about 6-8 sites however these sites are for tent camping only. On the other side of the lake, not by the trailhead, there’s a larger campground for RVs and tents. Both campgrounds have pit toilets and water.
Finally, Meadowlark Lake Lodge offers free tent camping and there are also cabins available for rent if camping is not your thing. I have ten camped there so I would probably email them to make sure that’s still a thing.
There is free camping spread out throughout the Canyon. You can click here to get info about free camping here.
Other Things to Do in Tensleep, Wyoming
Even if I didn’t climb, I would love Tensleep Canyon! The Bighorns are one of the most stunning places in the world in my opinion. Much like most of our national forests, they’re a gem reserved for real outdoor lovers.
If you’re looking for a rest day activity or just want to make the most of your trip to Tensleep, check out the amazing hiking in the Cloud Peak wilderness. You can check out some of the best hikes in Tensleep in our Best Hikes Wyoming blog.
Hope you enjoyed this blog and if you have any questions on visiting Tensleep, let us know in the comments below!
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