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El Rito

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El Rito Sport Area 
El Rito Traditional Area 

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From MP's sister site: MTB Project

El Rito 

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Lat, Long: 36.361, -106.1973 Map Incorrect?
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Administrators: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB, Marta Reece, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: Anthony Stout on Jan 20, 2006
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classic El Rito sport climbers


There are two sections to this area, one area is sport, while another is traditional. The climbing here is really fun, steep, and full of boulders and pockets.

The "trad" area has less steep, moderate routes and is a great area for the beginning traditional climber to learn his or her skills.

The sport area contains well protected, cobblestone sport climbing with routes up to 5.13. If you have ever been to Maple Canyon in Utah, this place is very similar, but not quite as steep, and the area is not nearly as large.

An extensive online guidebook is also available for this area.


- Web guide: www.lamountaineers.org/Elrito/index.htm
(This was updated by J.Halladay in June 08 to include recent additions at the sport area)

- "Taos Rock Climbs & Boulders of Northern New Mexico" by Jay Foley, Sharp End Books, 2005.

- "Rock Climbing: New Mexico" by Dennis Jackson, Falcon.

Getting There 

Both El Rito climbing areas are just a few miles north of the small community of El Rito.

To get to the El Rito climbing areas travel north on FR 44 from El Rito. At the intersection for road 248 stay to the right (the sign for 248 was in the middle of the fork and unclear which road was 248 and which was FR 44). Continue on FR44, you will pass spur road 44A on the left. Park here for the sport area.

To reach the trad area, go about .6 miles further on FR44 and you will come to an unmarked road on the left. This is the road to the trad area. Take this left and drive about a mile until you get to the gate mentioned in the guide book and park on the right (obvious parking area). High clearance is necessary, or walk the road where it starts to get bad (it will take less than 30 minutes). A cairned trail leads east toward the trad cliff.

129 Total Routes

['4 Stars',7],['3 Stars',45],['2 Stars',47],['1 Star',17],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for El Rito:
Packrat Dihedral   5.6 4c 14 V S 4b     Trad, 2 pitches, 300'   El Rito Traditional Area
Walt's Wall Waltz   5.7 5a 15 V+ MVS 4b PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   El Rito Sport Area : Walt's Wall (aka The Outsid...
Super Arete   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   El Rito Sport Area : Super Slab
Scurvy Dog   5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a     Sport, 60'   El Rito Sport Area : Pirate's Wall
Clast Action   5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a     Sport, 80'   El Rito Sport Area : Super Slab
Boltaneer   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ E1 5a     Sport, 85'   El Rito Sport Area : Super Slab
Balls to the Wall   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   El Rito Sport Area : Gnar Wall
Blackbeard   5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b     Sport, 80'   El Rito Sport Area : Pirate's Wall
Blackballed   5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   El Rito Sport Area : Gnar Wall
Cobble Wobble   5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b     Sport, 55'   El Rito Sport Area : Big Pine Wall
Full Sail   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b     Sport, 90'   El Rito Sport Area : Super Slab
Village Cobbler   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- E3 5c     Sport, 45'   El Rito Sport Area : Beer Block
Booty (aka Long John)   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- E3 5c     Sport, 88'   El Rito Sport Area : Pirate's Wall
Jug-or-Naut   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- E3 5c     Sport, 40'   El Rito Sport Area : The Balcony
Walking the Plank (aka The Buzz)   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- E4 6a     Sport, 75'   El Rito Sport Area : Pirate's Wall
Bolting Barbie   5.11d 7a 24 VIII E5 6a     Sport, 50'   El Rito Sport Area : Rad Wall
Crack Attack   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ E5 6a     Sport, 65'   El Rito Sport Area : Rad Wall
Stroke Me   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ E5 6a     Sport, 50'   El Rito Sport Area : Rad Wall
Stoker   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ E5 6b     Sport, 65'   El Rito Sport Area : Rad Wall
Against All Cobbs   5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- E6 6b     Sport, 50'   El Rito Sport Area : Rad Wall
Browse More Classics in El Rito

Featured Route For El Rito
Heath riding the (pocket) rocket. August 2011.

Pocket Rocket 5.12a/b 7b 26 VIII+ E5 6a  NM : El Rito : ... : Big Pine Wall
Very nice, and sustained route, with bolts in all the wrong places. After getting though the first bolt, either reach high from a jug way below the bolt or climb to a jug above the bolt and clip at your waist (ground fall potential). Sequency and sustained portion of moves through the third and fourth bolt and the crux is getting past the lip onto easier terrain above....[more]   Browse More Classics in NM

Photos of El Rito Slideshow Add Photo
Patric Climbing at El Rito (route unknown).
Patric Climbing at El Rito (route unknown).
El Rito Sport Crag
El Rito Sport Crag
El Rito Cattle Drive, Don't park on the Road
El Rito Cattle Drive, Don't park on the Road
view from the crag, Oct 10
view from the crag, Oct 10
Super Slab, one of the crags at the El Rito sport climbing area.
Super Slab, one of the crags at the El Rito sport ...
Good sized rattle snake on the dirt road to El Rito on 9/19/09.
Good sized rattle snake on the dirt road to El Rit...
Natural hallway with large wedged steps dubbed the "Route Canal".  There are a few shady routes on the left side (Big pine wall).
Natural hallway with large wedged steps dubbed the...
The El Rito Sport Cliffs
The El Rito Sport Cliffs
El Rito Sport Crag 2
El Rito Sport Crag 2
Comments on El Rito Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Mar 6, 2014
By Ben Bruestle
From: Pueblo, CO
Jan 27, 2006

The conglomerate climbing here is very similar to Maple Canyon, UT, except no crowds.

By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Jan 10, 2007

I've climbed almost every route at El Rito and I;ve never pulled off a cobble, or seen once come off. If I were you, I'd be more concerned about the sandstone matrix. But it all seems really solid to me.

By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Jun 25, 2007

The NAclassics.com content has moved the Los Alamos Mountaineers website. This includes the El Rito Trad and Sport online guides as well as all of the contents of the CD that one used to have to pay for. This is quality material and we're lucky to have free access to it now!

By Anthony Stout
From: Albuquerque, NM
Jun 26, 2007

Great! Uhhhh, makes me glad that I paid for the CD just a few months ago. Oh well, guess you gotta chalk it up to a donation for all the great work they put into it.

By ElyseSokoloff
From: Spokane, WA
Feb 19, 2008

So El Rito next week..issues with climbing there re: cold and access? We were there in April last year and it was perfect. Temps look like they'll be high 40's...too cold? Also, I can't remember how bad the road was out there. Will the snow be too much of an issue? TIA.

By Monomaniac
From: Morrison, CO
Feb 19, 2008

Hard to say, this time of year. I haven't been out this winter. I've climbed there in November before, but it was pretty cold. Most of the good cliffs face west, but the Super Slab & the Schoolhouse Slab face South, so they would be ok if its sunny.

The real questin will be the road, as you suggested. That road can get really muddy at times. I would be worried that snowmelt will make the road a mess.

By drusch
Mar 24, 2008

Supplemental directions: To get to the trad area travel north on FR 44. At the intersection for road 248 stay to the right (the sign for 248 was in the middle of the fork and unclear which road was 248 and which was FR 44). Continue on FR44, you will pass spur road 44A on the left. Go about .6 miles further and you will come to an unmarked road on the left. This is the road to the trad area. Take this left and drive about a mile until you get to the gate mentioned in the guide book and park on the right (obvious parking area). Look for the fire ring on the southeast corner of the parking area and follow the cairns to the wall. The trad wall is east and south of the fire ring.

By ScottCThompson
May 11, 2009

I did not find Jay Foley's Taos Rock guidebook to be helpful while climbing in the Taos area and feel that better, more detailed directions and route descriptions can be found online rather than in that book, both at naclassics.com and here on mountainproject. Perhaps the Foley book could be a supplement if you really wanted to buy it.

I was frustrated with Foley’s Taos book mostly because the directions to every area we went to were vague at best and left a lot of room for interpretation in how to get there. We had to ask for help several times. For future editions, it would be helpful to note that the directions seemed like they were written for locals only, who were already familiar with all the unmarked dirt roads and country highways rather than out-of-towners. Same goes for the route information, if there even was any. I guess it’s best summed up in the El Rito chapter when it says for “detailed route descriptions visit Gary Clark’s website at www.naclassics.com/elrito”. I'm confused why I should visit a free website rather than consult the guidebook I purchased for route information. All the locals we ran into sympathetically laughed when they saw us using the Sharp End book and one of them was gracious enough to let me keep the print out from Clark’s website – thanks Mark!

If I could do it over again, I would have saved my money and simply looked at the information online, both at naclassics.com and on this website.

By Mike Howard
May 12, 2009

Welcome to MP and thanks for your opinion (even though it came off a touch harsh when I first read it) but I think my point is still valid. Given 'Taos Rock' is in the first edition, I agree it could be improved on. When it came out a few years back (2005) it was, and I would argue still is, the most complete book on the subject for this area and a real gift to our climbing community. I think Dennis Jackson's statewide book is also done well (with some limits by scope he would probably admit) but Jay's book tried to make available every route in the county.

Jay, Bob D'Antonio, Joel Tinl, Dennis and a few others have since tripled the total number of pitches in the county and some of that is listed here. I agree on the difficulty of finding one's way around NM, I still get lost, but I have checked the directions and I think they are pretty sound. As for the route descriptions, aren't they all shown as photos?

I, for one, have been impressed by the effort these guys have put in.
Salud y paz,

Please see the ?Taos Area? page for additional comments

By Ron Kleinsmith
May 21, 2009

Does anyone know if they are still having "theft/ break-in problems @ El Rito?

By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
May 21, 2009

Ron, I've been going to El Rito sport and trad areas for years including overnight camping and never had a problem personally or known anyone that has had a problem. In my opinion the theft issue is over-hyped.

By Ron Kleinsmith
May 21, 2009

Thanks Jason - information greatly appreciated! i'm definitely not one of those paranoid people that would blow off a trip altogether based on rumors but i will definitely be a little more relaxed ON my trip thanks to your information! So - thanks again! Happy Climbing!

By Brent.Sinn
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 11, 2009

BE AWARE OF THE LOCALS! My trip to El Rito ended with an indirect direct threat by one rancher and a confrontation with another one about a calf. As my friend and I were leaving, we pulled off the side of the road to allow a truck and trailer coming the other way pass. As we were pinned down, the rancher took the liberty to inform us that we need to make sure to keep our speed under control (even though I felt like I was not speeding) and that I need to tell all my friends, that means you guys. He ended this condescending speech with “if something happens, like you hit a cow or a person, you are going to be in a lot of trouble, not just with the law.” I got the feeling that he was not necessarily irate at me specifically, but that the people of El Rito do not like foreigners in their area, especially if we are driving more than 5 MPH.

The second incident happen a couple miles down the road where there was a calf on the side of the road and I was trying to pass it. I thought I was not being threatening to the cow and I was just trying to pass it, but apparently a second rancher thought differently. He rode up on his horse, with lasso and all, and yelled at me for chasing the young cow. I thought I was driving appropriately around the cow, but I guess not.

The moral of this trip is that you should be respectful of the people in the area so that me and "my friends" don't get a bad rap with the locals. So drive VERY slowly on the road from El Rito to the climbing area and be very careful when driving around cattle. Other than that, the climbing is good.

By BlahBlahBlah
Jun 17, 2009

I'm gonna go ahead and second the warning about the denizens of the El Rito climbing area. Another climber (a lady) and I were there ready to depart when these two guys in a red F150 pickup approached us. They were very strange -- asking us what we were doing -- weren't we afraid of dying -- would we be willing to sell her dog -- did we want to buy their dog -- were we "eachother's ladies." Their looks were not friendly or welcoming. They did not smile or laugh. Basically it was a WEIRD ENCOUNTER. We both thought they were gonna get out of their truck and try something with us. Even though we knew we could take 'em it wasn't a pleasant experience.

Last summer I frequented El Rito about 4-5 times and never had any problems but maybe the people there are getting tired of the traffic.

By Dirty Gri Gri, or is it GiGi?
From: Vegas
Jun 17, 2009

That's creepy, Amanda. You'd kick their asses! Reminds me of the types of encounters we'd have in our snake hunting days. We befriended a snake hunter/business connection in Ca. who lived on the Rez (man, his family was CRAZY, very bizarre!)so we could have access to key areas to look for Red Rubers, which at that time there was a high demand for them; in, and outside the US. He'd "escort us", and tell us where bodies are, or have been found, and warned us about people who were watching us. He didn't smile when he'd tell us, so I was hypervigilant when we were out hunting with him. I'd always breathe a BIG sigh of relief when we drove out of the danger zones. I have some friends from some of more unfriendly areas in NM, and from what they tell me, it ain't no joke! Be safe.

By Dave Wachter
Jul 17, 2009

The local thing is for real. I have a friend who had a long conversation with a local ranger, who said that they've had problems where local hoodlums flag down cars along the road as if they need roadside assistance, then rob people with weapons. The ranger was very clear about recommending NOT stopping, but simply blasting on through as quickly as possible. I'm not a gun person, but if I were a gun person, I would bring my gun to El Rito.
As Lee mentioned (in the sport climbing section), best to try not to drive in or out after dark on Fri/Sat nights, as the local riff-raff are often out partying at that time (which often includes alcohol and shootin').
Of course, staying in good graces with the local ranchers is an entirely different matter. We should always be courteous when driving around cattle,and defer to honest working locals. By the way, if you want to have a local experience that makes you feel a bit better about the area, go into El Farolito and order a combination plate. They don't serve alcohol, but are more than happy to let you bring in your own beer or wine.

By scotthsu
From: Los Alamos, NM
Jul 18, 2009

The recent comments about threatening locals concerns me. As Jason Halladay said above, I've frequented El Rito (mostly the trad area) since 2003, probably been there well over 2 dozen times, and I've never encountered a single problem with threatening locals. We typically show up around 8 or 9am on a Sat or Sun morning and depart around 3-5pm. I haven't been there yet in 2009, so I wonder if this is a newly developing problem. I also wonder exactly where the incidents described above happened (i.e., were they on the way to the sport area, or did some incidents occur past the sport area on the way to the trad area?). Finally, I wonder if the incidents above all happened to people in cars with out-of-state license plates? (I've heard anecdotes about such "profiling" in other parts of northern NM.)

By Dave Wachter
Jul 23, 2009

Seems that the incidents occur near the start of the road into the sport area. Haven't you noticed the dumped tires and shot-up bottles and other trash in the little pull-outs just after the dirt road takes off from the end of town? Your posse is not very likely to get into trouble, as you get up there mid-morning and come out well before dark.
Out of state plates? C'mon, bro, Santa Fe and Albuquerque are plenty enough "not from here" to get those punks riled up.
I work in the E.R. in Albuquerque, and once I saw a patient who was flown in from El Rito after having been stabbed with a bayonet on a rifle used for civil war reinactments (there was no reinactment going on at the time)! They don't mess around....

By Chris Tucker
Jul 26, 2009

I second Dave's recommendation of the El Faralito restaurant! The staff were very accommodating and friendly, even though it was obvious we were not locals.

I did see the trash at the head end of the dirt road though, it was a bit sad. Once you pass the Sign though i is clean as a whistle.

Highly recommend the Sport area.

By Christian Garland
From: Talala, OK
Jul 27, 2009

BTW, If you camping in the area watch out for Bears. Saw one this weekend drinking from the creek less than a 1/2 mile from the parking area. Be sure to hang your food at night.

By scotthsu
From: Los Alamos, NM
Aug 9, 2009

Went to the trad area today, no run-ins with locals nor falcons, just the typical great solitary day with no other parties on the wall. (Arrived around 9:30am, departed just before 3pm.) I did hear a gunshot off in the distance around 11:30am or noon, though.

By Andy Thien
Sep 8, 2009

Booty, locals, and bears...

Sarah and I climbed at the trad area yesterday (9/8/09). We arrived around 9am and departed around 8pm. We left some booty (a blue #9 BD stopper) 30-ft from the top of the 2nd pitch on Packrat Dihedral. We finished our final climb of the day right at sunset, so it was completely dark by the time we grabbed our dog and gear at the base of the climbs and hiked down to our vehicle. As we approached our vehicle, a guy (male, early 20's) was waiting hidden in the brush at the opposite end of the small parking area. Once he saw us (we had no idea he was there), he startled us as he fired up his ATV and started to head off. I waved to him as his headlights flashed me, and he rode up to our vehicle. He chatted with us for several minutes and was extremely friendly. It turns out that he was waiting for us to return to our vehicle to see if we were "illegal" hunters, but I guess our rock gear indicated otherwise. He claimed to own the land just beyond the gate near the parking area. He had a hunting bow on him, and claimed to have been elk hunting when he crossed paths with three bears. He had followed the bears right through the trad parking area just 15-min before we arrived. We were extremely lucky that the bears didn't mess with our dog while we were climbing.

By Catherine Conner
From: Phoenix, AZ
Jul 25, 2010

Locals update....never met friendlier people in my life.

By Orlando
Jul 26, 2010

Locals update....I grew up in northern NM, and I've never met sketchier people in my whole life, myself included.
Low riders, heroin, drinkin' in arroyos and shootin' the guns...I'm starting to get homesick just thinking about it.

and PS: you're safe in regards to getting stabbed with a bayonet - we reserve that honor for cousins.

By Jeremy Aslaksen
From: Albuquerque, NM
Jul 26, 2010

Locals update...it's true...Orlando is one sketchy dude...

By Natalie Rose
Apr 23, 2012

Thank you J.Halladay for the online guide! It was helpful and I loved the climbing!

Update on locals... Aside from trash along the forest roads, the only strange encounter we had (and it was quite strange to me) was a calf head and a cow head just BAM, in the middle of FS road 44. Was really gross and sad. Clearly put there on purpose by some A-hole. Looked pretty fresh. Beautiful area but dang...poor animals!

By mandypants
Jun 12, 2012

Excellent climbing area; no problems with the locals as others have mentioned, although I've only been there once so far. One thing to note: THERE ARE MULTIPLE "EL RITO"S IN NEW MEXICO.

WRONG: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Rito,_Taos_County,_New_Mexico
WRONG: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Rito,_Cibola_County,_New_Mexico
RIGHT: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Rito,_Rio_Arriba_County,_New_Mexico

I went with a group of friends and we went to the wrong one, i.e. the one that comes up by default on Google maps near Taos. Ended up spending over six hours driving to get to the right place. Yes, I know there are directions, and yes, maybe we're just dumb - but, just sayin'. If you've never been before make sure you go to the right one.

By chosspector
From: San Juans, CO
Apr 9, 2013

Bring lots of guns for the camping and go to El Farolito for the chile!

By John Pundt
Jun 3, 2013

Recently visited el rito last weekend 06/02/13 on a climbing trip from texas , and have left a small black camera bag with a go pro and solio charger inside. it was being used to document the trip. if anyone happened to pick it up or knows what happened to it. please contact me at. (210) 663-3034. if not at least post the picks online, cause they were sick!!!!

By KDog
Aug 5, 2013

Climbed there the weekend of 8/3/13. No problems at all with local shenanigans as mentioned above. In fact it was quiet---REALLY quiet! Great camping, no one bothered us. We basically had the whole place to ourselves Fri and Sat. Fun, compact climbing area, very easy to get a lot in. Routes are shorter but still enjoyable. Like a mix between Maple and Shelf (area-wise, at least.) Great place!

By Camster (Rhymes with Hamster)
Aug 18, 2013

This is REALLY interesting. I drove up there with my aging geologist Dad today (8/18/13) and my wife and daughters and my mother. Dad has a PhD in geology (University of Tasmania, 1953 or so) so he's always stoked to look at rock. It was surprising to see all the route development there.

I'd climbed at the "traditional area," of course, with the LA Mountaineers in 1982----who hadn't?

Paul Fehlau and I later (1989) went up to the cobbled cliffs (the so-called "Sport Area") and top-roped a bunch of climbs (all of the the Super Slab routes) that year. Ha! It's such a great place to climb. Funny to read the official "history." Who friggin' cares? It's cragging.

Glad to see it got developed. I'll scan the one or two pics I have from the late 1980s of climbing in the cobble ("Sport") area and post once I figure out how to run my demonic scanner-----BTW, if I die in the next few days, Canon is responsible. Someone please promise to sue them.

By Claire23
Feb 17, 2014

Are there any bathrooms or water available at the sport climbing area or at the camping along the road? Pit toilets or running water?

By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Feb 17, 2014

Claire23 wrote:
Are there any bathrooms or water available at the sport climbing area or at the camping along the road? Pit toilets or running water?

Unfortunately no restrooms or pit toilets near the El Rito sport or trad climbing areas. As for running water, a small stream called the Cañada de Potrero runs intermittently along the campsites near the sport climbing area parking. You'd certainly want to treat this water for drinking.

By DLach
Mar 5, 2014

My friend and I plan on doing some camping and climbing here over spring break. I do have some concerns though. Is it dangerous to camp near the climbing areas? Are the locals and break-ins really that bad? Thank you for any advice you can offer.

By Jason Halladay
From: Los Alamos, NM
Mar 5, 2014

DLach wrote:
My friend and I plan on doing some camping and climbing here over spring break. I do have some concerns though. Is it dangerous to camp near the climbing areas? Are the locals and break-ins really that bad? Thank you for any advice you can offer.

On May 21, 2009, Jason Halladay wrote:
I've been going to El Rito sport and trad areas for years including overnight camping and never had a problem personally or known anyone that has had a problem. In my opinion the theft issue is over-hyped.

This quote of mine still holds true. I've camped and climbed at the El Rito sport area many times since May 2009 without any issues and still personally don't know anyone that's had troubles.

By DLach
Mar 6, 2014

Thank you very much for your prompt reply. I look forward to exploring the area and having fun. Are there any camping locations you recommend or are sites pretty obvious?