Regardless of how long you’ve been climbing, you’ve probably heard someone talk about climbing at Hueco Tanks. Hueco Tanks, Texas, is known the world over for its amazing ecology, stellar views, and spectacular climbs, but there’s a lot to know before you go climbing at Hueco Tanks for the first time.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of bouldering Hueco Tanks. We’ll talk about the fees and costs associated with climbing here, as well as a quick breakdown of the rules and regulations you’ll have to follow. Don’t worry; we’ll talk about the amazing climbs too!
Hueco Tanks: Overview
Hueco Tanks, located about 45 minutes outside of El Paso, Texas, is one of the best, if not the best, bouldering locations in the US. Known for amazing pockets and gorgeous roof problems, this popular climbing destination is highly regulated, so make sure you know what to expect before heading to Hueco.
Hueco Tanks bouldering is divided into four mountains that are all covered in boulder problems. The East, East Spur, and West mountain are all accessible with a guide only, so if you want to climb here, you’ll need to book a guide. Hueco Tanks guided tours can be either public or private and can cost anywhere from $20 to over $100.
The North Mountain is the only mountain that is accessible without a guide, but it is also highly regulated. Hueco Tanks is a Texas state park, and they only take reservations for 70 people to climb the North Mountain every day. They do reserve ten extra spots for walk-ups, but beware because these will fill up fast.
If you need more specific information on Hueco Tanks or are looking to help support the park and the climbing access within, please check out the Climber of Hueco Tanks Coalition. This group of climbers works to take care of the park and the climbing access, preserving it for those to come.
Why You Should Climb Hueco Tanks?
Climbing Hueco Tanks is iconic. The boulder problems are stunning, and the history and ecology are stellar. Climbers love the incredible beauty of the area that they get to experience while climbing on some of the most interesting-looking rocks around.
Hueco Tanks bouldering grades are the standard for other climbing areas across the US. The V scale that we use in the US to rate boulder problems was developed here, so climbing in Hueco Tanks is like climbing through history.
When is the Best Time to Climb Hueco Tanks?
Hueco Tanks’ climbing season starts around September and continues all the way through April. If you try to climb here during May, June, July, or August, you’ll come across a lot fewer people, but the temperatures will also peak at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, meaning that many climbs will be too hot to touch.
Hueco is popular during the winter months, making it a great place for a Thanksgiving or Christmas break climbing trip. Keep in mind that the roof climbs, which are amazing in the summer since they stay cool, will be cold in the winter. The most popular seasons for climbing at Hueco Tanks boulders are fall and spring due to their perfect sending temps.
How Hard Is It to Climb Hueco Tanks?
Hueco Tanks is known for having a huge range in climbing route difficulty. With boulder problems ranging from V0 all the way to above V12+, you are sure to find a boulder that is right for you. The area has hundreds of routes in the V2 to V8 range, making it a perfect place to go with your friends since everyone can find something that works for them.
What are the Recommended Routes in Hueco Tanks?
With over 800 boulder problems on the North Mountain alone, there are excellent routes everywhere you turn in Hueco Tanks, but these are some of the standout routes that you can find in the park:
- Nobody Here Gets Out Alive (V2): A super overhanging roof climb that is touted as one of the best V2 climbs in the world.
- Animal Acts (V5): A creative V5 on West Mountain that starts low and traverses out to a rail before finishing on some easier vertical climbing.
- Warm Up Roof (V4): A visually stunning V4 on East Mountain that starts low and traverses along a spectacular flake up and out of the roof.
These are by no means the only classic routes at Hueco Tanks, so make sure you don’t just limit yourselves to the routes you read about online. There are exceptional routes everywhere you turn, so find ones that work for you and inspire you.
Important Things to Note When Planning to Climb Hueco Tanks
There are a lot of logistics to figure out before you go bouldering at Hueco Tanks. Here are some of the most important things to think about before you go:
It costs $7 per day for each adult in your party to enter the park. Some guided tours will include this cost in them, but many of them will not. You can also buy a Texas state park pass, which will cover your day-use fee for a year in any Texas state park. This year’s long pass will cost you $70 per year.
Remember that the park only allows 70 Hueco Tanks climbing reservations per day so, make sure you plan ahead. If you show up and they have reached the quota for the day, the rangers will turn you away unless you are able to get onto a guided tour and are willing to pay for that. You can make these reservations over the phone up to a month in advance and they do fill up fast, so planning ahead is essential for visiting.
- Where to stay
Hueco Tanks only has about 20 campsites in the park, and they book up months in advance. Keep in mind that you must arrive at these sites at least one hour before the park closes so you don’t get locked out of your site at night. There are a handful of campgrounds right outside the park that you can also stay at, but these fill up quickly too.
Although there are a few campgrounds with yurts or other non-tent accommodations near the park, if you are looking for a hotel, you’ll want to look in El Paso. The closest hotels in El Paso are only about 30 minutes from the park, which is not a bad drive to make in the morning at all.
Since only the North Mountain is accessible without a guide, there is a high likelihood that you will need to hire a guide or join a public guide group to get to climbing in Hueco Tanks. Blue Lizard Yoga and Climbing is one of the most popular climbing guiding companies in the area, but you can also ask at the visitor center when you check in about other companies and options.
Depending on the day, you may have the opportunity to join a public guided group. These groups are cheaper than hiring your own guide, but you will get less say in where you go during the day. They also fill up fast, so make sure you get there early.
Guidebooks to Hueco Tanks are interesting since most of them only focus on the North Mountain. If you are looking for the most popular guide to bouldering Hueco Tanks, look no further than the Wolverine Publishing guidebook. It covers over 850 boulder problems on the North Mountain and even has about 20 pages dedicated to describing the more popular routes on the other mountains. All in all, it’s an excellent book.
- Rules and Regulations
Hueco Tanks is a highly protected area, meaning there are a lot of rules to be aware of. First, make sure you know what times the gates open and close since those times are final, and you will be locked either in or out at that time. Next, expect to spend more time at the visitor center than you might at other climbing locations.
This is because you will be asked to watch an orientation film and go over the rules of the area with a ranger. Sticking to trails is essential in Hueco Tanks for preserving the plant life of the area and not ruining the cultural sites that are hidden away in the rocks. Rangers take protecting this landscape seriously, and so should you.
Wrapping Things Up: A Guide to Bouldering Hueco Tanks
Climbing Hueco Tanks boulders is something that every climber dreams of. The gorgeous lines and features make these highly protected boulders truly one of a kind. Make sure that you fully understand the rules and regulations before you go to Hueco Tanks because we wouldn’t want you to miss out on these amazing climbs because you didn’t understand the reservation system or something like that. Planning a trip to Hueco Tanks should be on every climber’s bucket list!
Looking for more guides? Check out more of our climbing tips here.
Here are a few to help you out: