Success Story 2021

Thumb Open Space

Photo: Mike Whelan
Thumb Open Space
Access Fund
65 acres and a climbing area

The Thumb and Needle spires in Estes Park, Colorado, offer iconic granite rock where legendary climbers have been training and developing routes for decades. In addition to its 50 climbing routes and high-quality bouldering, the area is known for hiking, trail running, and dog walking—with views of Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, and Twin Sisters along the entire trail.

In the past, the land had been privately owned and closed to public access. In 2019, it went up for sale, and Access Fund worked with local climbers and community members to purchase and preserve the 65-acre parcel in perpetuity. A coalition of climbers, hikers, business owners, conservation organizations, and local government agencies joined forces to protect the landscape now called Thumb Open Space.

As of June 2021, Thumb Open Space is owned by the Town of Estes Park, which is working to create a management plan that balances recreation, ecological values, and quality of life for nearby residents and the local community. The area provides a wildlife corridor for elk, deer, bear, mountain lions, and other fauna, and is also frequented by raptors. It will be managed for wildlife habitat as well as conservation, hiking, climbing, bouldering, instruction, and environmental education.

Access Fund and Rocky Mountain Conservancy began trailwork last year to improve the existing trail and provide sustainable access to the Thumb and Needle spires. Once completed, the trail will be accessible to handcycles so that adaptive athletes can access the climbing areas under their own power. While the existing trail is open to the public, the area is not yet open to climbing—the goal for climbing access is Summer 2022.