Take A Leap Of Faith… & Try The 10 Best Via Ferrata In North America!

best via ferrata in North America CMH Canadian Mountain Holidays Mt Nimbus via ferrata at CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures - Image taken by: Gary Unterasinger Courtesy: CMH Summer Adventures

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Rock climbing is a challenging sport taking years to master and a ton of effort to get good at it. But, what if you had basic climbing skills and wanted to experience some summer fun in the mountains for a weekend? That’s where Via Ferrata comes in! It’s a great way to get the adrenaline pumping by enjoying dramatic positions and accessing difficult peaks without the danger normally associated with it. In our article, we delve into what it is and where are the best Via Ferrata in North America (both US & Canada). Grab those approach shoes, don that climbing helmet, and get ready for your first Via experience.

What is Via Ferrata?

best via ferrata in North America Canyon Sainte-Anne Quebec Canada
Via Ferrata at Canyon Sainte-Anne Image taken by: © Eric Dupuis

Italian for “Iron Road”, it’s a centuries old concept of a “protected” path deep in the mountains. Back in the 19th century, these paths were used to access pastures too difficult to reach without any aid. It was then popularized during World War I in the Italian Dolomites to help troops move about the high alpine in very difficult weather conditions. Fast forward to today, and it has become a popular way for inexperienced climbers to undertake dangerous routes normally reserved only for serious mountaineers. How? Well, first steel cables are attached to the rock face running along the climbing route. Second, additional climbing aids are provided such as:

  • Iron rungs (stemples)
  • Pegs
  • Carved steps
  • Ladders
  • Bridges
best via ferrata in North America Canyon Sainte-Anne Quebec Waterfall Climbing
Image courtesy: Projet Vertical

With the steel cable attached and additional aids such as a full body harness, a new route is born giving serious climbers a way to go solo while beginners get a taste of the mountains. So, where are the best Via Ferrata routes in North America?

The Best Via Ferrata Routes in US & Canada

Palisades Tahoe, California

An “Olympic” Kind Of Fun

Squaw Valley Via Ferrata Best Via Ferrata North America
Image appears courtesy: Palisades Tahoe

As mountain town after mountain town has installed a Via Ferrata, it is only fitting that the legendary home of Shane McConkey would be the one in Lake Tahoe that took the lead on building its own. Back in September 2018, Palisades Tahoe in partnership with Alpenglow Expeditions had two Via Ferrata Climbing routes installed on Tram Face. For those that have visited Palisades Tahoe, you know how serious that face is as it juts up from the Village at Palisades Tahoe. Don’t you worry though… the routes will allow even those with no climbing experience the opportunity to safely scale the iconic rock face. In addition, Alpenglow offers several options for guided Via Ferrata tours.

The Routes

Over the years they’ve expanded the options to now include FOUR routes. All routes begin in the same place with the Flamingo Buttress. Like dipping your toe in a lake, this zone features a short cable bridge, as well as a near vertical section low to the ground so you can get used to the equipment and then tackle whichever route you go on to from there.

For more information about the Tahoe Via Ferrata: tahoevia.com or call Alpenglow Expeditions at 877-873-5376.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

1st Ever On US Forest Service Land

best via ferrata in North America Jackson Hole Wyoming Summer Adventure
Completed in 2016 Jackson Hole is the newest one on the list! Image Courtesy: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Let’s be honest… Jackson Hole in the Northern Rockies is becoming the adrenaline junkie’s premiere US destination even for summer fun in the mountains. From some of the steepest continuous terrain in the winter to multiple National Parks, access to adventure is at your fingertips! When Jackson Hole opened the Via Ferrata adventure in 2016, they became the FIRST in US history for a Via Ferrata to exist on Forest Service leased land. Before this, you’d need to train and build a decent skill set before attempting any of the region’s climbs. Going forward, you now have a place to experience mountaineering AND be safe.

The Routes

You have a choice of six routes to pick from including a 120 foot suspension bridge. These routes are divided into three sections. The Gateway area is perfect for inexperienced adventurers to get a taste of what the Teton Mountain range offers for climbing. Ranger Ridge area is home to three suspension bridges and a cable ladder scattered across its intermediate-expert routes. Varying in length and steepness, they all culminate with spectacular views. Lastly, you have the Casper Buttress Area. This will push you to your limits. Routes are more vertical and exposed. The Crystal Cave route takes you in and out of a mid-wall cave and ascends a steep granite slab. 

For more information: Jackson Hole Via Ferrata

Canyon Sainte-Anne, Quebec

Dangle Over a Waterfall 1/3 Taller than the Niagara

best via ferrata in North America Canyon Sainte-Anne Quebec Waterfall Climbing
Image courtesy: Projet Vertical

When you think of a large North American waterfall, most people’s imagination drifts to the Niagara river’s rushing water. What if you could climb a steep rock face next to massive falls that size? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Only 5 minutes from the famed Mont Sainte Anne ski resort, you can do just that and more at Canyon Sainte-Anne in Quebec. The waterfall, located on the Sainte-Anne-du-Nord river, is nearly 1/3 higher than Niagara Falls. But, the amount of adventures available in the nearby region are even bigger! From zip-lining to a suspension bridge, there’s a lot to offer. The shining star on the list though is their Via Ferrata. With three routes available, you’ll get intimately acquainted with the sheer rock faces making this an awe-inspiring locale.

For more information: Canyon Sainte-Anne

Mt. Nimbus, British Columbia

Longest and Highest in North America

Best Via Ferrata In Canada CMH Holidays
Conrad Glacier Adventure at CMH Bobbie Burns -Part hike & part via ferrata – Image taken by: Bruce Howatt Courtesy: CMH Summer Adventures

We’ve talked about heli-skiing and heli-biking before, but what about heli-Via Ferrata? Deep in the Columbia Mountains, CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures takes hiking to another level by offering heli-assisted Via Ferrata. Highlights include being nearly 3,000 feet up while crossing a 60m long suspension bridge dangling off the summit of Mount Nimbus! They then finish off the experience with a well-rewarded gourmet meal and glass of wine back at the Bobbie Burns Lodge.

For more information: Canadian Mountain Holidays

Mount Norquay, Alberta

Views of Canadian Rockies

best via ferrata in North America Canada Mount Norquay Ski Big 3 Lake Louise Banff
Image taken by: AngeStar

The Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park are arguably some of the most majestic peaks in the world. Words cannot describe just how beautiful they are and the Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay is the best way to truly enjoy them. This region offers four routes on the cliffs above the slopes of Mount Norquay. The jewel of the options is the Summiteer. Over the six hour route, you’ll cross a 3-wire suspension bridge over an impressive chasm. It’ll get your heart pumping to say the least! Once you reach the top and take a look around, all that hard-work will be well worth it.

For more information: Banff Norquay

Telluride, Colorado

Box Canyon Views with a Main Event

best via ferrata in North America Telluride Colorado Box Canyon Southwest US
Image taken by: Brendan James

For locals, the Via Ferrata in Telluride is rightly named “Krogerata.” In honor of the local iron worker and avid climber who started work on it, Chuck Kroger sadly passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2007 but is forever memorialized in the region. Located thousands of feet above the famed boxed canyon, the views of town and the grandiose Bridal Veil Falls are down-right breathtaking. This one may not require a guide but we HIGHLY recommend it since some sections don’t have a cable. The trail may start out slowly, but once you arrive at the “Main Event”, it quickly becomes no joke. A section with 300 feet of metal ladder rungs bolted onto a sheer cliff face, it drops nearly 200+ feet below your feet. Even if you don’t have a fear of heights, it will definitely question your judgement. 

There are multiple guides you can head out with including the reputable team from Mountain Trip (via Viator – Trip Advisor)

If you want to learn more about Chuck Kroger and a full run-down on this Via Ferrata, check out our article: To Hell-U-Ride On The Krogerata – Via Ferrata Telluride.

Mount Ogden, Utah

An Ode to a Climbing Legend

best via ferrata in North America Mt Ogden Via Ferrata Utah Snowbasin Salt Lake City
Photo Courtesy: Utah Adventure Center

Besides the amazing views, the story behind its creation is one that should always be told when speaking about it. The route was established by an Ogden native named Jeff Lowe. A mountain of a man, he completed over 1,000 first ascents, some of them solo, helping create each of the three routes back in 2004. It was around this time he found out he had ALS, causing his balance and coordination to deteriorate. When you step out onto one of his trails, you’ll appreciate the amount of detail he put into them from coming around a corner to see orange lichen to being “forced” to have a view of the Great Salt Lake. By the end, you’ll understand why people get into rock climbing. To access this amazing place, please note you must participate in a guided hike or climb with an authorized guide from the Utah Adventure Center.

Mammoth Mountain

Take in the Eastern Sierra as Your Backdrop

Via Ferrata at Mammoth Mountain during summer operations with suspension bridge
Image appears courtesy: Mammoth Mountain

When it comes to adrenaline fueled fun, Mammoth ranks pretty far up on the list for year-round fun. World-class skiing through at least June (or later). More than 80 miles of mountain bike trails that you can enjoy along with spring skiing. And as of 2018, it includes Via Ferrata! Located on the rugged cliffs below the Caldera Overlook adjacent to the McCoy station, it features six different route options that progress in difficulty. Three easy, two moderate that are joined by a suspension bridge, and one difficult route.

For more information: Guided Climbing Adventures At Mammoth Mountain

Taos Ski Valley

Experience the Renaissance

Taos Ski Valley Sign at entrance of resort in New Mexico
Photo by: Local Freshies®

Since the new owner bought Taos, they’ve earmarked $300 million dollars on revitalizing the area. In their words, they’re getting “better, not bigger.” As part of this initiative, they’ve built a Via Ferrata located in the upper bowl near Lift 4. Situated at 11,500 feet above sea level in the sub-alpine ecosystem of Kachina Peak, it’s an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

The Routes

As of this season, two routes are now available. The first is the Sangre De Cristo Skybridge route which provides beginner and intermediate routes to pick from, and the showstopper – a 100’ skybridge suspended 50′ in the air. The second one is the K Chutes Route featuring intermediated and advanced routes. This is built on some of the most iconic rock faces on Kachina Peak. As part of this tour, you’ll experience the thrill of traversing across a 30′ double cable catwalk, suspended 20′ in the air.

For More Information: Via Ferrata Tours At Taos

Arapahoe Basin

Get “High” In Colorado

via ferrata at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado the highest in the United States
Image appears courtesy: Arapahoe Basin Resort

A-Basin’s base elevation of 10,520’ is higher than many ski area’s peaks. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when they opened the Via Ferrata routes, it became the highest in the country. The adventure begins with a lift ride followed by an ATV drive up to the base of the East Wall. In the winter, this is where some of the gnarliest skiing is to be had. But in the summer, you can get an up close and personal view of just how steep it really is. Choose between two different adventures – a half or full day. The half involves about 900 vertical feet of climbing with an intimate view of an old mine shaft. And for those with enough energy, the full-day is about 1,200 feet giving you access to 360 degrees of the peaks surrounding Arapahoe Basin.

For more information: Arapahoe Basin Summer Experience

Ever since the 2011 Ski Area Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act was passed, more United States Via Ferratas are being approved and installed at an accelerated pace. If there’s any that should be on this list, let us know and we’ll be sure to add them. Until then, we wish you all happy and safe climbing!

4 thoughts on “Take A Leap Of Faith… & Try The 10 Best Via Ferrata In North America!

  1. My wife and I wanted to try Via Ferrata in Telluride but couldn’t find enough info over the Internet. Then we decided to visit couple of Outdoor Shops in Telluride when we learned about San Juan Outdoor Adventures. We gave them a call the next day and booked a guided “hike” to Via Ferreta.

    We got contacted by our Guide, Aaron, the day before the hike and given detailed information. We met him next morning and signed our waivers first. Now, San Juan Outdoor Adventures has very experienced climbers and guides; our guide Aaron was super patient and nice to answer all our questions. He handed us our climb harnesses and helmets gave a training how to use clips and locks. We then drove towards Bridal Veil where we parked by the waterfall and hiked about 30 minutes up to the trail head. Aaron explained everything one last time before we started then we geared up.

    It looked treacherous hike in the beginning but you get used to as you get closer to the first set of iron rods. You may see other climbers along the way if it’s a busier time but trail is mostly light traffic. At some places it gets congested due to the difficulty and you need to wait till people move in front of you. You are not clipped to the rod all time; it’s on and off. There are some sections that seem dangerous; you may need aid from your guide. Our gear felt very safe and Aaron was helpful and comforting. There are places you take a break and enjoy the view. Whole tour was about 4 and half hours with breaks.

    I think it should be a guided hike if you haven’t done anything like it before. It was definitely once in a lifetime experience for us and we enjoyed every moment. You may fear in the beginning but it gets easier as you go… There are couple of really challenging spots where you stretch yourself and need to be focused but overall an amazing experience!!!

    1. Hey Jeffery,

      Thanks for sharing. It sounds like you had an amazing time. I always wondered what it must be like to do it. With my fear of heights one of these VIA Ferrata experiences is on our bucket list… but first to actually go heli-skiing 🙂 After that… this is near the top of the list.

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