Top 10 places to Climb in the US
For nature lovers, the US is like a playground just waiting to be explored and climbers are no exception. The country is packed with some of the best rock in the world, incredibly varied climbing spots, beautiful national parks, and awesome camping and hiking to go along with the climbs. While we recognize that the best climbing destinations are really a matter of personal preference, we wanted to create a guide to some of our absolute favorite places to climb in the US, inclusive of many styles and experience levels.
And if you're a beginner getting into climbing, we love this guide from Lydia Yang into everything you need to know about climbing!
Red River Gorge - Kentucky
Total climbs: 1,900+, majority sport
Best time to climb: Fall or Spring
Don’t miss: The Motherlode for the highest concentration of steep, long routes
Since sport climbing really took off in the early 90's, climbers have flocked to the Red River Gorge. The routes are spread out over an expansive acreage, creating a nice variety of options for climbers of varying levels. And like the most stand-out climbing destinations, the location is beautiful. Gaze out at sandstone cliffs and dense national forest as you climb, creating a truly special experience.
Joshua Tree National Park - California
Total climbs: 5,900+, majority trad
Best time to climb: early Spring
Don’t miss: Hidden Valley campground
Located in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, Joshua Tree is world renowned for its thousands of routes. This is the ultimate climbing trip; it has everything from slabs, faces and cracks to seemingly endless boulder options. Perhaps the best part of Joshua Tree is the incredible landscapes that you'll have the opportunity to camp and trek through between climbs.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park - California
Total climbs: 276; majority trad and bouldering
Best time to climb: Any time except April - August when popular routes are closed for falcon nesting season
Don’t miss: Find great, lesser known ascents a few miles off of the popular John Muir Trail
This national park is known because of its similar rock quality to Yosemite but half the crowds, earning its right on our guide to the best US climbing. There are endless varieties of routes including slab, steep face, big wall, cracks, and sport climbing for novices and seasoned climbers alike. Keep in mind that most of the climbs require at least a days hike in. Between routes you can wander between the largest trees on the planet (Sequoias) and explore the steepest river in the US (Kaweah).
Leavenworth - Washington
Total Climbs: 50 crags; majority trad and bouldering
Best time to climb: March- November
Don’t miss: Snowcreek Wall (5.7-5.12)
You’ll find the town of Leavenworth just east of Seattle right in the middle of the highest-density rock climbing in Washington. The crags are divided into three main areas: Icicle Creek Canyon- where climbers of all levels will find appropriate routes, Tumwater Canyon- more complicated routes through steep, rugged canyon, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness- home to our “don’t miss” choice of Snowcreek Wall in addition to some of the best bouldering you can find on the West Coast.
Acadia National Park - Maine
Total Climbs: 240; majority trad, bouldering and top rope
Best time to climb: May- late September
Don’t miss: Canada Cliffs for some adventurous sport climbing with less crowds
Acadia is an incredible national park known for much more than just its climbing opportunities. Here you’ll find stunning coastal climbs and gorgeous landscapes everywhere you turn. For climbers, the main areas to keep in mind are Otter Cliff, the most visited climbing area known for its steep face routes and horizontal cracks; The Precipice, known for its high quality granite rock; and Great Head, where you’ll find the hardest climbs, high quality rock, and less crowds.
Devils Tower - Wyoming
Total Climbs: 133; majority trad
Best time to climb: April- September
Don’t miss: Durrance (5.7), South Face
This iconic tower is highly regarded by climbers because of the hundreds of parallel cracks that run up and down it. The cracks vary in length and width and create some of the best traditional crack climbing in North America. Its dramatic natural features make Devils Tower a truly breathtaking climb. The climbs range from a beginner grade of 5.7 to an expert level of 5.13, but more experienced climbers will get more out of the technical routes here.
City of Rocks - Idaho
Total Climbs: 500+; majority sport and trad
Best time to climb: June to October
Don’t miss: Brown Flake, Morning Glory Spire (5.10)
Immerse yourself in nature and solitude in the City of Rocks- known not only for quality climbs but also for trail running, mountain biking and beautiful camping in between boulders. You’ll mostly find trad routes between 5.10 and 5.11 here, but there are plenty of moderate routes as well. City of Rocks tends to attracts mid-grade climbers and families because of the many adventure activities that the whole family can enjoy.
North Cascades National Park - Washington
Total Climbs: 159; majority bouldering and trad
Best time to climb: June- September
Don’t miss: Black Peak for intense but epic camping and hiking
North Cascades National Park is known by climbers around the world for its rough, varied terrain. There's always a new challenging route to be attempted between the sharp granite peaks and 300 glaciers protruding into the sky. Though the climbing can be tough, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views from the top of the summit. If you’re looking for some of the best alpine climbing in North America, this is the place to be.
Arches National Park - Utah
Total Climbs: 91; majority trad
Best time to climb: Spring and Fall
Don’t miss: Sunshine Wall for popular trad and sport climbs (5.7-5.9)
Arches National Park is a mecca for seasoned climbers, especially those looking to get into tower climbs. You’ll find a huge variety of adventure climbs to explore on the soft Entrada sandstone. We recommend you familiarize yourself with the regulations and safety concerns before you go to avoid climbing in restricted areas.
Colorado National Monument - Colorado
Total Climbs: 182; majority trad
Best time to climb: Fall
Don’t miss: Otto’s Route on Independence Monument (5.9)
The majority of the climbing in this desert area is trad, but the Colorado National Monument is also a wonderland for boulder climbers. Among the routes are many interesting climbs through towers, splinter cracks, and sandstone. Colorado National Monument spans over a vast area and has something to offer climbers of all levels.
The US can’t be missed for adventurous, beautiful climbs, it’s just about knowing where and when to go. Have we missed any of your favorite climbing spots? Tell us in the comments!
To see the complete list of amazing climbing places around the world, check out our beautiful, hand-illustrated Climbing Map!
Photos from: Connor Moynihan, Andreas Fidler, Susan Yin , Scott Goodwill, Chen Hu, Adam Skalecki, Jonathan Ouimet
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