Whether you’re looking for somewhere to get in a good hike coupled with a bit of rock climbing, or you’re an expert seeking the next challenge, there are plenty of spots within the United States that has everything any rock climber is looking for.
Rock climbing is the perfect exercise for anyone who’s looking for a natural and easy way to build their cardio regimen. It forces you to work almost all of the muscles in your body, including your abdominals to maintain balance, it gets you out of the house and into fresh air, and it provides you with some excellent views when you eventually get to the top. Want to take in those great sights while keeping your hands free during your climb? It would be a great idea to get a binocular harness and you can read more here.
When people think of rock climbing, they think of the Midwest with its majestic mountains, but there are honestly plenty of places across the entire country that could provide you with the challenge you’re looking for. But before you check out any of the spots mentioned below, you may want to ensure you have a reliable pair of rock climbing shoes to get you to the top.
This may be your first time heading to a climbing range, and have no idea what the numbers mean. Here’s the easiest rundown on the various classes of climbs and what to expect.
- Class 1: hiking
- Class 2: scrambling with the possible use of hands
- Class 3: scrambling with possible use of a rope
- Class 4: simple climbing with a rope
- Class 5: serious climbing with rope, belaying and protection
- 0-5.7: novice climbers
- 8-5.9: experienced climbers with special skills
- 10: advanced climbers
- 11-5.15: expert climbers with extensive training
Hopefully, this skill has made it easier for you to determine which climbs you’re prepared for.
#1 Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is a great choice that has climbs for beginners as well advanced climbers interested in using ropes and belaying equipment. The wonderful view of the 60-foot pink granite cliffs is so inviting that they can be difficult to resist. If you do choose to take them on, however, be aware of the tides below, as they can change rapidly depending on the weather.
#2 North Cascades National Park, Washington
Looking for somewhere cooler to hike? The North Cascades National Park provides glaciated summits and absolutely amazing views at the end of your arduous journey. The routes are known to be challenging, with a few of them requiring a few days of cross-country hiking over snowy slopes and ice to get to your destination. However, there are also the options of bouldering and sports climbing if long treks aren’t your idea of fun.
#3 Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
At almost 900 feet above the North Fork River, this forest is a choice destination for those seeking a challenge without having to head west. With over 300 routes to boast about, this climbing venture is not for the weak of heart or those just looking for a simple hike. All of the rock climbing routes require the use of ropes and belaying equipment for climbers at different levels of expertise, so be prepared to bring your gear.
#4 Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Forget what I said about Monongahela National Forest not being for the weak of heart; one look at this towering pillar of nature, and you may want to head back to your car. The sheer cliff walls of this monument sport cracks as long as 400 feet, providing advanced climbers with the means to use their hands and feet – as well as their climbing gear – to make it to the top. It’s a very long climb, though, so first-timers should beware. The park is closed from March to July for the nesting season of prairie falcons, and in the month of June for the tribes of indigenous Americans who consider it a sacred site.
#5 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
This national park is for advanced climbers only, with a deep gorge that ends at a lazy river. There are at least 145 different routes you could take along the canyon. Only about ten of these routes are well-used, but there are more north and south along the cliff walls. The deepest part of the entire canyon is roughly 2,722 feet tall, and the park sports the tallest vertical wall in Colorado at Painted Wall, which is 2,250 feet. If you’re a beginner climber, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
#6 Shawagunk Ridge, New York
These rocks have over 1000 routes for you to choose from, many of them very easy to traverse with large horizontal cracks that are very accommodating for hiking gear. However, even with these provisions for beginner climbers, many still find it intimidating with the number of large overhangs there are.
#7 Custer State Park, South Dakota
Nestled in the Black Hills, this climbing spot is a tourist destination for hikers and climbers of various skill levels. The experience and the views can’t be found anywhere else, especially with the large number of granite peaks, many of them over 300 feet tall, offering a challenge that many climbers are looking for. The hikes themselves are still somewhat short, but the area is remote enough that you won’t have to worry about the park being crowded.
#8 El Capitan, California
Also known as “El Cap”, this 3000-foot vertical rock formation is made completely out of granite, and was once considered impossible to climb. However, over the years, it has become the standard for expert climbers looking for a challenge. There are two faces to choose from: the Southwest and the Southeast. Between the two is a massive jutting prow that many have taken to prove themselves worthy of the climb.
Ready for the Challenge?
Always remember that your safety is paramount, so always consider climbing with another person or a group. If it’s your first time taking on a certain trek, consider the advice of an expert as well as having someone take you up the route itself. It may be a bit more costly, but it’s your life on the line.