Given its geographic diversity, varied terrain, and natural beauty, the United States is one of the best countries to rock climb in. Not only does the US offer rock that’s ideal for all types of climbing, but its rock climbing can be found across all parts of the country.
Between the sandstone, granite, and basalt climbs, not to mention the amount of established climbing areas, it’s no surprise that the US draws thousands of climbers from around the world year after year.
As an avid rock climber myself, I count my lucky stars that I live in a country with so many options and variety for rock climbing. Whether it’s sport, trad, multi-pitch, or bouldering, there are endless opportunities for me and my friends to find some truly amazing rock.
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If you’re from the US and trying to plan your next climbing trip or from abroad and considering making the trek here, check out these 20 awesome places to rock climb!
20 Best Places to Rock Climb in the US
It’s hard to imagine kicking off a rock climbing guide in the US without starting in Yosemite National Park. With over 1,200 square miles at its disposal, top notch crack climbing, and techy, sheer slabs, this granite playground is considered to be the ultimate climbing destination in the US, and one of the best in the world. With everything from multi-day climbs to sick, single day sends, a climbing trip to Yosemite is equal parts an unforgettable experience and a milestone in a climber’s life!
Tucked away in sleepy Kentucky, with its gorgeous sandstone cliffs and the Red River cutting through the canyon, Red River Gorge is a favorite destination for serious climbers. Affectionately known as “the Red,” this area boasts stunning rock formations that are equal parts beautiful and intimidating. There are arches, overhangs, natural bridges, and other geological features that make climbing at the Gorge one of the most unique experiences a climber can come across. And don’t forget – no trip to the Red would be complete without a pit stop at the famous pizza place Miguel’s in nearby Slade!
Known best for its classic sandstone pitches and stunning geological structures, climbing in Moab is an exciting endeavor. There are thousands of routes scattered across the region ranging from 5.6 to 5.10+. Whether you prefer cracks or slabs, trad or sport, Moab has something for all grades, disciplines, and lengths. So, whether you’re a seasoned vet on the rock or looking to move out of the gym and onto the crag, Moab’s a great place to hit up!
Tucked into the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is a glorious mixture of limestone and granite crags, not to mention enough natural beauty to make you climb. While the park boasts great top roping and bouldering, what really draws climbers to this area is its world class trad climbing. With grades that range from 5.7 to 5.11d, the Shenandoah National Park is the perfect place to either venture into trad climbing or find your next project.
Located a mere 17 miles from Las Vegas sits the Red Rock Canyon in all its glory. Home to over 195,000 acres and the famous climbing festival Red Rock Rendezvous, this is one of the best rock climbing destinations in the country! It features over 2,000 climbing routes, and any kind of climb you can imagine. I’m talking heaps of trad routes, tons of sport climbing, a sizable amount of boulder problems, and even aid climbing! Not to mention the sandstone is gorgeous even just to look at, and the mild temps make it a great winter destination. Just remember to not climb on any of the rock if it’s wet! To check when it last rained, click here.
I can’t lie when I say that Smith Rock State Park in Oregon is one of the most diverse rock climbing destinations in the US. It’s got over 1,000 bolted routes for starters (sorry for the emphasis, I’m a sport climbing fan), but there’s also opportunities for trad climbing, multi-pitch, and bouldering. Not to mention the park also offers activities like hiking, fly fishing and mountain biking if you need a rest day but still want to stay busy. If you find yourself in Oregon, definitely don’t skip out on this great climbing locale!
7. The Gunks
One thing I love about rock climbers is that they can take a seemingly majestic name like “Shawangunk Ridge” and nickname it something hilarious like “The Gunks.” Whatever name you call it, this area is well-loved by climbers from all over the US. Namely because it boasts over 1,000 climbs on some truly fun rock. With a myriad of horizontal cracks and overhangs, the Gunks will definitely keep you on your toes while also offering you some truly high-quality climbing.
Considered by many to be one of the top rock climbing destinations in the country, climbers have been flocking Joshua Tree National Park for decades. No doubt one of the main reasons is because this single area has over 8,000 known routes, but J Tree is also incredibly popular due to its unique rock formations and mild winter temperatures. So when winter sets in and many climbing areas are closed due to either cold or snow, Joshua Tree remains a beacon of climb-able hope to get us through the cold months!
Home to 2,000 plus foot canyon walls, long endurance climbs, and world class rappelling, Zion National Park is a rock climbing haven like no other. Much like Red River Gorge, Zion National Park is a climbing hot spot for more advanced senders, due to its sheer drops and sandstone cliffs. You definitely want to have experience, strength and technique on your side when you tackle this monster. For less experienced climbers, you can also find some great boulders to practice on in the central part of the canyon.
10. Devil’s Tower
Few geological features in the US are as well-known as the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Featured in the class sci-fi flick Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and considered sacred by indigenous people, the Devil’s Tower is comprised of unique columns and cracks – all of which offer climbing you can’t find anywhere else. Keep in mind that there isn’t park rescue nearby, so make sure you’re confident in your skills before you set off to take on the infamous and ominous Devil’s Tower.
Even if you’re not a rock climber, odds are you’ve heard of the Arches National Park in Utah. With its surreal sandstone formations – giant towers, arches, fins, pinnacles, and even balanced rocks – and mesmerizing desert backdrop, Arches is a climbing destination for the books. Because there are restrictions to climbing in the Arches, most of the area is free climbing only. But if you’re brave and experienced, definitely consider making the Arches National Park your next climbing destination!
Although in the past it’s typically flown under the radar, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is quickly becoming a popular climbing destination in the climbing community. Part of the reason for this is because the privately-owned ranch features nearly 420 routes that range from 5.5. to 5.14 – all situated on high quality sandstone. But this sandstone is also home to fully bolted sport climbs, plenty of solid trad climbs, and a myriad of boulder problems. There’s even crack climbing! But what really got HCR on the map was its famous climbing competition 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, which has hosted pro climbers like Alex Honnold, Nik Berry and Mason Earle!
Although it’s considered more of a local secret, the climbing near Leavenworth in the Cascade mountains is as good a climbing spot as any for so many reasons. Not only is it easy to access, there’s a diverse range of sport, multi-pitch, and bouldering all located within 10 miles of Leavenworth. Plus, you can hang out in Bavarian-style Leavenworth and enjoy some German food and beer. What better way to recover after a long day on the rock?!
14. The Needles
Also known as Custer State Park, the ever-popular Needles are tucked away into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Not only are climbers who make their way to South Dakota rewarded with some truly breathtaking views, the unique granite offers over 1,000 routes with up to 300-foot ascents in some areas. Need more reasons to visit the Needles? How about a super short approach that’s also still remote and never packed with crowds?!
Tucked away into the forests of North Caroline, the Pisgah National Forest is one of those climbs that has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for an easy day-trip with beginner-level routes (if you’re new to climbing be sure to check out Looking Glass Rock and Cedar Rock) or a weeklong excursion with harder routes to send, Pisgah National Forest will keep you busy, smiling, and sending!
There’s no doubt that California ranks high for climbers in the US and abroad. With areas like Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Bishop, it’s no wonder that thousands and thousands of climbers migrate to this state every year. But if you’re planning a rock climbing trip to California, you best not leave out Eastern Sierra! Easily the best thing about this climbing area is its variety – I’m talking everything from multi-pitch alpine on granite to boulder problems that sits on volcanic tuff. Plus, all of this is located just 20 minutes outside of town and can be accessed 12 months out of the year!
If sport climbing is your muse, then Logan Canyon in Utah’s Wasatch mountain range is your Mecca. While it definitely has fewer routes than other climbing hot spots (only 400 bolted routes), it’s great for sport climbers of all abilities. Plus, it stays cool in the summer when other places have you getting sunburned and dehydrated on the wall. The only downside with this gem, though, is that climbing in the winter isn’t really possible.
Despite only featuring 35 routes – and 50 variations to those routes – Grand Teton National Park has been drawing climbers from all over for generations. It’s best known for its classic alpine peak – the Grand Teton – which was first ascended back in 1898. While climbing the Grand Teton is definitely not for the inexperienced or faint of heart, there are a range of routes that can suit beginner, intermediate and advanced climbers. Plus, new routes are being put up all the time!
19. North Cascades
Home to fierce granite peaks and stellar alpine climbs, the North Cascades is a classic destination for rock climbers who enjoy cracks, chimneys, flakes and roofs. With over 500 climbs available and routes that range from 5.6 to 5.12, you can find trad, sport, bouldering, and even ice climbing. Not to mention, you can enjoy this granite wonderland without the crowds, as most people don’t make their way to the Cascades for climbing, even in the summer when it’s the ideal time to hit some alpine rock.
When it comes to crazy amounts of rock diversity, few places can match Boulder. This climbing area features granite, sandstone, quartzite, gneiss, schist, basalt, and even limestone – all in one area! And if the rock type tells you anything, there’s also a lot of diversity in the styles of climbing that you can find in Boulder. Whether you prefer boulder problems, 700 foot crags, ice or mixed climbs, and even 2300 foot slabs, it’s guaranteed that you’ll find something you like to climb out in Boulder. And when you’re done making ascents, you can enjoy the lively town that’s home to the University of Colorado for good food and a great nightlife!
Know another great rock climbing destination that I didn’t mention? Comment it below!
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