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Top 10 Rock Climbing Destinations in the United States

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Top 10 Rock Climbing Destinations in the United States



Rock climbing isn't just a sport; it's a thrilling adventure that challenges your limits while offering breathtaking views from stunning heights. If you're a climber in the United States, you're in for a treat with an array of incredible destinations to explore. From the iconic granite cliffs of Yosemite to the surreal desert towers of Joshua Tree, these top 10 rock climbing destinations in the U.S. should definitely be on your bucket list.


Climbing Safely: Your Adventure Awaits


Before we delve into the list, let's familiarize ourselves with the different types of rock climbing and the necessary gear. Climbing comes in various forms, including bouldering, sport climbing, and traditional climbing. Bouldering involves climbing short, powerful routes without ropes, relying on crash pads for protection. Sport climbing includes routes equipped with pre-placed protection, while traditional climbing requires climbers to place their own gear into the rock.


When gearing up for your climbing adventure, safety is paramount. Essential gear includes a climbing helmet to protect your head, climbing shoes designed for precision and grip, harness, belay device, and carabiners. Depending on the type of climbing, you'll also need quickdraws, nuts, cams, and slings. Proper gear and knowledge are crucial for a safe and enjoyable climbing experience.


Leave No Trace: Protecting Our Natural Treasures


As climbers, we have a responsibility to preserve the beauty of these incredible destinations. Embrace the Leave No Trace principles, which remind us to minimize our impact on the environment. Stay on established trails, avoid trampling on fragile vegetation, and pack out all trash. By following these principles, we ensure that future generations can enjoy the same pristine landscapes that draw us to these places.

Now, let's dive into the top 10 rock climbing destinations across the U.S.


1. Yosemite National Park, California:

Best Season: Spring and Fall:


Yosemite's iconic granite cliffs have attracted climbers from around the globe. The legendary El Capitan beckons with its sheer faces and historic routes.


  • El Capitan: El Capitan is perhaps the most famous climbing destination in the world. This sheer granite monolith rises approximately 3,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. Climbers come from all over to tackle its challenging routes, with "The Nose" being one of the most sought-after climbs.

  • Half Dome: Half Dome is another iconic feature of Yosemite and offers some of the park's most challenging climbs. The Regular Northwest Face and Snake Dike are two popular routes. Climbing Half Dome requires a permit due to its popularity.

  • Tuolumne Meadows: Located in the high country of Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows offers a different climbing experience with its alpine granite domes and spires. The Cathedral Range and Lembert Dome are popular spots for climbers seeking high-elevation routes.

  • Yosemite Valley: Yosemite Valley is home to numerous climbing areas, including the iconic Royal Arches, Washington Column, and Glacier Point Apron. There are climbs suitable for climbers of all levels, making it a versatile destination.

  • The High Sierra: Beyond the valley, the High Sierra offers some of the most remote and adventurous climbing in Yosemite. Mountaineers and climbers explore peaks like Mount Lyell and Mount Ritter, among others.



2. Red River Gorge, Kentucky:

Best Season: Spring and Fall:


Red River Gorge's sandstone cliffs and over 2,000 routes cater to climbers of all levels. The picturesque landscape enhances the climbing experience.


  • Mueller Cliff: Mueller Cliff offers a variety of routes suitable for climbers of all skill levels. It's a great area for beginners and those looking for classic moderate routes.

  • Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP): PMRP is one of the most extensive climbing areas in the Red River Gorge. It's home to numerous crags, each with its own character. Popular crags within PMRP include Drive-By, Bob Marley, and The Dark Side.

  • Muir Valley: Muir Valley is a privately owned climbing area known for its well-maintained trails and routes. It offers a mix of sport and trad climbing, with routes suitable for climbers of all abilities.

  • Phantasia: Phantasia is a popular area for sport climbing with a range of routes, including some challenging overhanging routes. It's known for its impressive cave features.

  • The Motherlode: The Motherlode is famous for its steep, pumpy routes that provide a challenging and rewarding climbing experience. It's a favorite among advanced climbers.


3. Joshua Tree National Park, California: Best Season: Fall and Winter:


Joshua Tree's surreal desert terrain is a playground for climbers. Unique rock formations offer everything from beginner-friendly routes to challenging cracks.


  • Hidden Valley Campground: This is one of the most popular climbing areas in Joshua Tree due to its proximity to the Hidden Valley Campground. It offers a wide range of routes, from beginner-friendly to challenging trad climbs. Classics like "White Rastafarian" and "Illusion Dweller" can be found here.

  • Indian Cove: Indian Cove is a quieter area with a wide variety of climbing routes. It's known for its quality crack climbs and scenic desert views. "The Flake" and "What's My Line" are popular routes in this area.

  • Hall of Horrors: Hall of Horrors is famous for its sheer rock faces and excellent trad climbing opportunities. Climbers often seek out routes like "Toe Jam" and "Dappled Mare" in this area.

  • Real Hidden Valley: Real Hidden Valley offers an array of routes in a stunning desert setting. You can find everything from beginner-friendly sport climbs to challenging trad routes. "Double Cross" is a classic climb in this area.

  • Wonderland of Rocks: Wonderland of Rocks is a vast and remote area that provides adventurous climbing experiences. It's known for its unique rock formations and multi-pitch climbs. "White Maidens Walkaway" and "Dandelion" are some of the notable routes here.


4. Smith Rock State Park, Oregon: Best Season: Spring and Fall:


As the birthplace of American sport climbing, Smith Rock features dramatic cliffs and a diverse range of climbs. Don't miss the iconic Monkey Face formation.


  • The Monument Area:

  • The Dihedrals: The Dihedrals is one of the most popular and heavily trafficked climbing areas at Smith Rock. It's known for its classic crack climbs and offers a wide range of routes suitable for all skill levels, from beginner to advanced.

  • Smith Rock Group: The Smith Rock Group is home to many classic routes, including some of the park's most challenging sport climbs. Routes like "Chain Reaction" and "To Bolt or Not to Be" attract climbers from around the world.

  • Christian Brothers: The Christian Brothers formation is famous for its exposure and classic multi-pitch routes. Climbers seeking adventure will find a variety of traditional climbs here, with excellent views of the park.

  • Spiderman Buttress: Spiderman Buttress is known for its moderate sport routes and is a popular area for climbers looking for enjoyable climbs with well-protected bolts. It's a great spot for climbers of varying skill levels.


5. Moab, Utah:

Best Season: Spring and Fall:


Moab's red rock towers provide a mix of climbing styles. From sandstone cracks to awe-inspiring towers, the views from the top are unmatched.


  • Indian Creek: Indian Creek is world-famous for its iconic parallel sandstone cracks that attract crack climbing enthusiasts from around the globe. It offers some of the best traditional crack climbing in the world. Classic routes like "Supercrack of the Desert" and "Incredible Hand Crack" are must-do climbs in this area.

  • Arches National Park: Climbing in Arches National Park provides a unique experience with sandstone towers and arches as your backdrop. While climbing opportunities are limited, the iconic "Owl Rock" offers a memorable, easy, and short climb.

  • Fisher Towers: The Fisher Towers, located northeast of Moab, offer dramatic desert spires that make for adventurous and exposed climbing. Routes like "Ancient Art" and "Cottontail Tower" are popular choices for climbers seeking an adrenaline rush.

  • Wall Street: Just a short drive from Moab, Wall Street offers roadside climbing on the sandstone walls along the Colorado River. This area provides a mix of sport and traditional climbing routes, making it accessible for climbers of various skill levels.

  • Mill Creek Canyon: Mill Creek Canyon offers a variety of climbing opportunities on sandstone cliffs, with routes suitable for beginners to advanced climbers. The shady and scenic setting adds to the appeal of this climbing area.



6. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado:

Best Season Summer:


The alpine challenges of Rocky Mountain National Park offer a unique climbing experience. Towering peaks and rugged terrain beckon climbers seeking high-altitude adventures.


  • Longs Peak: Longs Peak is the most famous and challenging peak in the park, offering classic alpine climbs. The Diamond, a sheer rock face on Longs Peak, is home to iconic routes like the "Casual Route" and the "Diamond Face."

  • Lumpy Ridge: Lumpy Ridge is known for its granite crags and multi-pitch routes. It offers a mix of trad and sport climbing opportunities, with classics like "Kor's Flake" and "The Pear" drawing climbers seeking adventure.

  • Chasm View: Chasm View offers a variety of climbing routes on Hallett Peak and other nearby formations. Climbers can enjoy both trad and alpine climbing in this area, with routes such as "Northcutt-Carter" and "Culp-Bossier."

  • Chaos Canyon: Chaos Canyon is a bouldering paradise within Rocky Mountain National Park. It features a concentration of high-quality boulder problems in a stunning alpine setting. Climbers often visit the "Emerald Lake Area" for bouldering adventures.

  • Tyndall Gorge: Tyndall Gorge is another popular area for alpine climbing, with routes on Thatchtop Mountain and Powell Peak. The "Dreamweaver" and "Blitzen Ridge" are classic alpine routes in this area.

7. New River Gorge, West Virginia:

Best Season: Spring and Fall:


With a collection of over 1,400 routes, the New River Gorge is an East Coast climbing hub. From traditional to sport climbing, there's something for everyone.


  • Endless Wall: Endless Wall is a popular climbing area known for its long, steep routes and stunning views of the New River Gorge. It offers a mix of sport and traditional climbs, with classics like "Flight of the Gumbie" and "New Yosemite."

  • The New River Wall: This area features a range of climbing options, from moderate to challenging routes. "Butcher's Branch" and "Cheat" are well-known routes here, offering a variety of climbing experiences.

  • Bubba City: Bubba City is an excellent spot for sport climbers, with numerous bolted routes and overhangs. It's a great area for climbers seeking challenging and pumpy routes.

  • Summersville Lake: Climbing at Summersville Lake involves a unique experience of climbing above the water. The routes here are primarily bolted and range from easy to difficult. "Jolly Roger" and "Orange Oswald" are popular routes in this area.

  • Sandstonia: Sandstonia is known for its high-quality sandstone routes, providing a mix of traditional and sport climbs. "K.S.B." and "The Roadside Problem" are noteworthy routes in this area.


8. Rumney, New Hampshire:

Best Season Spring and Fall:


Sport climbers adore Rumney for its steep, pocketed rock. The welcoming community and beautiful surroundings make it a must-visit destination.


  • Main Cliff: Main Cliff is the heart of Rumney's climbing scene and offers a wide variety of routes for all skill levels. It features classic routes like "Jolt" and "Waimea."

  • Plymouth Rock: Plymouth Rock is a smaller crag located near the parking area and offers a selection of moderate to challenging routes. It's a great spot for warming up or for climbers looking for less crowded areas.

  • Buffalo Pit: Buffalo Pit is known for its challenging overhanging routes and bouldering opportunities. It's a popular area for climbers seeking steep, dynamic climbing experiences.

  • Jimmy Cliff: Jimmy Cliff is home to a range of climbs, including some excellent moderates and a few challenging routes. "Underdog" and "Peer Pressure" are among the classic routes here.

  • Black Jack Boulders: If bouldering is your preference, the Black Jack Boulders offer a selection of high-quality problems. It's a great place to work on your bouldering skills and techniques.


9. The Gunks (Shawangunks), New York: Best Season: Spring and Fall:


The Gunks' classic trad routes against the backdrop of the Hudson Valley showcase climbing history. Rich climbs and stunning views await.


  • Main Cliff: Main Cliff is the heart of Rumney's climbing scene and offers a wide variety of routes for all skill levels. It features classic routes like "Jolt" and "Waimea."

  • Plymouth Rock: Plymouth Rock is a smaller crag located near the parking area and offers a selection of moderate to challenging routes. It's a great spot for warming up or for climbers looking for less crowded areas.

  • Buffalo Pit: Buffalo Pit is known for its challenging overhanging routes and bouldering opportunities. It's a popular area for climbers seeking steep, dynamic climbing experiences.

  • Jimmy Cliff: Jimmy Cliff is home to a range of climbs, including some excellent moderates and a few challenging routes. "Underdog" and "Peer Pressure" are among the classic routes here.

  • Black Jack Boulders: If bouldering is your preference, the Black Jack Boulders offer a selection of high-quality problems. It's a great place to work on your bouldering skills and techniques.


10. City of Rocks, Idaho: Best Season: Spring and Fall:


City of Rocks is famed for its unique rock formations and adventurous climbing opportunities. Mixing sport and trad climbing, it promises both challenges and vistas.


  • Breadloaves: The Breadloaves area is one of the most popular climbing spots in the City of Rocks. It offers a variety of routes, including multi-pitch climbs, with an emphasis on traditional climbing. "Skyline" and "No Feeling of Pain" are classic routes in this area.

  • Steinfell's Dome: Steinfell's Dome features challenging crack climbs and is a favorite among experienced climbers. "Crack of Doom" and "Private Idaho" are well-known routes in this area.

  • Castle Rocks: Castle Rocks offers a mix of traditional and sport climbing routes, making it suitable for climbers of various skill levels. "Animal Cracker" and "Muffin Man" are popular climbs in this area.

  • The Batholith: The Batholith area is known for its remote and adventurous climbing experiences. It offers both traditional and sport routes, with classic climbs like "Yellow Wall" and "Roadside Attraction."

  • Window Rock: Window Rock is famous for its namesake formation, a natural window in the rock. Climbers can enjoy routes both on Window Rock and nearby formations. "Loose Goose" and "Window Shop" are notable climbs here.



From the majestic cliffs of Yosemite to the sandstone wonders of Red River Gorge, these top 10 rock climbing destinations across the United States offer experiences that range from exhilarating to awe-inspiring. Each spot has its own distinct challenges and beauty, ensuring that every climbing journey is truly exceptional. So whether you're a seasoned climber seeking new heights or a newcomer looking to conquer your first peak, these destinations should absolutely be on your radar. Pack your gear, plan your routes, and embark on an unforgettable journey to the summit—one climb at a time.

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