When we first started traveling in search of sport climbing destinations, my youngest two kids were four and six years old. Old enough that they no longer required being carried in a backpack but not old enough to hike up steep hills or hike an hour straight to get to a climbing area (not that I didn’t try). Here are some of our favorite sport climbing destinations that are perfect for younger kids.
Each of these destinations have an approach of 15 minutes or less and are not steep. These areas also have a good area for kids to play at the base of the climb so you aren’t worried about them falling off a ledge while you are belaying your spouse. I also chose these because they were close to towns or somewhere you could get restock supplies of water, diapers, and Tylenol for that random fever kids tend to get while traveling.Live a playful life and create great memories by taking your kids on a rock climbing vacation! Click To Tweet
Paklenica National Park, Croatia
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Pay your admission to the national park and drive straight up the hill. Follow the concrete sidewalk and within five minutes you will be in a valley with climbs lining both sides of the wall. One side is always in the shade and there is plenty of room for kids to run around and explore. There is a climbing book you can look at in the small gift shop at the national park, but most of the routes have labels at eye level (for reals!).
Related Blog: Road Trip Through Croatia
Santa Barbara, Spain
While it requires driving narrow roads to get here, the crag is only a few minute walk and the base of the climb is a grassy hill with sheep grazing. The climbs were perfect for the kids and made for a nice day. We found this via our favorite app for finding climbing areas, Climbing Away (download now). And here’s the best part about his area, at the base of the five-minute approach is a trail sign with a picture showing details of every single route on the wall.
Stryn Climbing Field: Beachen, Norway
Finding the right pull off to park at can be a little tricky here but once you do, it’s a short walk up a small climber’s trail to a nice open area at the base of the wall. I can’t think of any place in the world (that I’ve been to at least) with such a beautiful view from the top of the crag. The turquoise fjords, the glacier topped mountains, and the green rolling hills are incredible. We found this hidden gem via the Visit Norway app which has all kinds of beautiful secrets in the country. Download the Visit Norway app. Get details on the area here.
Related Blog: Best Hikes to do in Norway with Kids
Benny Beg, Scotland
This may be the most kid friendly crag ever. While there are less than thirty routes here (& not any difficult routes) this is the perfect place to teach kids to lead and to get them repetitions to overcome their fears. We bought a book for the area though you don’t need one because nearly all of the routes are below 5.10. You can also see most of the routes on this website.
Related Blog: Hiking Isle of Skye, Scotland
This is such a large climbing area spread out that it’s hard to narrow down just one spot but there was one that we liked a lot because the parking was right next to the wall, there was a porta potty, and a lot of space for the kids to play. A climbing book would be extremely helpful to have here because of how spread out everything is. This is the one we used, Climbing Europe, to find the crag we liked. It might be beter to buy it off Amazon becasue if you buy a book in Germany it will probably be in German. Though we usually stick to Mountain Project, there isn’t info on Germany on it, but there is a great climbing app called Vertical Life that has lots of details about Germany. Download Vertical Life here. If you’re interested in making a trip, check out this great blog for details on climbing in Frankenjura (especially for beginners).
Bad Hindelang, Algäu, Germany
It doesn’t get much more picturesque than this (although Norway comes close). The views of the mountains, the Bavarian homes with gorgeous flower boxes, and meadows filled with cows (oh! the number of cows here!) make climbing here a feast for the eyes. The approach is a quick walk up the hillside (watch out for the large cow patties) after you step over the barbed wire fence. We got our guide book for this area in the nearby town of Sonthofen. There is another crag near here with easy routes, but it requires a longer walk to get to.
Smoke Bluffs, Squamish, British Columbia
I was shocked that places like this exist. In the middle of a residential area of a major town here lies over three hundred routes, many of which could be top roped, which was great since a lot of climbs are trad and we don’t have gear for it yet. I loved this area and want to come back here as soon as possible. My favorite wall with the kids was High Cliff but Burgers and Fries was really nice too. A little longer and steeper approach takes you to Fern Gully (and you pass the playground on the way), but it’s still only a fifteen to twenty minute hike to get to. Mountain Project is extremely comprehensive for the entire Squamish area (download now).
Related Blog: Road Trip Itinerary for Sea To Sky Highway
Cougar Creek, Canmore, Alberta
We didn’t climb here as long as I hoped due to the forest fires but the short walk through the creek bed, the open space for kids play, and the proximity to town made it a great spot for our family.
Related Blog: Canada National Parks Road Tirp & Kid Friendly Hikes
Q’emiln Park, Idaho
This is a hidden gem and one of my favorite climbing areas ever. It sits right next to a state park where you can play in the water or go boating (and the brewery is only a five-minute walk to after you climb). There are over 100 routes, many of which can be top roped, and most are shaded by trees throughout the day. My two favorite walls with the kids were Post Wall (the most shade, most popular) and Outback Wall.
Related Blog: Idaho Adventure Family Road Trip
French’s Dome, Oregon
This is a small area thirty minutes outside of Portland by Mount Hood. It’s a bit off the beaten path so check out the directions here. This rock has a nice mix of easy and hard climbs but the less than five-minute approach and the surrounding trees (that are perfectly spaced for hanging a hammock) make it a great destination to climb for the day.
Red Rocks, Nevada
While a few walls can be a longer approach, the amount of space for kids to play allows it to sneak into this list. It’s a great winter destination (assuming rain isn’t in the forecast) and the nearby camping is cheap. Plus you are close to Vegas if you forget anything or get tired of the outdoors and want a different type of escape.
While there’s climbing by the old ice rink that has absolutely no approach (you park at the base of the climbs), I preferred the walls above the hot springs, mainly at The Alcove (the Pool Wall). They do require walking up some scree to get to, so it’s not the easiest approach, but there are a few climbs here that are so great for little kids. I loved seeing the expression on my four year olds face when she topped out First Time Out. If you’re making a climbing trip to OUray, Colorado with your kids check out our other blog, Million Dollar Highway.
Related Blog: Colorado Road Trip Itinerary for Adventurers
Horseshoe Slabs, Mammoth Lakes, California
This was one of the best for our kids (and great when you are just learning to lead climb like we were two years ago when we stopped here). Park at Horseshoe Lake and it’s a quick fifteen minute hike through the forest. This is also a great place to mountain bike and hike. Many of the routes can be top roped here and there were a dozen routes 5.8 or less.
Read our featured article Family Rock Climbing Vacations ROCK! and get inspired to take your family on a climbing trip.