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Best Sport Climbing Destination in the U.S.

The US is the best country in the world for Sport climbing. (Sport Climbing meaning with bolts and chains embedded into the rock)

The US beats Canada, and even beats Europe, for the fact that there is literaly SO MUCH climbing here.

One thing that sets The US apart in climbing is the variety of rock types that you can find here. From juggy sandstone in Southwest Utah, Dolomite Limestone in Wyoming, and even Glacial Erratic rock in Bishop.

There is so much climbing in America to explore, as there is climbing in almost every town all over The US, but there are some crags that set themselves apart.

So here is a list of our favorite (and the best) climbing spots in The US.

New to rock climbing? Be sure to check out our Guide to Getting Started Rock Climbing and our blog, Best Beginner’s Rock Climbing Shoes.

If you, like me, can’t enjoy climb because i just feal to weak, then this was made for you

Rock Climbing Packlist

Before you head out make sure you have all the gear you need, and in case you forgot here is a checklist that you can use to remind you.

  • Rope
  • Quickdraws
  • Harness
  • Locking Carabiners
  • Slings
  • SHOES!
  • Gri-Gri or other belay system

Bonus Gear

  • Rope Ascender
  • Hammock
  • Coffee Thermas
  • Water Bottle
  • Snacks
  • Crag Chair

What type of adventure is best for you, take our quiz to find out.

1. St George, Utah

When talking about climbing in St George there is just to much to cover.

Lets just say its probably one of the greatest winter climbing destinations in the world.

I love St George for the different styles of climbing you can get all within 30 minutes. Black Rock with volcanic granite, Limekilm aways away with juggy limestone, and the closest crag, Chuck-A-Walla with amazing pocketed sandstone.

Chuckwalla is our favorite with litterely a one-minute approach and plenty of room below the walls for your kids to play at our perfect to set up as a comfortable lounge area.

The red sandstone here is superb, meaning you don’t have to worry about any of it breaking off on you. AND, it makes it a great place to bring beginners with the super fun and easy jugs, climbs like Voodoo Economics are perfect for begineers.

But don’t worry there is still plenty of hard stuff to try out in St George, like these.

BEST ROUTES

Related Blog: Best Rock Climbing St George

2. Maple Canyon, Utah

Maple Canyon climbing in Utah
Maple Canyon Climbing is good ole’ conglomerate jug pulling.

What makes Maple Canyon ideal for rock climbing with kids is the proximity of the camping sites to the rock climbs. Being able to walk back to your campsite for breaks, snacks, or even to leave older children back while you climb makes this a great rock climbing destination for families.

Kids adore this area and the vibrant family-friendly atmosphere adds to the comfort. Plus, numerous easy routes within 10 minutes of the campground make it a slam dunk for families.

While it’s a popular destination, remember there’s limited cell coverage and resources, so come prepared.

If you’ve never climbed conglomerate rock you will enjoy how different it feels from sandstone and limestone.

BEST ROUTES

3. City of Rocks, Idaho

City of Rocks has more routes then even the guide book can contain.

Nestled on the border of Utah and Idaho City of Rocks is a rock-climbing mecca but don’t let that discourage you if you have small children. The beauty of the area is that it’s vast and has plenty for your kids to do around your site and at the crag.

Bring everything you need because it is off the beaten path and you won’t want to run to get stuff when you need to drive on a gravel road for 8 miles. This area has pocketed and varnished granite. Our kids enjoy pointing out the rocks and telling us what they look like.

Related Blog: Climbing and Camping City of Rocks

4. Q’emiln Park, Post Falls, 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. Personally I love that Post Falls 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, which has the most shade but is also the most popular and Outback Wall.

BEST ROUTES

Related Blog: Idaho Adventure Family Road Trip

5. Smith Rock, Oregon

Bend Oregon 4 Day Itinerary Smith Rock
Views from the top of Smith’s multi pitch route, Wherever I May Roam

Smith Rock is famous for routes like Monkey Face and multi-pitches on Morning of Glory Wall…But Smith Rock is so much more than that…

Actually, Smith Rock might be THE best spot on this list for beginner sport climbers, mainly because there are just a ton of options, especially ones within the 5’9 to 5’10 range.

So if you’re looking for a spot that allows you to get comfortable with Multi-Pitches, or sandstone pocket pulling, or a place that allows you to get all the necessary skills you need so you can feel comfortable with sport climbing, all within a two-minute walk from the parking lot then there is no place better than Smith Rock for you.

BEST ROUTES

Related Blog: Oregon Road Trip Itinerary

6. Red Rocks, Nevada

How to Rock Climb: Learn How to Start Getting on the Wall
The ritual…Isabelle slipping on her climbing shoes to get ready to climb (climbing shoes are so tight people usually wait until they’re about to climb to put them on)

While a few walls can be a longer approach, the amount of space for kids to play in and around allows it to sneak into this list.

Maybe the best 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. 

BEST ROUTES

Here’s a related blog that can you master that Lead Climbing fear: Lead Climbing Fear & How to Overcome It

7. Ouray, Colorado

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 at the Pool Wall.  

These climbs do require walking up some scree to get to, so it’s not the easiest approach, but the steep scree is a short section and there are a few climbs here that are so great for little kids.

I loved seeing the expression on my four-year-old’s face when she topped out First Time Out.  

If you’re making a climbing trip to Ouray, Colorado with your kids check out Things To Do In Ouray.

BEST ROUTES

Related Blogs: Colorado Road Trip Itinerary for Adventurers and Guide to the Million Dollar Highway.

8. Bishop, California

 

Climbing in Bishop CA
Bishop is Gabi’s favorite place to climb.

While Bishop is known for its Bouldering, it’s the Sport climbing around this area that makes us go.

The rock style here tends to be crimpy and a tad bit sand-bagged, mainly because the holds and the feet can get a little greasy, and the rock formations of some of the routes require corner climbing.

But don’t get the wrong impression, Bishop is one of the greatest climbing spots in the world, and that might be because of the mesmerizing backdrop of the Sierras behind you, or maybe it is because of the sheer amount of crags, styles mixed between multi-pitch tower climbs, and even some hard overhanging caves.

BEST ROUTES

Related Blog: Best Campgrounds California

9. Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Rock climbing Kentucky's Red River Gorge
Climbing Night Foxx 11d in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge

Red River Gorge, or better known as The Red, is MY FAVORITE CLIMBING SPOT, and maybe even the best in all of the world. I know, a big statement but once you climb here you know.

It is the combination of the unique environment, the almost Costa-Rican rain forest, and the outstanding rock quality.

It is unparalleled, old and solid sandstone carved in with giant, and I mean giant, Huecos, and pockets, perfect for climbers like me who love short top outs and juggy overhangs that you can pretty much entirely campus.

BEST ROUTES

10. Lander, Wyoming

Climbing Sinks Canyon, Scud Wall
Climbing Scud Wall at Sinks Canyon

Lander is the climbing capital of the Rockies, good enough so that we have almost spent a year of our travel time based out of this Wild Western town.

It really does feel like an old western town, now this does have its downsides, not many accommodations and a very rugged gritty texture to the towns vibe.

But you have to come here, I mean just to see Sinks Canyon with its superb juggy pocket-pulling style and the famous Killer Cave with routes like Bush Docter and Bloodline.

SINKS CANYON

Sinks Canyon is the crag closer to the town of Lander, and in my opinion the better crag. There are more intermediate options here, as the rock in this canyon tends to be very juggy and pocketed.

The only slight downside is that the crag requires a steep approach to get to.

WILD IRIS

WILD IRIS might be more famous than Sinks, and thats because Wild Iris is home to some of the most-clean hard routes in the world. I say Clean because that’s the best way I could describe the routes here…Slippery, deliberate movements, blank white wall. Clean

This crag does require a well grated dir road to access

BEST ROUTES

Here is the Best Lander Rock Climbing Guide: Rock Climbing Guide to Lander, Wyoming

11. Ten Sleep, Wyoming

Rock Climbing in Ten Sleep

Gabi on one of the best routes in all of Ten sleep

Ten Sleep is in my opinion better than Lander, but the town of ten sleep has like TEN people in it. There is no one and no amenities (besides a brewery that has the best Lemonade)

But the climbing in Ten Sleep is worth the lack of amenities.

Endless amounts of long 70-foot 5’10s filled with huge limestone pockets with the epic backdrop of Ten Sleep Canyon that goes on forever, and you can climb it all.

BEST ROUTES

Here’s a related blog to help you naviagate this huge canyon: Rock Climbing Guide to Tensleep, Wyoming

12. Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

Things to do Black Hills South Dakota Rock Climbing
Rock climbing at The Mohican just a mile from Spearfish Canyon Lodge

Spearfish Canyon was the first climbing town, or rather it was one of the first places people WENT TO to climb.

The main reason I love Spearfish Canyon is because of the actual town of Spearfish which is a super cool mix of Old West and Hipster.

The actual climbing in Spearfish Canyon requires a little bit of an approach, but once up there you have so many routes in the 5’10 range, and so many different areas along this canyon wall to explore

Remember to climb my favorite route in the world Yippie-Kay-Yay

BEST ROUTES

12. Shelf Road, Colorado

The ONE place we got tati to climb at

Shelf Road is on this list the Underdog. its the least known of the crags i have pre-listed. I am not saying it is some obscure crag in the middle of nowhere, it is the best rock climbing in Colorado with a rock style very similer to Ten Sleep, but somehow it doesn’t get as spoken about as the others.

Shelf Road is in my opinion better than Lander, and even better than Ten Sleep, i love it because it has a different feel, a less busy feel than the other’s ones on this list. That might be because it’s up a dirt road, down a trail and up a canyon. Or maybe it’s because of the desert landscape around.

Though desert-ish this place does not feel rural, it still has a classic Colorado feal, meaning great MTBiking, Great Coffee and really a great vibe on the rock.

Read this blog 44 Things To Do In Shelf Road for related adventures to do

BEST ROUTES

Hope this helps you get outside and rock climb more. To get stronger and more athletic for rock climbing, or any adventure, download my book, A Playful Life, for free.

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Chris Peck

Thursday 4th of March 2021

The Gunks! You seriously didn't include the Gunks? WTF. 375 rated climbs.

Robyn

Thursday 4th of March 2021

We haven't been there! I only put destinations that we've actually been to but the Gunks definitely are on our bucket list.

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