Are you looking to plan an outdoor climbing trip but don’t know where to go? Look no further. The United States offers some of the best climbing crags for bouldering, sport, trad, deep water soloing, and more. But with so many great options, how does one choose where to go? To help make the decision easier, we’ve broken down some of the best and most well-loved crags by region and have highlighted the climbing styles they offer and fun, extra tidbits where applicable.
The regional breakdown will allow you to see what fantastic options are within driving distance or those you may want to book a flight and take a week off work to visit.
Regionally Breakdown of the Best Places in the U.S. for Outdoor Climbing
Rumney, NH: Primarily known for its sport climbing scene, Rumney also offers a selection of bouldering and ice climbing. It is excellent for all levels of climbers, with sports routes ranging from 5.3 to 5.15. Unlike much of New Hampshire, where you’ll find granite rock, Rumeny cliffs are schist, a metamorphic, grainy rock.
Shawagunks, NY: The Shawagunks (Gunks for short) are just two hours north of NYC. Solid quartz conglomerate awaits climbers interested in bouldering and multi-pitch/trad. If you're a sports climber, it is worth noting that there are only a few bolted routes.
Acadia National Park, ME: Breath-taking views await you in Acadia as you climb coarse-grained pink granite. Due to its coastal and northerly location, consider planning to climb here in the summer (May through September). The island hosts many boulders, top-ropes, sea cliff climbing, and trad climbing on short multi-pitch routes.
New River Gorge, WV: Just five hours by car from Washington, D.C., the new is one of the premier sport climbing and bouldering destinations on the East Coast. While it is home to some trad routes, there are endless bolted and developed routes at many cliffs for you to put your hands on, as well as hidden gems of boulders. Are you looking to get those hard sends in? Head to Narcissus Cave, the Cirque, or the Coliseum for an epic selection of 4-star, perma-drawed 5.12s, 13s. And 14s.
Red River Gorge, KY: Arguably the New River Gorge’s Rival among East Coast climbers, the Red River Gorge is a sandstone mecca for sport climbing. While the New River Gorge has a reputation for stiff grading or sand-bagging, the Red River Gorge grades are known to be much friendlier. Get ready for a pump-fest, as it’s known for its long, steep routes with good holds.
Chattanooga, TN: Quite possibly the highest concentration of high-quality bouldering you’ll find anywhere. Located on a golf course, the bouldering is accessible, jam-packed, and friendly to all levels of climbers. Some even say climbing at Chatt (the nickname for the area) is as close as you’ll get to outdoor gym-style climbing.
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, AK: Unlike some of the other crags we’ve listed, you do have to pay $11 per day to climb, but for the price, you’ll get access to 400+ bolted sport climbing routes on sandstone ranging from 5.5 to 5.14. There are also some fun boulders and a handful of trad routes to check out if that’s your jam.
Hueco Tanks, TX: Calling all boulders! Look no further than Hueco Tanks for some of the best bouldering in the United States. It is in Texas, so the ideal time to climb is late fall, winter, or early spring. Entrance to the area is regulated, with the North bouldering site requiring ahead-of-time reservations and the other areas requiring an accompanying guide. So, make sure you plan if you plan to head out to Hueco!
Wild Iris, WY: Wild Iris is located in Lander, Wyoming, and is excellent for sport climbers looking for a summer crag. There are 300+ sport routes ranging from 5.4 to 5.14c, with the highest concentration of routes in the moderate grade range (5.10s -5 .11s).
City of Rocks, ID: A three-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, lands you in rural Idaho’s mecca of climbing, City of Rocks. If you like options, this place has 1,000 plus fine-grain granite routes (a mix of sport and trad) and easily accessible boulders for days. The best seasons to visit are spring and fall, but the area is still climbable in the summer.
Smith Rock, OR: Be prepared to climb on rock unlike any you’ve touched. Smith Rock is welded tuff, and ancient volcano ash is formed into solid rock under intense heat and pressure. It’s easiest to reach from Bend, Oregon, or Portland. The main climbing area is mostly sport climbing, but a nearby basalt crag houses trad routes.
Leavenworth, WA: The quaint Bavarian town of Leavenworth is located in the northern Cascade Mountains. A variety of canyons nearby boast some of the highest quality boulders in the country with breathtaking views to match. Be sure to expect short but brutally steep approaches, but we promise it’s worth it!
Joshua Tree, CA: You can’t name a better one-stop shop than Joshua Tree, with 8,000 routes, 2,000 boulders, and terrain including slab, crack, and steep climbing. Bouldering appears frequently on pro-climbers' social media pages, but there are also many sport and trad routes to try out. If high-lining is also your thing, it’s allowed and popular in Joshua Tree!
Moab, UT: If you’re interested in climbing in Utah, there are many great places to check out. We could write a whole article on Utah alone. However, Moab is unique due to the red rock sandstone that sports many special features, making the climbing fun and engaging. The trad climbing in Moab is the most famous, but there is plenty of high-quality sport climbing.
Yosemite National Park, CA: The holy land of climbing in the United States, you’ll want to take a climbing trip here at some point. It is known for its free-climbing and big wall trad climbs but has a plethora of boulders, alpine, and aid climbing for those who enjoy that too! If you plan to camp at one of the campsites within the National Park, make reservations months in advance as it has become popular.
Rifle Canyon, CO: If you’re looking for a high concentration of moderate-hard (5.11-5.14) climbing, Rifle Canyon should be your next stop. It is a must for sport climbers looking to try hard on gorgeous limestone. The busiest months are May - September, with very few climbers visiting in the winter and a few venturing out in late fall or early spring.
Visiting as many of the United States' climbing spots as possible is well worth it. We hope these quick overviews, broken down by region, help you decide where your next climbing trip should take you! Of course, the U.S. has many more climbing areas, but these are all recognized globally. If we missed any notable others or you have any comments or questions, please drop them below! We’d love to hear your thoughts and what your favorite climbing crag(s) is/are if you have one!