10 Best National Parks for Rock Climbing


Rock climbing is increasingly popular among outdoor enthusiasts and extreme sport practitioners. Technical advances in equipment and climbing techniques have made it popular to climb ever-steeper rock faces. Along with breathtaking scenery, America’s national parks provide some of the best rock climbing available in the world. 

While rock climbing is possible in many areas across the United States, the best rock climbing requires steep cliffs and high altitude. Not surprisingly, many rock climbing locations are located in the western part of the country, where the rugged Rockies are a prominent feature of the natural landscape.

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1. Joshua Tree National Park, California

There are more than 4,500 established rock climbing routes contained within the 100,000 acres of Joshua Tree National Park. More than 1,000,000 people visit Joshua Tree every year, producing trash and contributing to vegetation damage and soil erosion. Nonetheless, park rangers are committed to maximizing the enjoyment of all visitors to the park, including rock climbers.

2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Located within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park includes glaciers, rugged rock faces and steep inclines – all the features rock climbers desire. Climbing within the park is easy, which leads to crowds, especially during the summer. However, venturing a short distance away from the overcrowded John Muir trail rewards climbers with relatively unpopulated climbing territory.

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3. Yosemite National Park, California

Featuring crack climbs and multi-day climbs along bare rock faces, Yosemite National Park in California is one of the most popular areas for rock climbers. One of the most challenging climbs is nicknamed El Capitan. El Capitan was first conquered in 1958 by a team led by Warren Harding after an effort that totaled 47 days over a course of 17 months. Recent climbers have conquered El Capitan in just over four hours.

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4. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

The canyon of the very narrow Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado is 2,722 feet deep at its deepest point at Warner Point. The Painted Wall, the tallest vertical wall in the entire state of Colorado reaches a height of 2,250 feet. Most rock climbing takes place on the North and South Chasm walls of Black Canyon, with an average canyon depth of a dizzying 1,820 feet.

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5. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Along with California and Utah, Colorado is a rock climber’s paradise, with numerous challenging climbs, including climbs within Rocky Mountain National Park. Climbing within the park has been popular since the 1800s. Lumpy Ridge and Longs Peak are especially popular with local climbers and with climbers from around the world.

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6.Acadia National Park, Maine

One of the few major rock climbing areas east of the Mississippi River, Arcadia National Park in Maine is home to several excellent climbing areas. Otter Cliffs and Great Head provide rare sea cliff climbing challenges. The rock faces within Arcadia were created during the last period of continental glacier coverage in North America.

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7. Arches National Park, Utah

The rock at Arches National Park in Utah is sandy; nonetheless, the park features excellent climbing areas. Most of the rock climbing routes contained within Arches National Park are meant for advanced climbers only. Overnight trips in the back country of the park require permits while day climbs do not.

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8. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Formerly, not frequented by rock climbers, because of its sandstone rock faces, Capitol Reef National Park has become increasingly popular for climbing. The hardness of the sandstone contained within Capitol Reef varies from soft and crumbly at Entrada to relatively hard at Wingate. Wingate is the most popular area for climbing because of its many natural cracks for climbing without technical equipment.

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9. Zion National Park, Utah

Unlike many rock climbing areas that contain harder rock faces, the relatively soft sandstone contained within Zion National Park in Utah requires advanced climbing skills and appropriate technical equipment to navigate its rock faces. Visitor centers located within the park provide useful climbing information. When Peregrine falcons are nesting, many areas within the park are closed for climbing. Overnight climbs require a permit.

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10. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Easily accessible with high-quality rock, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming contains some of the nation’s best rock climbing areas. As a result, rock climbing is extremely popular among relative amateurs and advanced climbers alike. Jenny Lake Ranger Station provides useful rock climbing information and equipment from June to mid-September. Moose Visitor Center provides information during the rest of the year.

Many national parks, including Yosemite and Zion are protected wilderness areas that feature sensitive wildlife preserves and which house delicate ecosystems. Because of this, rock climbers, along with other visitors to the park, must exercise respect for the environment in order to inflict the least possible amount of harm. Climbers should bolt only when necessary and repair bolted areas with stone-colored webbing.