Looking for a view at the end of your climb? If you need a reason to reach the top, look no further. Grab a moisture-wicking shirt made from merino wool, some climbing gear and your camera, too. Here are the eight most scenic rock climbing destinations in the U.S. to make it all worth the reach. From California to Kentucky to Maine, this country’s lands are full of breathtaking, panoramic treats from sea to shining sea.
#1 Red River Gorge | Kentucky
Red River Gorge, or “The Red” as it’s known, offers some steep lines that every climber would love to get their hands on. Plus, you get to witness some of the most amazing Corbin sandstone structures in the East. The Red River Gorge presents climbers with the best single-pitch sport routes in the world, which is why it is listed as number one.
Once you arrive at The Red, visit the Solarium in Muir Valley and give the 5.11c Banshee a go. Another fantastic alternative is the Bruise Brothers, offering climbers a short yet stimulating climb that will truly test those technical skills. The best time to take in the beauty of The Red River Gorge is in the fall, where you can enjoy leaf-peeping away from the crowds as you dangle from an escarpment. Just be sure to learn what to wear rock climbing, like a merino wool top for men or women, to withstand those chillier days.
#2 Yosemite | California
Yosemite is definitely a climber’s paradise. As you enter through Tioga Pass, you’ll experience two vastly different landscapes from the High Sierra escarpments to the round domes of Tuolumne. Make sure to climb the famous Cathedral Peak and nearby Mathis Crest, each with sweeping views of the Yosemite National Park valley below. If you enjoy free climbing, check out the Regular NW Face on Half Dome, too.
#3 Indian Creek | Utah
Indian Creek gets its name from the long, parallel river-like cracks within the Wingate sandstone. A part of Bears Ears National Monument, Indian Creek is undoubtedly a rock climbers utopia. Climb one of its walls’ numerous splitter cracks to reach a bird’s-eye view of the colorful sandstone valley below. One of the absolute best cragging destinations in the U.S., Indian Creek features some pretty iconic climbs such as the famous Supercrack and the North and South Six Shooter towers. Keep in mind, though, that many climbers feel these magnificent red Wingate sandstone cliffs are a sport of their own.
#4 Joshua Tree | California
Joshua Tree National Park is an extremely accessible rock climbing destination within the Mojave. Many surrounding campgrounds offer climbing a stone’s throw away from your picnic table. Hidden Valley Campground is a prime example. Located in the northern area of JTree, The Wonderland of Rocks offers 12 square miles of granite rock formations with incredible landscapes, making it one of the most scenic climbing destinations in the U.S. As you enjoy one of the many climbs it has to offer – such as Hidden Valley, Ryan and Jumbo Rock – peer down at the Joshua tree-peppered valley below.
#5 Moab | Utah
Roughly a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City is Moab, which offers countless outdoor adventures for all types of thrillseekers. Moab is famous for its gorgeous rock climbing views and sandstone landscapes. Resting on the bank of the Colorado River, it’s no wonder Moab’s unique region is one of the most scenic rock climbing destinations. The Colorado Plateaus feature towering sandstones and canyons that offer a photo-worthy desert panorama.
#6 Shawangunks | New York
Up in the southeastern New York region is the Shawangunks. It is pronounced SHON-gum by local folks, in case you thought you misheard the directions. Or, you can just call them the Gunks. This long, high ridge rises just west of the Hudson River and runs all the way southwest into Virginia. Known for its classic rock climbing, it offers a more lush scenery to that of its Western counterparts. In place of sandstone deserts, you get to take in the jaw-dropping beauty of lush dwarf pine forests, dramatic inclines and “ice caves” from its quartz cliffs.
#7 Sierra Nevada | California
The Sierra Nevada mountain range is another wonderfully scenic rock climbing destination. Densely stacked mountains with every climbing style you can find, from multi-pitch adventures and alpine climbing, is precisely what brings climbers back year after year. Head to the Southern Sierra for The Needles and Shuteye Ridge or consider climbing at the Mammoth Lakes area for some much-needed quiet and solitude.
#8 Otter Cliff | Maine
In Maine’s Acadia National Park, you’ll find Otter Cliff, a 100-foot high sea cliff that requires climbers to rappel down first. Considered one of the most breathtaking sights along the Atlantic, Otter Cliff is an excellent spot for newbie and experienced climbers. Because these pink granite cliffs jut straight out into the water, climbing is weather- and tide-dependent.
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