Whether you're new to bouldering or an experienced traditional climber, adding a bit of rock climbing to your vacation is a good way to get out in nature and have a solid and thrilling workout. While there are thousands of great slabs worth climbing, here are eight of the world's top destinations for rock climbing.
With its surreal, boulder-strewn landscape, it’s no surprise that Joshua Tree is one of the most spectacular spots for climbing. The rocks here are primarily composed of quartz monzonite, which are generally solid and reliable, and there are a couple thousand bouldering problems and some 8,000 routes for climbers of all skill levels. Plus, dozens of companies offer climbing instruction and guidance along with equipment for travelers who don’t have their own gear.
Joshua Tree Hotel Pick:
While Fontainebleau is best known for its stately chateau, climbers across Europe are generally more interested in its excellent bouldering opportunities. Circuits here are color-coded depending on how difficult they are, and there are even special problems just for kids. Plus, it’s a short jaunt from Paris, making it an easy day trip from the French capital.
Fontainebleau Hotel Pick:
Railay Beach, Thailand
Krabi’s Railay Beach is by far Thailand’s most famous spot to go climbing, particularly for sport climbers. In fact, climbing is so popular here that plenty of non-climbers visit for the turquoise waters and white sands and end up getting on the crags themselves (many companies offer beginner classes). There are hundreds of bolted routes here — the most notable of which are on the Thaiwand Wall, a gorgeous slab of granite overlooking the Andaman Sea.
Railay Beach Hotel Pick:
Home to the first 5.14 climb in the country, Smith Rock, just outside of Bend in Oregon, is a bit of a mecca for sport climbing. The park has nearly 2,000 bolted climbs ranging from easy to super-challenging, plus plenty of spots to boulder. Just beware: Smith Rock is in the high desert, which means that the slabs can get unbearably hot if you come in the summer, and the whole park is often blanketed in snow come wintertime.
Bend Hotel Pick:
With its gorgeous wilderness and strong outdoorsy culture, it’s no surprise that New Zealand is an excellent climbing destination. Fiordland National Park on the South Island is a particularly popular spot, with all sorts of routes, particularly in the Darran Mountains and the Borland Valley. The Babylon Crag offers some of the most challenging routes in the mountains, if not the country.
South Island Hotel Pick:
The area around Moab has long been a hot spot for outdoorsy activities, largely due to its proximity to both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. While Arches in particular offers all sorts of routes for various levels, the biggest draw here — at least for advanced climbers — is the Finger of Fate climb on The Titan, the largest of the Fisher Towers and one of the country’s best-known climbs.
Moab Hotel Pick:
Acadia National Park, Maine
One of the most popular destinations for rock climbing on the East Coast, Acadia National Park features multiple spots to indulge in the sport, with options ranging from beginner routes up to 5.12s (tougher). Many even offer lovely sea views. The rock here is primarily pink granite, which is grippy and good for friction climbing. Numerous schools in Bar Harbor offer classes, guided climbs, and equipment rentals.
Bar Harbor Hotel Pick:
With its tall granite rock formations set against a beautiful forested background, Yosemite National Park has long been a hot spot for climbers. While there are tons of places to climb here — notably at Half Dome and in the Yosemite Falls area — the park’s most famous spot to climb is the magnificent El Capitan. The best-known section here, The Nose, has been climbed by seriously brave free climbers; the first person to climb it without any aid was a woman by the name of Lynn Hill, who made it up in 1993.
Yosemite National Park Hotel Pick:
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