If you’re first starting to get into climbing, it can be intimidating to find a place to climb and people to climb with. The climbing community is known to be a close-knit community, which can make it feel unapproachable sometimes. This can make it challenging to find the perfect climbing gym for you, but don’t let your worries keep you up at night anymore. We’ve put together a handful of helpful resources, tips, and tricks to find climbing gyms, outdoor climbing crags, and climbing partners.
How to Find the Nearest Climbing Gyms to You
You may be asking yourself, “How do I find places to climb near me?” Most climbing gyms now have up-to-date websites, so your best bet for finding your local climbing gym is just to Google it. Even if you live in a smaller town that doesn’t have its own climbing gym, it might be worth it to drive to the nearest climbing gym to see if they have any type of climbing community established. You may find that people from where you live come to the gym or know of places closer to you to climb.
Another option that we’ll talk about later is asking questions on online climbing forums, such as mountain project, or asking at your local gear store. Online forums can be used to ask specific questions or just to see if someone has already asked any questions regarding your area. A local gear shop may have guide books to outdoor climbing, but they also are likely to have a good knowledge of how best to go about starting climbing in the area.
Even if the gear shop is more focused on other outdoor activities, it is a likely place to find climbers or other outdoor enthusiasts. If nothing else, the people at the shop may be able to direct you to other climbing resources specific to your area.
How to Vet the Best Climbing Gym for You
So you’ve found this gym. It’s close enough to your home that you can get there relatively easily and now you’re thinking about possibly joining the climbing gym and getting a membership. This can be a costly choice, so it’s a good idea to visit the gym a few times before you commit to buying a membership, in order to try it out. If you really dislike the general vibe of the gym or their open climbing hours just don’t work with your schedule, than buying a membership may end up being a waste of money.
As with many things, online reviews can be one of the best ways to see if you think the climbing gym is a good fit for you. If you are mostly interested in lead climbing and the gym only has four lead routes, that may not be the gym for you. You can also ask the people who work at the climbing gym some questions to get a better feel for the gym.
You could ask about how frequently the routes are changed out. You could try to find out more about who does the route setting and the overall quality of the routes. You could see if the distribution of difficulties that they have seem to align with what you want. You could even ask what the gym community is like, in order to see if you think you might fit in with the community well.
Unfortunately, it can be costly to get even a day pass to many major climbing gyms. Sometimes smaller gyms may be more cost-effective, but do not have the resources that many major gyms have. Some gyms also have full workout gyms attached and offer a variety of climbing and gym classes that you have access to as a member. Make sure you ask about all the perks of joining a climbing gym, before you commit to joining.
We’ve reviewed the best climbing gyms in some major US cities here:
- The Best Climbing Gyms in San Diego of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Houston of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Los Angeles of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Denver of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Phoenix of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Dallas of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in San Francisco of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Portland of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Philadelphia of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Charlotte of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in San Antonio of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Seattle of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Salt Lake City of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in San Jose of 2023
- The Best Climbing Gyms in Chicago of 2023
If you don’t live near one of the cities we’ve discussed here, don’t worry, these aren’t the only gyms. If you live near one of these cities, but not in it, you could also reach out to any of the gyms listed for your nearest city and see if they know of smaller gyms outside of the city.
How to Find Outdoor Crags Near You
If you haven’t heard of Mountain Project, you should highly consider checking it out. Mountain Project is an online mecca of climbing information. There’s also an app version that can show you rock climbing places near you. Although many smaller local crags aren’t very well listed, the site is a good starting point as it has the most comprehensive list of places to rock climb. The forums on the site are also a great place to ask climbing related questions and maybe even start to find some climbing partners. The GPS feature of Mountain Project’s app also makes it super easy to find rock climbing nearby.
It’s important to make sure you understand any land-use restrictions related to outdoor crags in your area. Sometimes this type of information will be included on a mountain project page, but not always. If you find a climbing crag that looks interesting to you, it’s worth it to ask around as well as look up the crag online. Some crags are on private property, some you have to walk across private property to get to them, and some have you sign waivers first. All of these things are good to know before you get there.
Other important things to know include the gear that you will need to set up anchors or lead at the crag you’re looking at. This will help you decide if you have the skills necessary to climb at any given crag. You should also look into the cost of climbing at any particular crag. While some may have free access, other crags may have you pay for a day or season pass, or just pay for parking.
Another thing to think about is how far you are willing to walk to get to the crag. Commonly known as the climbing approach, these can range from right off the road, to a day or more hike in. Most local crags tend to be under an hour to hike in, but it’s still useful information to know.
If you’re into other outdoor activities such as hiking or biking, mountain project has equivalents for those as well. The sites are run and managed by REI, a large outdoor gear company and educator, but most of the information on the sites are put in by community members.
Where to Find Climbing Partners Near You for Top-Roping, Sport, and Trad
Finding a climbing partner is like online dating, but you’re about to trust the person you find to keep you safe while you climb. Many regions have their own climbing Facebook groups where people will frequently post questions about particular crags or request climbing partners of a certain ability. This is a good potential place to start.
As you start to look for climbing partners for more lead-based climbing, such as sport or trad, safety becomes more and more important. We recommend taking some courses at a local climbing gym, REI or equivalent gear store and school, or a larger program, such as NOLS or Outward Bound. Learning climbing skills and rope management techniques from experts is the best way to make your own educated choices about safety, even when you’re climbing with a new partner.
How to Plan a Climbing Vacation
First things first, you need to figure out a budget for your climbing vacation. If you have a large budget, you may be able to fly somewhere either in the US or overseas. A smaller budget might mean that you have to be able to drive to your climbing vacation. Another choice related to your budget might be the type of accommodation that you choose to stay at.
In general, many cost-effective climbing locations are most easily accessible by camping, but some are close enough to towns to stay in a hotel. Another option is renting a van to stay in and traveling around a larger area to climb somewhere new each day. Wherever you choose to stay on your climbing vacation, make sure to factor that into your overall trip budget.
In terms of finding exactly where you want to go, there are a multitude of ways to find amazing climbing destinations. We recommend asking your local climbing community or an online forum like Mountain Project if you want personal stories of where to go for what type of climbing. You can also just search “rock climbing in” and fill in whatever state, region, or country you want to go to.
Once you figure out the general area you want to go to, it’s probably a good idea for you to start thinking about where within that area you want to climb each day. You could buy a guide book for the area, look on Mountain Project, or see if that area has its own online climbing community.
In general, large climbing areas will be divided into a handful of crags. Each crag will have anywhere from 1 to 30 or more climbing routes of various heights, styles, and difficulties. Try to pick an area and some crags that are within your range and ability, while still pushing yourself a little.
Other things to think about when planning your climbing vacation, include who you want to bring with you. Maybe you’re planning this vacation with your regular, go-to climbing partner. In that case, there’s no need to worry about who you’re bringing. If that’s not the case though, you might also want to think about how many people you are willing to go with and how many people the area and crags you are looking at can realistically accommodate.
Some crags are particularly small or are known to not have much room at the base of the cliff. These crags are probably not best to go to if you’re planning on traveling and climbing with more than one to three people.
You also may want to think about hiring a guide, especially for the first day in a new place. Although this will increase your overall budget, having a guide who knows the area can be extremely helpful. They are often able to show you some lesser known crags in the area, so you might be able to avoid any potential crowds. Guides will also be able to tell you all the rules and restrictions associated with the area or crag that you’re climbing at.
In high traffic climbing area this may not seem as necessary, but it can actually be really helpful. While you could just go to a visitors center and get a map or talk to a ranger for a little while, having a guide may be your ticket to finding hidden or out of the way climbing areas that might have less people. Just be sure to tell your guide what it is that you want to get out of the day and the levels of climbing within your group. That way they don’t take you somewhere way too hard or way too easy for you.
Wrapping Things Up: Finding Climbing Near You
There are so many great resources out there to help you find the best climbing gym or crag for you and your abilities, just make sure you do the research so you don’t end up being unprepared for wherever you end up going.
Don’t overlook the human resources available in your area when looking for climbing places near you. Talking to other climbers or outdoor enthusiasts can often be the most efficient and fun way of finding new climbing areas, or getting into the sport. Make sure that you stay safe and know the risks of wherever you choose to go. Have fun discovering some amazing new climbing spots!
If you enjoyed this post, you’d probably like our climbing gym reviews or our 50 rock climbing tips for beginners and intermediates.