5 Amazing Climbing Areas in the US to Visit This Fall

Tim Heaghney enjoying fall conditions in New York on Fire in the Sky (5.13b, 4 pitches), Moss Cliff, Adirondacks. Photo: Tim Heaghney collection

It will soon be the time of year when the leaves are turning and the rock is crisp to the touch … Welcome to the best time of year for climbing outdoors and the season climbers look forward to all year.

Not only is it a beautiful out, with the vibrant changing colors of the leaves, but also the humidity and heat is down. In the coming months these high-friction conditions will be so optimal for sending (doing routes) that climbers call them “Send-tember” and “Rock-tober.”

Below are five classic fall climbing areas that draw tourists and climbers alike for the incredible scenery and high quality stone.

Boone, North Carolina

Many years ago I moved from California to the South (to Boone, NC) because I heard the rock climbing there was incredible – and it most certainly was. Specifically it was a photo of a climber at Blowing Rock in John “Verm” Sherman’s Stone Crusade: A Historical Guide to Bouldering in America that got me completely obsessed with the area.

What I found in Boone was a supportive group of climbers who took the sport incredibly seriously. There are lifetimes of perfect stone to climb in the northwest corner of North Carolina, and when the fall colors go off, there is no place I would rather be.

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

The Red River Gorge is one of the nation’s top climbing areas, drawing people from all over the world to sample that sweet southern sandstone.

This area has it all, cracks, face, and incredibly steep rock with giant holds (that are remarkably hard to hold onto). It’s also home to Miguel’s Pizza, an eatery and shop that also serves as the center of the climbing scene. If you only had time to visit one crag this fall, this is the place to go. It’s optimally set up for car campers, tent dwellers, dirtbags, and weekend warriors alike.

Castle Rock (Boulder Canyon), Colorado

Corey Flynn making short work of Nobody’s Home (5.12 R) in Castle Rock, Colorado. Photo: Chris Van Leuven

Located in the Colorado High Country at 7,800 feet and a mere five minutes from the ski town of Nederland is a granite wall called Castle Rock that is so high quality it’s drawn climbers since the ’50s.

During autumn, the ski town is filled with tourists taking in the changing foliage as they drive along the Peak to Peak Highway. Meanwhile, back at 250-foot tall Castle Rock, climbers slowly scale the polished stone above a trickling river. It’s such a relaxing and scenic area that many (non-climbong) families use it for picnics.

Up here the air is thin, the routes are vertical, and the vibe is supportive and friendly. This area also offers exceptional bouldering played out on both Castle Rock proper and on the nearby blocs. The rock here is about as close to Yosemite’s famous granite as you’ll find in Colorado.

Yosemite Valley, California

When summer comes to a close and school year starts Yosemite clears out. With the majority of the tourists gone for the season, the roads are quiet and it feels like you have the place all to yourself. Though this many not be prime waterfall viewing season because the water is low, it is most certainly the best time of the year to visit the park if you’re a rock climber.

Though the leaves here don’t change as colorfully as they do in the East, the temps on the rock can’t be beat. This is when climbers flock to El Capitan to do big walls, when parties dash out for the long classics, and boulderers line up for their turn at Midnight Lightning located in the center of the climber’s campground Camp 4.

Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont

Tucked in a ravine 2,000 feet up Mount Mansfield is a narrow, winding road littered with boulders and big rocks on either side. During the fall tourists flock here by the thousands to watch the leaves change. Meanwhile, rock climbers flock to the stone to ascend the jagged blocks and steep walls.

Though the rock here can be dirty and loose, the well traveled boulders by the road are clean and (mostly) moss free. The name of the local guidebook also describes the rock type found in the Green Mountain State: Tough Schist.

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