Where to rock climb in the East this fall

The shifty sandstone towers and hard granite of the West may lay claim on the “best” rock climbing for most of the year, but for fall, we prefer to take our ropes to the east side.

Cross the Mississippi for surprising rock formations, world-class climbing and sweeping views of vibrant fall color (and stock up on real bagels and pizza while you’re at it). Here’s where to plan a climbing trip on the East Coast this fall.

Seneca Rocks, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

Where to rock climb in the East
The wild summit of Seneca Rocks makes it worth the drive from New River Gorge. Photo from Shutterstock
While it’s West Virginia’s New River Gorge that draws in rock climbers from near and far, Seneca Rocks offers a spectacular view of the rolling hills and fall foliage — and a wild summit to boot.

The 900-foot rock juts out of the earth like a shark’s fin and the sandy quartzite offers plenty of bite by way of multi-pitch trad routes with rigid old-school ratings.

The reward? A razor-sharp ridgeline summit you’ll want to stay tied in for.

The Gunks, New Paltz, New York

Locals scrambling up lines in this New York climbing mecca often say it takes a year to finish every route in The Gunks, and we believe them.

This section of Shawangunk Ridge towers over orchards and farms right between the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, where easy access means the spot is often crowded. But it’s worth the wait for pristine one-to-three pitch climbs of all levels, including endurance-testing classics with overhung sections and horizontal cracks.

Red River Gorge, Slade, Kentucky

Where to rock climb in the East
Where to rock climb in the East: Red River Gorge is a mecca for climbing east of the Mississippi. Photo:Shutterstock
Slade, Kentucky may be one of the few places where the number of crags (150) outnumbers the locals (population 38).

This is home to some of the toughest climbs in the country, where towering sandstone walls host prime sport lines within the boundaries of the Daniel Boone National Forest. This is where pioneers of rock climbing set routes in the ’60s and ’70s, and where vicious bolted climbs offer a challenge for even world-class climbers.

Rumney Rocks, Rumney, New Hampshire

This peppering of crags in the White Mountains has become one of the premier sport-climbing destinations in the country, especially in the fall season when the mosquitoes are few and the climbers are many.

The 150-acre section on the hillside of Rattlesnake Mountain offers high-quality climbing at every grade, from easy 5.3 scrambles to challenging 5.15a lines. Avoid popular beginner routes in favor of harder climbs to cut down on wait time.

Looking Glass Rock, Brevard, North Carolina

Look Glass Rock against the brilliant fall foliage; Photo: Shutterstock
Where to rock climb in the East: Look Glass Rock against the brilliant fall foliage. Photo: Shutterstock
This dome of frozen volcanic rock jutting up over the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina offers something for everyone: Free climbing, aid climbing and multi-pitch climbing await during the fall and winter months (widely recognized as the best times to visit).

Dozens of routes traverse the sloping rock — try The Nose (5.8), which takes you over the “eyebrows” of the dome and up to a series of moves that require under clings and fancy footwork.

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