The Ideal Bouldering in the South

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Fall is prime time for bouldering in the Southeastern United States. Cool climate and retreating poison ivy lure climbers like me back into the woods to our preferred challenges. And when the region’s tall cliffs and granite domes may well be the most clear targets for climbers, the boulder fields hidden in the forest are swiftly beginning to outshine the larger routes in our area, in aspect since they’re “new.” Boulder fields are the most current rocks to be created in the Southern Appalachians. The cliffs at Rumbling Bald close to Asheville, North Carolina, for instance, have captivated climbers considering that the ’70s, but nearby boulder fields didn’t start out attracting focus till the mid ’90s. As climbers continue to create these crags, they’re becoming a coveted resource.   

Chris Dorrity agrees. The author of Rumbling Bald Bouldering Guide says the bouldering in the South is as very good as anyplace in the nation. “The rock high-quality is outstanding and there are a lot of fields with concentrated boulders that are fairly close to each and every other, so it is simple to hyperlink a couple of distinct locations collectively in a weekend,” he says. 

Here’s a swift guide to the finest bouldering in the Southern Appalachians, from West Virginia to Alabama. 

A brown landscape with a bright-blue sky in the background

The view from Grayson Highlands. (Photo Credit: Mountain Project Contributor Aaron Parlier)

  • Place: Around two hours southwest of Roanoke, Virginia
  • Rating: V0–V13
  • Ideal for: Bouldering with a view 

An comprehensive trail network meanders by means of higher-elevation meadows in Grayson Highlands, offering access to Mount Rogers National Recreation Region and providing fortunate guests a glimpse of the little feral pony population that calls the area residence. But the true treasure lies in the park’s boulder fields—some of the highest in the South—which provide climbers a uncommon summer season location beneath the Mason Dixon Line. Climbing continues by means of the fall, and thanks to the park’s remote place and a lot of rock fields, crowds are primarily non-existent. And with much more than 1,000 created routes, you will uncover every thing from V0 to V13. The Listening Rock Trail Boulders and Boneyard Boulders provide the highest concentration of challenges and simple access, but the most scenic pebbles are in The Highlands Region, which sits above tree line at five,000 feet and has extended views to spare. Highland Highball, a 20-foot tall V2 with an early crux, huge jugs and top rated-out with a 360-degree view of neighboring Mount Rogers, is the classic right here.

A climber walking through a wooded area with a climbing pad on their back

Hiking in to discover the crags at Coopers Rock State Forest. (Photo Credit: Mountain Project Contributor Nicholas Boyce)

  • Place: 20 minutes northeast of Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Rating: V0–V7
  • Ideal for: Multisport weekends

This 120,000-acre state park in northwest West Virginia tends to be overshadowed by the thousands of climbing routes in nearby New River Gorge, but if bouldering with a side of mountain biking or hiking is your factor, Coopers Rock State Forest demands to be on your list. You will not be climbing alone, as the forest hovers more than the Cheat River, creating it well-liked with students at West Virginia University who come for the rocks and the view. Nevertheless, with many hundred established routes, there’s ample space to spread out. Gritstone boulders—known for their coarse texture and enormous attributes, like jugs and slopers—form mazes amongst the hardwoods. Friction is your buddy with these oversized holds. The Roadside location gives an array of challenges with an simple method (there’s some rope climbing right here, also), but there are half a dozen fields to discover. Tilted Tree has the most concentrated challenges of all the locations. There, Black Scar (V1) is simple on novices with numerous hold possibilities as it operates its way up a 15-foot tall vertical hunk of stone. Bring spotters for the top rated out, as it is a extended fall to your crash pad. The Cave Route (V3) has you operate your way up the interior wall of a cave. And Tomb Raider (V3) is a moderate alternative that starts with a sit start out, displaying off the area’s signature slopers. When you are accomplished climbing for the day, discover the forest’s 50 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. A note for winter enthusiasts: The front gate closes for the season from Dec. 31 to March 31, but you can nonetheless access the park to climb and hike. It even becomes a hot spot for cross-nation skiing for the duration of uncommon powder dumps. 

A woman bouldering in a forest

Bouldering in Rocktown, Georgia, exactly where there are much more than 500 routes. (Photo Credit: Mountain Project Contributor AWinters)

  • Place: 1 hour, 45 minutes north of Atlanta, Georgia 
  • Rating: V0–V9
  • Ideal for: A remote weekend in the woods

The extended, bumpy dirt road to Rocktown’s parking lot aids preserve the crowds down regardless of the national recognition this location has received in the final decade. The sandstone bouldering field sits atop Pinnacle Mountain in the no-frills, 20,000-acre Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Region. There are much more than 500 established routes, with locals and guests placing up new challenges all the time. The Orb (V8) sits just a couple of minutes from the parking lot. It is named following an odd-shaped boulder with a challenging roof reserved for only the finest climbers. But there are a lot of other routes, also. Move deeper into the forest, and you will uncover signature routes, like El Classico, a V0 slab with a tall, but simple top rated out, and Golden Shower, a V5 complete of huge slopers that turn into stickier in colder months. You will want a hunting or fishing license to take a look at the location, and you should really preserve an eye out for hunting closures in the fall and early winter. But camping is free of charge, which tends to make this an simple and affordable weekend adventure.

A view of the sunrise from an overlook with mountains in the foreground

The view from Horse Pens 40, a privately owned location exactly where you can climb for $10 a day. (Photo Credit: Mountain Project Contributor mattmaxwell)

  • Place: 1 hour northeast of Birmingham, Alabama
  • Rating: V0–V12
  • Ideal for: Climbing with amenities

If Southern boulderers had an amusement park, it’d be Horse Pens 40. And for $10 a day, this privately owned nature park on top rated of Chandler Mountain, northeast of Birmingham, is yours to discover. Stroll HP40’s major two-mile loop trail that meanders by means of a boulder field with much more than 300 established routes. Recognized for their exclusive shape and bulbous nature, the sandstone boulders usually resemble giant mushrooms or even turtles, meanings the bouldering right here is all about the slopers. The quantity and high-quality of smooth sandstone has created it not only a single of the finest bouldering fields in the nation, climbers occasionally examine it to the globe-renowned rack in Fontainebleau, France. Plus, there’s on-web page camping with restrooms, showers and even a basic shop that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, so all you have to be concerned about is ticking off your bucket list. Bumboy is a very good spot to start out. The V3 may well be the finest instance of what to anticipate from Horse Pens. It is a broad, water-grooved boulder with rows and rows of huge slopers. Consider a giant brain created of gray rock. 

A climber spots another on a sloping topout in Rumbling Bald

A sloping topout in Rumbling Bald. (Photo Credit: Mountain Project Contributor dbyte)

  • Place: 45 minutes southeast of Asheville, North Carolina 
  • Rating: V0–V12
  • Ideal For: Winter climbing

This three,20-foot mountain may well be greater recognized for its conventional routes on steep cliffs, but bouldering at the base of these cliffs started taking off in the ’90s. Now, the pebble wrestling at Rumbling Bald is becoming much more well-liked than the trad climbing. The mountain, which sits inside Chimney Rock State Park, has a single of the biggest boulder fields in the south, with at least 1,000 documented challenges and a lifetime’s worth of improvement nonetheless lingering in boulders hidden all through the forest. The challenges are divided into 3 major boulder fields: West Side, East Side and Central. Verify out Silver Platter (V2), an overhanging crack in the East Side location, or Kung Fu Grip (V5) in the West Side Boulders, a steep 15-foot boulder that demands a quantity of heel hooks. Southern exposure and warmer temperatures make this a single of the finest winter climbing destinations in the Southeast, meanwhile a new parking lot and enhanced trail technique have created Rumbling Bald much more user-friendly in current years. 


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