The Best Rock Climbing Locations in the United States

    Got the desire to get out climbing? Check out these four suggestions for some of the best ascents available in the United States.

    El Capitan, Yosemite National Park.

    El Capitan, Yosemite National Park.

    El Capitan

    Housed in California’s Yosemite National Park, El Capitan is a popular destination for rock climbers looking for a challenge. Its location is in the western end of the Yosemite Valley’s north side. The vertical granite monolith is about 3,000 feet tall. It’s also possible for hikers to climb the rock formation by taking the trail next to the Yosemite Falls after they have hiked their way out of the valley.

    The rock face has a number of established climbing routes on its two major faces, the southwest and southeast sides, with a large prow between them. The most famous of routes is called the Nose, which follows the prow and was first climbed by Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore in 1958. They took 47 days to complete the climb during which they linked camps together where people could stay during their trips. Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost completed the second ascent of El Cap in 1960 and took seven days in total. The first person to achieve a solo climb was Tom Bauman in 1969, while John Long, Jim Bridwell, and Billy Westbay were the first to climb the rock in one day in 1975.

    The overall success rate for people who attempt to climb the entire face of El Cap is about 60 percent. As the routes have expanded over time, people from a variety of skill levels are drawn to it, with people also experimenting with speed climbing, solo climbing, free climbing, and base jumping, the last of which is prohibited because of the large number of injuries sustained in El Cap’s history. There are more than 70 routes for climbers to check out, providing something for people ranging from beginners to experts in the sport.

    The Grand Canyon in Arizona

    The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

    The Grand Canyon

    Located in Arizona, the huge formation created by the Colorado River’s flow is another hot spot for rock climbers. Although most of the canyon is not fit for climbing because of the soft rock, the majority of established routes are around Grand Canyon Village. The sections available for climbing are Crumblin Wall, Dana Butte, Excalibur, Flailing Wall, Hutton Butte, Medivac Wall, Monument Creek, Mount Hayden, O’Neill Butte, Wailing Wall, and Zoroaster Temple.

    As part of the Grand Canyon National Park, it is also managed by the Hualapai Tribal Nation and the Havasupai Tribe. The canyon is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It spans 277 miles and has become a famous vacation spot. The width ranges, but is 18 miles at its widest. The formation of the canyon came about when the river’s power wore away layers of rock at the same time as the Colorado Plateau was rising. However, many geologists argue about the date of creation, some claiming it goes back as far as 70 million years ago. The Colorado River continued to erode the rock into what can be seen today.

    Many Native Americans have called the Grand Canyon home, building settlements such as caves into the canyon sides that are still visible on current visits. Providing a gateway into the continent’s past, the layers of the rock not only provide a beautiful view but have worked to help define geologic data sets. The Grand Canyon is considered to be a sacred site by the Pueblo, who were the first group of people to inhabit the area. Other groups called the canyon home at later dates. Spanish explorer Garcia Lopez de Cardenas was the first to document his sighting of the canyon in 1540.

    Joshua Tree

    Joshua Tree National Park in California.

    Joshua Tree National Park

    Mormon settlers were the first to come across this now famous rock climbing location in California. Desert monzogranite climbing is offered through slab and steep-face structures, proving to be one of the most challenging places to rock climb, depending on the specific location. More than 8,000 routes have been established over the years and there are more than 400 climbing formations to check out.

    Those who discovered the now well-known park were reminded of the biblical figure of Joshua by the view of surrounding Yucca trees that grew, which is where the name comes from. A variety of climbing options are offered at the park, attracting people from all skill levels. Winter climbing is also done at Joshua Tree. It was established as an official national park in 1994 through the California Desert Protection Act after first being classified as a national monument. The park is comprised of both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts and also houses part of the Little San Bernardino Mountains that run along the southwest border.

    The region was not always known as a haven for climbers, who preferred to visit only when the Yosemite Valley and parts of the Sierra Nevada were covered in snow during winter months as means of keeping up practice. Joshua Tree gained popularity over time and became known as a climbing destination in its own right. As many of the rocks are smaller, there are different types of climbs that can be completed within one day, giving people a chance to experience an array of locations and see different parts of the park in a short amount of time. The quartz monzonite rock is an extremely rough form of granite, unable to be polished because of a lack of snowfall in the region. In addition to climbing, the park is also recognized for hiking, biking, driving, bird watching, and astronomy.


    Pikes Peak in Colorado.

    Pikes Peak

    Located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the Pike National Forest near Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak has become a leading destination for advanced rock climbers. It is one of the most famous fourteeners in Colorado, which is a state with 54 fourteeners in total, with the peak coming in at number 31 on the list of the highest. Its total height is 14,115 feet above sea level and is the easternmost fourteener in the United States.

    The pink granite it’s made of, called Pikes Peak granite, is caused by the potassium feldspar that became visible when the mountain began to erode due to weathering. Zebulon Pike was the first to discover the peak, but he failed to successfully climb its surface. Because of its snow, ice, and frequent lightning storms, Pikes Peak is known as one of the most dangerous places in the United States to rock climb for people at an accelerated level.

    There is a vertical gain of about 7,500 feet and during the summer is the best time to plan a climbing trip to the Colorado destination. Pikes Peak is the second most visited mountain in the world next to Japan’s Mount Fuji.

    El Capitan Image from Little Mountain 5 on the Wikimedia Commons, Grand Canyon Image from Tobias Alt on the Wikimedia Commons, Joshua Tree Image from Doug Dolde on the Wikimedia Commons, Pikes Peak Image from Hogs555 on the Wikimedia Commons

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