Top Ten Rock Climbing National Parks

Yosemite National Park, CA - Yosemite is one of the world's greatest climbing areas. Climbers here can enjoy an endless variety of challenges- from the sustained crack climbs of the Merced river canyon to pinching crystals on sun drenched Tuolumne domes to multi-day aid climbs on the big walls of the Valley.  Yosemite is not just a climber's playground, however- Its walls and crags are an integral part of a larger ecosystem, protected as wilderness, that was set aside for people to enjoy in a natural state for generations to come. For guide service check out Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, Inc.


Joshua Tree National Park, CA - Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in the world. More than 4,500 established routes offering a wide range of difficulty are concentrated within about 100,000 acres of park land. Over one million people visit Joshua Tree each year, many of them rock climbers. The National Park Service mission requires park managers to provide for the enjoyment of the park by today’s visitor while conserving and protecting park resources for future generations. Dramatic increases in the number of visitors engaging in rock climbing contribute to an already difficult, sometimes contradictory, task. Park managers are concerned about trash, soil erosion, vegetation damage, human waste disposal, natural and cultural resource protection, and the quality of each visitor’s experience.

Black Canyon on the Gunnison National Park, Colorado - Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a destination that offers vast opportunities to advanced rock climbers. The canyon is extremely deep and narrow. The depth of the canyon at Warner Point (the deepest section of canyon) is 2,722 ft. The Painted Wall is the tallest vertical wall in the state of Colorado with a height of 2,250 ft. In the area of the North and South Chasm Walls, where the majority of the climbing activity takes place, the depth of the canyon is 1,820 ft. The canyon is at its narrowest point in the Chasm View area, with a rim to rim distance of 1,100 ft.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks and the High Sierras, CA  - Bordered by a great agricultural area on one side and an inhospitable desert on the other, California's Sierra Nevada is the highest mountain range in the contiguous United States, and some say it is the most beautiful. It has almost everything a climber desires: rugged peaks, glaciers, and splendid, isolated chunks of granite. And these attractions are set in a lovely locale of lake basins, streams, and high meadows. The rock is generally good, the weather during the summer months excellent, and the access is easy. What more could a climber want? If there is any disadvantage, it lies in the hordes of people who have recently found the range to their liking. The John Muir Trail, which runs the length of the High Sierra, is a very crowded corridor in mid-summer, yet the climber who is willing to wander just a few miles from it will find untrammeled lake basins at the bases of peaks that see fewer than ten ascents a season.
– Steve Roper

Acadia National Park, Maine - Acadia National Park offers a variety of fine climbs on small cliffs created during the last continental glaciation. Most of these cliffs are composed of solid coarse-grained pink granite. The longest routes are three pitches. Otter Cliffs and Great Head provide a spectacular setting for sea cliff climbing not commonly available elsewhere in the U.S.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - Climbing has been a popular activity in and around the area known today as Rocky Mountain National Park since the 1800's. The wide variety of peaks and granite rock formations in the Park provide excellent opportunities for a wide spectrum of climbing including rock, big wall, snow and ice, bouldering and mountaineering. It is a mecca for local climbers, as well as those from around the world. Opportunities for climbing exist in many areas of the park including Lumpy Ridge and Longs Peak. Whichever activity you select, it is your responsibility to respect the areas you visit, minimize your impacts, and know and obey all park regulations.

Arches National Park, Utah - The rock at Arches offers excellent climbing opportunities, despite its sandy nature. Most climbing routes in the park require advanced techniques. Permits are not required, unless the trip involves an overnight stay in the backcountry.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah - Traditionally, Capitol Reef National Park has experienced minimal use by technical rock climbers. However, recent years have seen an increase in climbing in Utah's canyon country. Included here are the park regulations and concerns regarding technical climbing. The rock at Capitol Reef is comprised predominately of sandstone. It varies in hardness from the soft crumbly Entrada to the relatively hard Wingate. The Wingate cliff walls are the most popular for climbing, as natural fracturing has created many climbable crack systems. In addition, the hardness of the Wingate lends itself more readily to the successful use of chocks, nuts, and camming devices; however it can flake off easily and be very unpredictable. Climbing in canyon country is not something to be taken lightly.

Zion National Park, Utah - Climbing on Zion’s sandstone requires appropriate hardware and technical skills. Climbing information is available at visitor centers. Some routes may be closed to climbing when Peregrine falcons are nesting. A permit (fee) is required for overnight climbs.

Grand Teton National Park, WY- High-quality rock, easy accessibility, and a wide variety of climbing conditions make the Teton range some of the best mountaineering territory in the nation. From June to mid-September, the Jenny Lake Ranger Station is headquarters for climbing information. Rangers provide current weather and route conditions and assist with equipment selection and planning route times. The ranger station also has an extensive library of guidebooks, maps, and photos of popular climbs. During the rest of the year, check in at Moose Visitor Center for information.