10 Parks for the Serious Rock Climber

Person hiking in the snow
Photo: U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK) [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

Spanning a variety of terrains and climates, the U.S. National Parks offer many challenging rock climbing opportunities. Ten of these parks in particular stand out for providing the most amazing climbing experiences. Warning: Experienced climbers only!

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Mount Rainier National Park

Patrick Lewis/Flickr.

Barely half of the more than 10,000 people who climb Mount Rainier every year successfully make it to the summit, but those who do can say that they've climbed over 9,000 feet over about 8 miles to the glacier peak of this active volcano. Braving harsh, constantly changing winter weather conditions pays off with an amazing view over 14,410 feet above sea level.

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Zion National Park

Dan Mahr/Flickr.

For fans of big wall climbs, Zion National Park's vast 2,000 foot high sandstone cliffs offer an extreme but fun experience. The park also offers top roping, sport climbing and bouldering. Beware of the unshaded walls that can bake in the 100 degree heat of summer; the best time to climb is between March and May, and between September until early November.

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North Cascades National Park

Jet/Flickr.

The hundreds of glaciers at North Cascades National Park elevate the average climb to a full-out adventure. Varying terrain can require days of cross-country travel and advanced climbing skills, but the expansive views stay with climbers forever.

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Yosemite National Park

Brian Zambrano/Flickr.

If any park is perfect for rock climbing, it's Yosemite National Park. Climbers can choose from variety of climbing options like sustained crack climbs, pinching crystals, and even multi-day aid climbs on big walls.

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Joshua Tree National Park

J Brew/Flickr.

Joshua Tree National Park keeps climbers coming back, offering more than 400 crack, slab and steep-face formations and 8,000 climbing routes to choose from. With so many choices, a great place to start is on the park's website, where you'll find a list of their rock climbing maps.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

Dana Le/Flickr.

People have been rock climbing in the Rocky Mountains for more than 200 years, and for good reason. Rocky Mountain National Park is filled with granite rock formations for nearly every mountain scaling opportunity, including big wall, snow and ice, bouldering and all-out mountaineering. Climbers can tackle a quick boulder or spend days on the big walls. A must-see is Longs Peak, the 14,259 foot high summit that offers a climb on the Keyhole Route that must be taken with extreme caution — but that yields great rewards.

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Natasha Lloyd/Flickr.

Both Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks entice climbing enthusiasts to explore a wide variety of climbs. Highlights include the Obelisk, Grand Sentinel, and Chimney Rock routes. As you plan your climbing expedition, remember that peregrine falcons nest annually on Moro Rock (Sequoia National Park) and Chimney Rock (Kings Canyon National Park), so those routes close from April through August.

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Arches National Park

Tristan Higbee/Flickr.

The mere sight of the towering rocky formations at Arches National Park is enough to get any climber pumped. Advanced climbers can enjoy slacklining, clean aid climbing and free climbing at this sandy park. As the park is part of a working ecosystem, be sure to check for closed routes as you plan your trip.

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Pinnacles National Park

Doctor Popular/Flickr.

The fun and exciting climbs at Pinnacles National Park make it a popular destination for climbing, top-roping and bouldering. Caution is necessary, however, because of the weak volcanic rock in the park. For a helpful, comprehensive list of all climbs, visit the Friends of Pinnacles website.

10
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Denali National Park

Air Force 7 Summits Challenge/Flickr.

Perfectly combining climbing, mountaineering, survival skills and breathtaking views, Denali National Park attracts climbers from around the world to the peaks of the Alaska Range. At 20,320 feet, Mount McKinley is the highest peak in North America, a climbing feat in itself. But the park also challenges skilled climbers to tackle its rock and ice walls in the Ruth Gorge.