The Best Campgrounds for Climbers
Whether you’re looking to climb some routes yourself or just watch other thrill-seekers work their way up a mountain, there are plenty of camping destinations that will put you right in the middle of the action. From big walls to unique rock formations, these camping spots offer activities and scenic views for just about anyone.
Here are some of the different types of climbing you’ll find in wilderness areas:
- Sport Climbing: This is one of the most popular forms of climbing and features ropes and prefixed gear that allows climbers to clip in.
- Trad Climbing: Short for “traditional,” trad climbing uses ropes and requires climbers to place gear in the rock as they go up.
- Bouldering: The rise in popularity of rock gyms has created a boom for bouldering. Instead of ropes, bouldering uses crash pads on the ground as most routes are under 15 feet and have only a few short technical moves.
Here are some of the best spots that offer great climbing opportunities.
Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, Texas
Hueco Tanks in Texas is a world-class bouldering destination with unique rock formations that allow climbers of all levels to get outside. The park is located just under an hour east of El Paso and is especially popular in the winter when other climbing destinations are covered in snow and ice. There’s camping right inside the park, but it’s important to make reservations due to its popularity.
Hueco’s historic designation is related to the area’s Indigenous inhabitants and the pictographs that remain on the rocks. Visitors are required to watch a video before entering the trails, and some areas are protected; book a guide service for access, and be respectful of the land.
Red River Gorge, Kentucky
The Red River Gorge sits in the heart of Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. The area is a huge draw for East Coast sport climbers, with tall rock walls unlike anything else in the area. The surrounding forest includes many camping options. Visitors should be sure to check out the famous Miguel’s Pizza, a popular destination for food and drinks after a long day of climbing.
Vedauwoo Campground, Wyoming
Another great destination for those hoping not to sweat about booking a reservation is Vedauwoo in Wyoming. Just north of Colorado and outside of Laramie, this climbing destination is easy to spot from the highway as the granite rock formations rise from the Plains.
The somewhat remote destination in Medicine Bow National Forest makes this a good spot for those hoping to avoid the crowds in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. Climbers can find both trad and bolted sport routes here.
Lower Pines in Yosemite National Park, California
No camping list for climbers is complete without mentioning Yosemite’s Camp 4. The famous campground has appeared in multiple big-name climbing movies, including Free Solo with Alex Honnold. As a result of its popularity, getting a spot in Camp 4 isn’t easy. The California park uses a lottery system and getting a site is not guaranteed.
Lower Pines Campground is a great alternative. While visitors will be further from the action, the views of the iconic El Captain are hard to beat. Yosemite is full of opportunities for big wall climbing, but most require permits or reservations, so be sure to do your research first.
Smugglers Notch State Park, Vermont
Vermont’s Smugglers Notch State Park is a year-round destination, known for some of the best climbing in New England. Climbers will find trad and sport routes and Smugglers Notch is especially popular for bouldering in the warmer months. The park is best known as a skiing destination in the winter, but those adventurous enough can also check out some of the ice climbing routes available.
There are a few things to take note of before planning a trip: Unlike the climbing season, the camping season at the park is not year-round. Also, many camping spots require some hiking, so it’s not the best destination for RVers or those with accessibility challenges.
Camping Near Rocktown, Georgia
A popular bouldering destination in the Southeast, Rocktown sits in Northwest Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much camping nearby, but those willing to drive about 30 minutes south can stay in James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park. With all five-star reviews, Campendium users say the destination is worth a visit. The heavily wooded park takes reservations.