Rock Climbing, Rappelling and Ice Climbing
Rock climbing is available both indoors and outdoors in and around Ohio and is typically available throughout the entire year. Within a short drive, there is access to vast terrain diversity, varied climbing types and styles, and differing accessibility. While rock climbing can seem very complex to a beginner, most skillsets can come easily to those who take the time to practice.
Becoming familiar with climbing safety and techniques is key to a safe and enjoyable climbing experience. It’s well worth the time to familiarize yourself and even be trained toward rock climbing, rappelling, and ice climbing ins and outs and do’s and don’ts prior to embarking on any climbing trip.
Best time to go:
It is possible to climb throughout the year in and around Ohio if you catch warm days in the winter and stay in the shade in the summer. That said, the preferred climbing season is Spring through Fall.
Rock Climbing Education/Safety:
Rock Climbing Destinations (in a general four-hour radius from Columbus, in order from near to far):
COLUMBUS OHIO ICE
In the wintertime, these are climbs scattered around the west flank of the city. There are two big waterfalls that freeze over near the Scioto River, and a couple small ones on the Olentangy. The large ones are found on Hayden Run Road and provide the best opportunity for ice climbs.
SCIOTO AUDUBON METRO PARK
Set within the city, Scioto Audubon Metro Park provides a green oasis for wildlife and visitors to enjoy. The park features a 35-foot-tall outdoor climbing wall that has bouldering, top rope, and sport climbing. Climbing is free but climbers must bring their own ropes to scale the routes that range from grades 5.7-5.10. If you do not have a rope, 10 ft. boulders are available and range between V2-V7. The park is accessible by the Olentangy and Lower Scioto Greenways and is a quick four mile bike ride from Ohio State’s campus.
Rock Climbing, biking, canoeing/kayaking off Scioto boat ramp, fishing, picnicking
MARNE ROAD WALL
Roped climbs from 25-65ft tall line this roadside crag about 50 minutes east of Columbus. Routes range from 5.5-5.13 and boulders range from V1-V8. Sport and trad lines contain technical climbing, slab routes, jug hauling, and some crack climbing. The land above the wall is private property and therefore exploring above the ridgeline is not allowed. First bolts are very high and therefore bringing a stick clip is highly encouraged.
Bouldering, sport climbing, and trad climbing
MAD RIVER GORGE
A hiking trail along an old railroad gives access to Mad River, which is lined with 50 feet dolomite cliffs for rock climbing. There is a great mix of sport, trad and bouldering at this park, and it has over 200 routes to climb. Nearby camping options can make for a great, quick weekend trip.
Sport climbing, bouldering, trad climbing, camping (John Bryan State Park, Buck Creek State Park), hiking
JOHN BRYAN STATE PARK
Six designated climbing sites and one rappelling site are available in the park for top rope use. Routes range from 5.3-5.12, and nearby campsites can make for a great weekend trip. No lead climbing or bouldering is allowed, but the 35-foot routes still have lots to offer. The Little Miami Bike Trail runs nearby the park as well and could allow for a weekend full of a wide range of outdoor activities.
Top rope rock climbing, camping, hiking, mountain biking
HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK
Ninety-nine acres of Hocking Forest have been set aside for rock climbing. Only a mile east from Conkle’s Hollow, a wide array of top rope routes are available. The tallest routes are found at the far right of the area, and the shortest right at the end of the approach trail. Lots of nearby hiking makes for a nice day adventure. In the winter, Hocking Hills is a great spot to try ice climbing as well.
Top rope climbing, ice climbing, hiking
Home to the best bouldering in Ohio, Athens Bouldering is a great spot because of the diversity of difficulties, with routes ranging from V0-V7. Make sure to go when the rock will be dry, as the climbs are not very rainproof. Two campsites, Strouds Run State Park and Happy Hills Camping nearby, could make a nice weekend trip.
SALT FORK STATE PARK
The sandstone cliffs make for some surprisingly good boulder routes. There are climbs for all skill levels amongst the 32 different bouldering projects you can take on. Hiking and boating are other outdoor activities that are frequented by visitors.
Bouldering, hiking, boating, swimming
This Cleveland metro park has great sandstone rock climbing opportunities for top rope and bouldering. The park even features a few trad routes for beginners. The individual permit requirement has been eliminated, but make sure if you have a large group to obtain a group permit at Hinckley Reservation.
Top rope, bouldering, trad climbing
BEACH CITY NATURE PRESERVE
Big Wall is the most popular crag here, with routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.12. Bouldering and trad routes of varying degrees of difficulty are also available. The rest of the park is a designated state wildlife area, and also features many hiking trails and waterfalls.
Bouldering, sport climbing, top rope climbing, bouldering, hiking
SAWYER QUARRY NATURE PRESERVE
The site is an old limestone quarry filled with fossils, artifacts, and gems that has been developed into a climbing and rappelling area. Rappelers must register themselves at the park office, and boulderers are encouraged to bring crash pads and spotters. Routes range between 5.6-5.8 and V2-V3, making for a great beginner climbing area.
Top rope, rappelling, bouldering
MILL CREEK METRO PARK
Mill Creek Metro Park offers bouldering within the permitted area of the park - including the areas between Bears Den Road, Cross Drive, and New Cross Drive. All roped climbing is strictly prohibited.
The Middle Cliffs and Big Cliffs areas of Logtown are home to short trad routes and top roping. Routes here range between 5.3-5.12+, for all levels to enjoy. The Greenway bike trail runs right through the park and to the climb areas for a fun day adventure.
Trad climbing, top rope climbing
COOPER’S ROCK, WV
Cooper’s Rock boasts some of West Virginia’s best views, located just outside of Morgantown. Canyon overlooks, hiking and biking trails, sandstone cliffs for climbing and bouldering, as well as cross-country ski areas are available. This is also a popular white-water rafting area in West Virginia. There are hundreds of boulder problems, several top-rope climbs, and enough short trad leads to fill a weekend or week. Some of the best spots include Sunset Wall, Roadside Rocks, and Upper Rock City. Roof Rocks is another great spot, with 10 climbs between 5.3-5.6 which are perfect for a beginner.
Hiking, biking, sport climbing
RED RIVER GORGE, WV
“The Red” is a well-renown climbing area, known as one of the best sport climbing crags in the entire world. This climbing area is one of the longest, pumpiest, and most exciting climbing areas in the United States. Dozens of climbing campsites have popped up around the area, creating a great community as well. Three main areas make up the Red, and grades from 5.5-5.13 provide a wide range of difficulties for climbers. No discussion of the Red would be complete with mentioning Miguel’s Pizza, often considered the epicenter of climbing culture in Kentucky. Miguel’s hosts a cheap campsite, great pizza, and a gear shop.
Hiking, sport climbing, trad climbing, camping
NEW RIVER GORGE, WV
A new National Park, the “the New” is one of the oldest rivers on the continent. White-water rafting, canoeing, climbing, and hiking are all great activities to do at the New. With over 1,400 established rock-climbing routes, the New has become one of the most popular climbing areas in the country. The New is a difficult crag, with majority of routes starting at 5.9 or higher, and ranging from heights of 30 to 120 feet tall.
Sport climbing, trad climbing, canoeing, rafting, hiking, camping
SUMMERSVILLE LAKE, WV
Summersville Lake has a great range of sport climbing, ranging from 5.6-5.13 and boasting a great unique feature of deep-water soloing and free climbing right out of the lake. Only half an hour north of the New River Gorge, the combining of the two areas could make a fantastic potential weekend climbing trip.
Rock climbing (sport and trad), canoeing, camping
GRAND LEDGE/OAK PARK, MI
As one of the few places to climb rock in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Oak Park is a small but wonderful park that contains long cliffs that line the Grand River. The cliff is 20-30 feet tall and contains over 100 routes. No rappelling or lead climbing is allowed, but there’s plenty of top rope and boulder routes to enjoy.
Top rope climbing, bouldering