Talk to any rock climbing enthusiast and they’ll tell you that few outdoor experiences can offer the same thrill as rock climbing. Fingers wrenched into a crack, feet struggling for purchase on polished rock, mind and body pushed to their limits… just one way to describe the buzz you get from climbing.
North America is nothing short of a climber’s dream playground and offers a huge variety of climbs for all levels of skill. Although our list does not contain the most extreme rock climbs North America has to offer, it does contain a varied selection of fun and challenging climbs for a fun day or two in the great outdoors.
Five ‘Must Climb’ Rock Faces in North America
El Capitan, California
Fondly referred to as ‘El Cap’, this 3,000ft (910m) vertical lump of granite resides in Yosemite National Park. Once considered impossible to climb, El Cap now sets the standard for big wall climbing. El Capitan has two main faces, the Southeast and the Southwest and between these two faces juts a huge prow. Today there are established routes on both faces but the most famous route is ‘The Nose’ which follows the huge prow. There are over a dozen routes up the face, all of which are lengthy and complicated but offer a real sense of achievement.
Half Dome, California
The half dome is also in the Yosemite National Park and is probably the Park’s most recognized site. Another huge, imposing piece of granite, Half Dome rises more than 4,737ft (1,444m) up from the valley floor. It is also possible to hike to the top of the Dome using a trail and cable route which was erected in 1919. However, hiking is not for rock climbing enthusiasts and serious climbers can tackle over a dozen routes that lead vertically up the northwest face.
Tahquitz Rock, California
Tahquitz Rock in California is sometimes also known as Lily Rock. This massive 1,000ft rock face is located on the western slope of the San Jacinto mountain range above the town of Idyllwild, which incidentally, is a very desirable place to live according to Area Vibes. The approach hike is very steep rising around 800ft in half a mile and this makes it a popular hiking destination as well as rock climbing area. There are over a dozen routes and it is considered to be one of the best free climbs in southern California.
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming has increased in popularity over the recent years and each summer the rock now sees hundreds of climbers set out to climb the sheer rock walls with its vertical cracks and column of rock. There are climbing routes on every side of the tower which vary greatly in difficulty from relatively easy through to some of the hardest routes in the world.
Smith Rock, Oregon
Smith Rock in Oregon was the birthplace of modern sport and rock climbing and has been climbed by some of the best rock climbers in the world. With more than a 1,000 different routes of which many are deemed to be the most challenging on the planet. Even by today’s standards Smith Rock is considered to be cutting edge and the sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt are perfect for rock climbing of all skill levels.
Are you a rock climber and would like to share your favorite or most challenging place to climb? Tell us all about your sport and your personal ‘must climbs’ in the feedback box below.
David Wilson is a travel writer discovering the best places to work, live and play across the United States.