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Top 10 Best Climbing States
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By Alex Swan
From West
Dec 30, 2011
Rather Grand

1. Wyoming
2. Utah
3. Colorado
4. California
5. NEW ENGLAND! (We'll call it one state ;) )
6. Kentucky
7. Arizona
8. Washington
9. Tennessee
10. New Mexico

Bubble States: (Idaho, Oregon,New York, Nevada, Oregon, Alabama, South Dakota, Montana)


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By Steve86
Dec 30, 2011

How is North Carolina not on this list? It has more routes than at least half of the states you have listed and you can climb the entire year.


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By Mike Anderson
From Dayton, OH
Dec 30, 2011

Steve86 wrote:
How is North Carolina not on this list? It has more routes than at least half of the states you have listed and you can climb the entire year.


I would give you the nod based on rock quality and variety, but making a weather-based argument for any Southern state is ludicrous.

Is your list meant to be in rank order? If so, I have a major beef with California...it has great granite climbing, but not near the variety of many other states on your list.

Tennessee should be a bubble state also. If considering proximity to other good states, then I would put it ahead of Kentucky.

Here's mine:

1. Utah
2. Wyoming
3. California
4. Colorado
5. Arizona (haven't climbed there much but the VRG...not sure)
6. Nevada
7. New Mexico
8. Tennessee
9. Oregon
10. North Carolina (their sport climbing allergy is a problem for me)

Note the preference for places with dry climates.


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By steitz
From midcoast, maine
Dec 30, 2011

1) Maine.
2) NH


....3) Cali ...

or Iowa.


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By Lanky
From Portland, ME
Dec 30, 2011

steitz wrote:
1) Maine. 2) NH ....3) Cali ... or Iowa.

Ha! I see what you did there.


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By Addison
From Boulder, CO
Dec 30, 2011
me at eldo

are you that bored?


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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Dec 30, 2011
Me and Spearhead

I was under the impression that there are only maybe 4 REALLY good climbing states, the rest are the bubbles.


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By Bryan G
From San Jose
Dec 30, 2011
Puffy jackets and Happy Boulders

I agree with California, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming as a really solid Top 4. After that its kind of hard to say, especially since I've never even climbed in over half the states.

If you include mountaineering in your definition of "climbing", then Alaska would probably be right there at the top.


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By Woodchuck ATC
Dec 30, 2011
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

How is KY so low? The Red IS a total state of climbing itself. Also, for sure, (the southern tip of IL exempt) Illinois falls in the bottom 5 out of 50.


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By Alex Swan
From West
Dec 30, 2011
Rather Grand

The top four are pretty interchangeable. I think that the truly most varied state and my favorite to climb in is Wyoming with Devils Tower, Ten Sleep, Vedauwoo, Cirque of the Towers, Tetons etc. Yes I was very bored when putting together this list.

I like Mikes list even more so than mine although Idaho belongs in the top ten when you annex in Spokane.

Sorry Woodchuck, KY may very well belong higher up :)


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By Cowpokey
From Maryland
Dec 31, 2011
Rocks State Park, Maryland

South Dakota is a "bubble state"? Granted most of the state is flat, but the Black Hills alone are almost the size of the entire state of New Hampshire. West Virginia isn't even mentioned?


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By Evan Sanders
From Westminster, CO
Dec 31, 2011
Flaming Pumpkin

Brian Wright wrote:
"Tennessee should be a bubble state also. If considering proximity to other good states, then I would put it ahead of Kentucky." Kentucky has the Red River Gorge, one of the most famous sport climbing spots in the country. What does Tennessee have that can compare to that? Anyway, posts like this are kind of pointless


Stone Fort, one of the top 3 bouldering spots in the country, Tennessee Wall which is definitely comparable to the Red (one is mainly sport and one is mainly trad, but they're still comparable as national climbing areas), and then a whole lot more medium sized climbing areas. Tennessee really does belong above Kentucky.


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By Woodchuck ATC
Dec 31, 2011
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

IF this post is written in a boulderers frame of reference, then you gotta start all over again. Leave boulders out, and you have a real climbers evaluation state by state. separate them and you will get more agreement for sure on the states mentioned. I don't think many climbers ever think of bouldering as the main goal at Yosemite, for example. Could influence their thinking here.


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By Guy H.
From Fort Collins CO
Dec 31, 2011
Crux roof on Freeway...

Bryan G wrote:
I agree with California, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming as a really solid Top 4. After that its kind of hard to say, especially since I've never even climbed in over half the states. If you include mountaineering in your definition of "climbing", then Alaska would probably be right there at the top.


Not to mention that Alaska is about the same area as the first 8 states on the original list!


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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Dec 31, 2011
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.

Evan Sanders wrote:
Tennessee Wall which is definitely comparable to the Red (one is mainly sport and one is mainly trad, but they're still comparable as national climbing areas)


Really? I've never been to the TWall, but I find this extremely hard to believe. The Red is a World-Class venue, probably one of the top 3 sport destinations in the US, if not the #1.


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By JCM
From Seattle, WA
Dec 31, 2011

A proposition, based on the size of states: For this to be a fair comparison, perhaps some of the northern New England states ought to be lumped together. Most of the best climbing states (CA, CO, UT, WY, etc) are gigantic western states. In addition to their varied topography, they also win by shear virtues of size, which allows them to include more areas and more variety.

Any single New England state can't stand up to comparison to a much larger Western state, simply because of the size issue. I think this may be one reason why New England is often forgotten. Talking about just about the climbing in NH, for instance, is like talking just about the northern Front Range; both would exclude a lot of the climbing in the local area. Many (most?) New Englanders live only a half hour from another state, and their home crag may be across this state line, even if the crag is only 45 minutes away. This is a far cry from the average Californian whose "home" crag, within his own state, is 3-5 hours away.

Anyway, if you put together NH granite, Rumney, Shagg, Farley, VT ice, NH ice, and various lesser-known crags, that is a decent selection. Honestly, you could even include the Gunks and the Dacks in the list and still encompass an area smaller than most western states- and now you have a formidable selection that can hold its own against the bigeer states in the West. All of the abovementioned areas were well less than 4 hours from where I used to live in western VT (except perhaps for Shagg).

Even with this combination of forces, New England probably can't make the top 4. It lacks big walls, doesn't have any deserts or big mountains, and the weather is pretty mean. Still, I think it does deserve a bit more respect than it gets, and maybe a place in the top 10.

This is a slippery slope, though. Once you combine adjacent areas in separate states, all sorts of other combinations become available. Perhaps this makes sense, since state boundaries are arbitrary and don't mean much to the climber; maybe some consideration of functional regions would be more meaningful. For instance, it is a little silly to talk about Little Rock City while ignoring Rocktown- it is just next door! A functional region might include the 2-hour circle around Chattanooga, which is still a much smaller area than Wyoming is, yet includes all the best climbing of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. Another functional region that makes a lot of sense to consider is to combine the Western Slope and the Colorado Plateau; it really is one region with an arbitrary state line in the middle of it.

Anyway, the result of this line of thought is that this whole discussion is a little meaningless, since state boundaries are meaningless from a climbing, geology, and/or landscape perspective.


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By Ben F
From Benfield, Kolorado
Dec 31, 2011

Monomaniac wrote:
Really? I've never been to the TWall, but I find this extremely hard to believe. The Red is a World-Class venue, probably one of the top 3 sport destinations in the US, if not the #1.


When comparing the states of KY and TN, TN has more rock of generally better quality. Sure, the Red has great sport and trad, but it's only one (really good) area.


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By rock_fencer
From Columbia, SC
Dec 31, 2011
Myself placing a a blue/yellow offset MC to protect between Bolt 2/3 just post crux . <br /> <br />Picture credit goes to eric Singleton, and many thanks to Josh Bagget for the great belay.

From my experience across the east coast and the country North Carolina is the only state on the east coast that has a comparable amount of rock to a western state, has a very diverse set of climbing on different rock types. If Kentucky and TN are on the list then NC needs to be at least 3 spots ahead of both.


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By Alex Swan
From West
Dec 31, 2011
Rather Grand

well shit. After that compelling argument and my extreme ignorance to the evils of the East I have lumped all of this place they call New England into one.

That said New England still takes 5th

Bouldering is out of this list and without J-Tree and Bishop's bouldering California takes a seat at 4th.

Wyoming is still king without a doubt.... well

One thing to be considered is if we just annex City O' Rocks into Utah ;)


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By Tristan Higbee
From Cambodia
Dec 31, 2011
Me on a mixed route Crisco and I did in Rock Canyon.

milfred wrote:
One thing to be considered is if we just annex City O' Rocks into Utah ;)


Ah yes, but if you do that, the Colorado people will steal Indian Creek from us. Better not to start the precedent.

Another vote for Utah as #1. The southern half of the state alone makes it the best climbing state, IMO.

It's interesting that neither Idaho nor Montana are on anybody's list here. Both states have staggering amounts of rock, just not a ton of people or millions of established routes.

I've never been to Tennessee or Kentucky but does the amount and quality of climbing there compare with Idaho's City of Rocks, Castle Rocks, Massacre Rocks, and the Sawtooth Range?

As for including New England on the list, I'm morally opposed to that. The title of the thread is Top 10 Best Climbing States, not regions. Veto!


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By Ben F
From Benfield, Kolorado
Dec 31, 2011

rock_fencer wrote:
From my experience across the east coast and the country North Carolina is the only state on the east coast that has a comparable amount of rock to a western state, has a very diverse set of climbing on different rock types. If Kentucky and TN are on the list then NC needs to be at least 3 spots ahead of both.


Agree. NC has also maintained good standards and ethics in climbing, so existing routes tend not to be cheap contrived carnival rides.


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By Woodchuck ATC
Dec 31, 2011
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

Ben F wrote:
When comparing the states of KY and TN, TN has more rock of generally better quality. Sure, the Red has great sport and trad, but it's only one (really good) area.

there are climbing areas in other states that are closer together than the widespread layout of the Red. Each could be it's own area, just on the miles apart it is from Muir and the southern region up to the northern trad areas. It counts as more than 'one' area for sure.


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By JCM
From Seattle, WA
Dec 31, 2011

Taking some liberties with state lines, here is a list of what seems, to me, to be a good ranking of climbing regions. My lines are, of course, totally arbitrary. For instance, I lumped Zion in with Red Rocks, instead of with Moab. This is just a function of how the geography has coalesced in my mind and experience. You could categorize this things differently, if you wanted. The order is also pretty arbitrary; all of these places are great. I also did include bouldering, since I think that bouldering is a really important aspect of climbing.

1 The Sierra Nevada. Includes foothills. Tahoe to the Needles, Jailhouse to the Eastside. Somewhat limited with regard to sport climbing, and overwhelmingly heavy on the granite, but otherwise our best collection of world-class areas for bouldering, trad cragging, alpine rock, and big walling.

2. Western Slope and Colorado Plateau. Rifle, the Black, Ouray, Moab, the Creek, etc. Definitely the best variety in rock types and climbing styles of any region. I am arbitrarily putting the Wasatch crags separately- it is a separate mountain range that, unlike the La Sals, doesn't touch the CO border.

3. Vegas-St. George: Covers 4 states, but cleanly linked together by climate, geology, and, above all, I-15. Includes Red Rocks, Charleston, Clark Mtn, VRG, Utah Hills, Zion, and all sorts of other stuff. Holy cow, thats a lot! The only reason that this isn't in second place if that I like the Creek too much. Again rather arbitrary, but this is my post, dammit!

4. Da' Red: A region unto itself, albeit a very compact one. Perhaps the best concentration of sport climbing in the english speaking world. You could, conceivably, include this together with the New as one region, since they are only 4 hours apart. Now that would be something- lets do it. Ok, Red + New. World class sport climbing in the midwest. WTF?

5.Rainy granite in the PNW: Index, North Cascade alpine, Gold Bar, Leavenworth (less rainy), Exits 32&38, etc. I think that Squamish should be lumped in here as well, due to similarities in climate and geology, plus just being really nearby.

6. Canadian Rockies: If we are going to include Squamish, we should probably also give some credit to Canada's other mega-destination. Ice, ice, baby. Lots o' rock, too, especially if you like choss. There's even some solid stuff to be found. Remember- the Bugaboos are a part of the Can. Rockies. Oh dang.

7. NW Wyoming & North-central Wyoming. A big enough state that you can break it up a bit. Tetons, Winds, Lander, Tensleep, Cody go in this section. I excluded Devil's Tower from this region since it is geologically linked to the Black Hills, and Vedauwoo because of it's proximity to the Front Range.

8. TAG. Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia. Basically the 2-hour radius circle around Chattanooga. Hope you like sandstone.

9: Northern Utah: Wasatch, Uintas, Wasatch Plateau (includes Joes). Maybe City of Rocks could get thrown in here as well, since it is just across a state line.

10. Front Range: Shelf to Vedauwoo. Eldo, Splatte, RMNP, CCC, and much more. Lots of variety, year round season.

11. Black Hills: SD plus far NE WY. Needles, Rushmore, Spearfish, VC, Devil's Tower. It is tempting to also try to put Tensleep in here too, but it geologically belongs to Wyoming.

12. Hueco + Southern NM. Some obscure limestone sport climbingand one very-not-obscure bouldering area. Ends up so far down the list, despite the obvious quality of the bouldering, because it doesn't have the variety in climbing styles of the other areas.

13: New England: Nice little crags and quaint little villages. Great climbing, and year-round if you also like ice. Lake Willoughby alone bumps this to near the top for ice. You could also include the Dacks and maybe even the gunks in this catagory. If only it would stop sleeting.

14: Northern Arizona: Not an area I know all that well, or I may have ranked it higher. Sounds cool, though

14.5: Southern Arizona: again, not an area I know well. Should these two areas be separated? Who cares?

15: North Carolina: Why so far down the list? I haven't climbed here much, so I don't quite know how to rank it. I've only climbed in the Cashiers area, which was a bit too much scary slab for my taste. Boone sounds cool, though. Not much sport climbing, though, which is a major detractor for me.

16: SoCal. Generally overrated, if you ask me. The weather is nice, but the climbing never seemed that special to me. Hooray for slab! J-Tree is grainy choss. Yes, the trees look weird, but you could have the same experience, and save yourself the planefare, by dropping some acid. Still, SoCal deserves a place on the list because of history, climate, and the fact that so many people inexplicably love the climbing. I just don't get it.

17-25: Much, much more. I've thus far ignored the great climbing in Montana, Central Oregon, Idaho, NW Arkansas, Northern NM, Quebec, and more. Not to mention the worthwhile, although not destination quality, climbing of the Bay Area, Wisconsin, the mid-Atlantic, Oklahoma, Austin area, So. Illinois, etc. There is a lot of climbing out there...


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By Ian Cavanaugh
Dec 31, 2011

I love how Montana is never considered. I know that there are not the destinations as in other states but consider the whole states climbing rather than a single location in another state, and i think it would make the list. or maybe people just dont know how good it is there, which is another reason its so good!


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By Woodchuck ATC
Dec 31, 2011
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

Jon Moen wrote:
Taking some liberties with state lines, here is a list of what seems, to me, to be a good ranking of climbing regions. My lines are, of course, totally arbitrary. For instance, I lumped Zion in with Red Rocks, instead of with Moab. This is just a function of how the geography has coalesced in my mind and experience. You could categorize this things differently, if you wanted. The order is also pretty arbitrary; all of these places are great. I also did include bouldering, since I think that bouldering is a really important aspect of climbing. 1 The Sierra Nevada. Includes foothills. Tahoe to the Needles, Jailhouse to the Eastside. Somewhat limited with regard to sport climbing, and overwhelmingly heavy on the granite, but otherwise our best collection of world-class areas for bouldering, trad cragging, alpine rock, and big walling. 2. Western Slope and Colorado Plateau. Rifle, the Black, Ouray, Moab, the Creek, etc. Definitely the best variety in rock types and climbing styles of any region. I am arbitrarily putting the Wasatch crags separately- it is a separate mountain range that, unlike the La Sals, doesn't touch the CO border. 3. Vegas-St. George: Covers 4 states, but cleanly linked together by climate, geology, and, above all, I-15. Includes Red Rocks, Charleston, Clark Mtn, VRG, Utah Hills, Zion, and all sorts of other stuff. Holy cow, thats a lot! The only reason that this isn't in second place if that I like the Creek too much. Again rather arbitrary, but this is my post, dammit! 4. Da' Red: A region unto itself, albeit a very compact one. Perhaps the best concentration of sport climbing in the english speaking world. You could, conceivably, include this together with the New as one region, since they are only 4 hours apart. Now that would be something- lets do it. Ok, Red + New. World class sport climbing in the midwest. WTF? 5.Rainy granite in the PNW: Index, North Cascade alpine, Gold Bar, Leavenworth (less rainy), Exits 32&38, etc. I think that Squamish should be lumped in here as well, due to similarities in climate and geology, plus just being really nearby. 6. Canadian Rockies: If we are going to include Squamish, we should probably also give some credit to Canada's other mega-destination. Ice, ice, baby. Lots o' rock, too, especially if you like choss. There's even some solid stuff to be found. Remember- the Bugaboos are a part of the Can. Rockies. Oh dang. 7. NW Wyoming & North-central Wyoming. A big enough state that you can break it up a bit. Tetons, Winds, Lander, Tensleep, Cody go in this section. I excluded Devil's Tower from this region since it is geologically linked to the Black Hills, and Vedauwoo because of it's proximity to the Front Range. 8. TAG. Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia. Basically the 2-hour radius circle around Chattanooga. Hope you like sandstone. 9: Northern Utah: Wasatch, Uintas, Wasatch Plateau (includes Joes). Maybe City of Rocks could get thrown in here as well, since it is just across a state line. 10. Front Range: Shelf to Vedauwoo. Eldo, Splatte, RMNP, CCC, and much more. Lots of variety, year round season. 11. Black Hills: SD plus far NE WY. Needles, Rushmore, Spearfish, VC, Devil's Tower. It is tempting to also try to put Tensleep in here too, but it geologically belongs to Wyoming. 12. Hueco + Southern NM. Some obscure limestone sport climbingand one very-not-obscure bouldering area. Ends up so far down the list, despite the obvious quality of the bouldering, because it doesn't have the variety in climbing styles of the other areas. 13: New England: Nice little crags and quaint little villages. Great climbing, and year-round if you also like ice. Lake Willoughby alone bumps this to near the top for ice. You could also include the Dacks and maybe even the gunks in this catagory. If only it would stop sleeting. 14: Northern Arizona: Not an area I know all that well, or I may have ranked it higher. Sounds cool, though 14.5: Southern Arizona: again, not an area I know well. Should these two areas be separated? Who cares? 15: North Carolina: Why so far down the list? I haven't climbed here much, so I don't quite know how to rank it. I've only climbed in the Cashiers area, which was a bit too much scary slab for my taste. Boone sounds cool, though. Not much sport climbing, though, which is a major detractor for me. 16: SoCal. Generally overrated, if you ask me. The weather is nice, but the climbing never seemed that special to me. Hooray for slab! J-Tree is grainy choss. Yes, the trees look weird, but you could have the same experience, and save yourself the planefare, by dropping some acid. Still, SoCal deserves a place on the list because of history, climate, and the fact that so many people inexplicably love the climbing. I just don't get it. 17-25: Much, much more. I've thus far ignored the great climbing in Montana, Central Oregon, Idaho, NW Arkansas, Northern NM, Quebec, and more. Not to mention the worthwhile, although not destination quality, climbing of the Bay Area, Wisconsin, the mid-Atlantic, Oklahoma, Austin area, So. Illinois, etc. There is a lot of climbing out there...



Nice collection and organization. Takes into account geological similarity and region, not state boundaries.


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By mozeman
Dec 31, 2011

Where's the West Virginny respect?!

NRG and Seneca.....not to mention coopers as a nice complimentary touch

WV would have to be above KY b/c of these reasons but below TN in my opinion.


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