Elevation: 416 ft
GPS: 37.726, -89.217 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: Jon Richard on Jan 23, 2007
Admins: Dave Hug

Area Breakdown

Illinois holds hundereds of miles of exposed rock. From the Limestone of the Mississippi and Ohio river valley's to the Sandstone of the Shawnee Hills, this midwestern state offers a lifetime of stone to enjoy.

Illinois offers great sport and traditional, multi-pitch, ice, aid, and bouldering for its visitors. Southern Illinois holds the highest density of quality stone making it the climbing capital of the state, and a few of its areas should be highlighted:

Popular Areas In Southern Illinois

Jackson Falls
Hidden Treasure - Killer Route!!
The premier sport and traditional destination in the state is Jackson Falls. With over 400 routes, Jackson Falls has something to offer to every level climber. Jackson is truly the sport climbing capital of Illinois.

Holy Boulders
Jason Kehl on Atlas V5 at the Holy Boulders. Photo by Abbey Smith.
Every boulderer who passes through the state should make a point to stop at the Holy Boulders. The Holy's contain over 300 boulder problems and a few great Trad lines. With arguably the best quality Sandstone in the state, and possibly the midwest, the Holy's are the classic proving ground for anyone desiring to take themselve to the next level. Thanks to the courageous work of Lief Faber, the Illinois Climbers Association was able to work side by side with the Access Fund to buy the Holy Boulders property, thus securing it in climber friendly hands forever! But DO NOT FORGET, although the Holy's are protected, they have come at a cost. The Illinois Climbers Association has been hard at work raising funds to repay the Holy's debt back to the Access Fund, but we need your help. To contribute, please donate to the cause by following this link: paypal.com/donate/?token=oD… or contact the Illinois Climbers Association to find out other ways to help.

Giant City
Makanda Bluff, Southern, Illinios, photo: Bob Horan Collection.
Giant City State Park is a great sport climbing and bouldering destination. This historical testing ground is the birthplace of hard roped climbing in Illinois. Giant City contains some of the greatest top-roping routes in Illinois including City Limits, which at its time was one of the first 5.12's in the country. The park also offers many quality/leadable traditional lines and few classic boulder problems.

Cedar Bluff
Becky leads pitch 1 of Dizzy.
If you are interested in multi-pitch climbing check out Cedar Bluff. With many sport routes and a few quality multi-pitch routes that reach over 95 feet, Cedar Bluff is a great destination for anyone seeking to get high. Also important to note is its sandstone quality and height is very similar to that of the Red River Gorge. Although slightly pebbly, this bullet hard stone allows for great gear placements. If you find yourself in the area, and not to be forgotten, Ferne Clyffe State Park offers great bouldering and top-roping opportunities as well. Both Cedar Bluff and Ferne Clyffe were well fought for by the Illinois Climbers Association, and with visiting climbers support, should continue to be protected and provide great climbing experiences.

The above listed areas in Southern Illinois are just a few of what the state has to offer. There is no gaurantee that climbing will be protected. Please do your part to follow Leave No Trace ethics and abide by local regulations to hopefully prevent provoking any local land manager from restricting climbing access.

Popular Area Near St. Louis

Pere Marquette State Park
Molly Gabel deciphering the crux on the Hespen Arete
The Illinois Climbers Association is proud to present Illinois' newest rock climbing destination, Pere Marquette State Park. Located an hour from St. Louis just outside the lively town of Grafton, Pere Marquette offers highly featured limestone formations great for climbing. Since early 2015 the ICA has been working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to gain their blessing for this project, which includes new trails, landscaping with natural rock steps, and both sport routes and top-anchors for traditional leads. This new climbing area will ultimately have over 60 climbing routes.

Popular Areas Near Chicago

Mississippi Palisades State Park
The Sentinel.
The Palisades is a great area for anyone living near Chicago who can get away for a weekend. It is located on the Illinois side of the Mississippi river, just across from Iowa. The limestone bluffs rise roughly 180 feet above the river level in some places, though none of the climbs are actually this long. Pretty much everything here is top-rope, with tons of natural anchor options in the trees and some boulders on top of the walls. This limestone can get pretty manky - especially with wet and even just humid weather. There are a few routes that are in bee territory here, which can make the climbing very exciting. Because of the humid and buggy summers, the best time to climb here is October to November. A nice dry crisp fall morning here is ideal.

Starved Rock State Park
The Snake in a really 'fat' year.
The canyons open to ice climbing have varied over the years: be sure to check at the Park office before you hop on the ice.

Illinois literally has climbing all over, if you find yourself passing through and decide to stop you will not be disappointed.


[[Illinois Climbers Association]]ilclimbers.org
Founded in 2002. The Illinois Climbers Association is a charitable organization representing the climbers of Illinois. We are dedicated to preserving climbing and bouldering access in Illinois through education, conservation, and cooperation.


The Illinois Climbers Association is a 501(c)3 charitable organization created to:

  1. Promote and support conservation and preservation of both rock climbing and bouldering areas, and their respective natural resources in Illinois
  2. Encourage optimal recreational use of Illinois outdoor climbing resources through land stewardship education and by facilitating cooperation between climbers, private land owners, and public land managers
  3. Encourage and promote the development of policies and practices that will preserve climbing and bouldering areas in Illinois
Click HERE to donate towards the Illinois Climber Association's cause. The ICA has been instrumental in conserving access to climbing all over Illinois. If you have any questions, comments or concerns feel free to contact them.

Getting There

Click on individual areas to obtain specific directions.


In Illinois there are two guide books for the southern portion of the state. The first is Eric Ulner's book Vertical Heartland.

Vertical Heartland 3rd Edition

His guide is a good representation of the legal climbing destinations in the state and primarily focus on sport and traditional climbing.

The other guide for Southern Illinois is Matt Bliss's book Sandstone Warrior.

Sandstone Warrior

His guide beautifully lays out the majority of the bouldering found in S.I. and includes quality color photos to aid in your boulder problem deciphering. These two guides provide you with all the necessary tools to navigate our local crags. Pick them up and go enjoy the climbing that Illinois has to offer.

1,288 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

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Classic Climbing Routes at Illinois

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
V2-3 5+
The Mollusk
5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c
Luscious Babes
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Stubborn Swede
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Fine Nine
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Cheerio Bowl
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Master Marley
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Earthbound Misfit
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Spiders From Mars
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Group Therapy
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
Wild at Heart
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Lovely Arete
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Detox Mountain
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Hidden Treasures
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Mollusk Holy Boulders > Mollusk Boulder
V2-3 5+ Boulder
Luscious Babes Jackson Falls > A. N Canyon > B. E.M.J. Wall
5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c Sport
Stubborn Swede Jackson Falls > … > C. Hidden Peaks > E The Monument
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport
Chimichonga Jackson Falls > A. N Canyon > B. E.M.J. Wall
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport
Fine Nine Jackson Falls > C. N Falls > C. Lovely Tower
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Cheerio Bowl Jackson Falls > … > C. Hidden Peaks > D. Pricker Peak
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Venom Jackson Falls > A. N Canyon > A. Mr. Jimmy
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Master Marley Jackson Falls > C. N Falls > D. Spleef Peak
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Earthbound Misfit Jackson Falls > B. W Falls > A. The Gallery
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Spiders From Mars Jackson Falls > A. N Canyon > A. Mr. Jimmy
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
Group Therapy Jackson Falls > B. W Falls > A. The Gallery
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Wild at Heart Jackson Falls > A. N Canyon > I. Railroad Rock
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Lovely Arete Jackson Falls > C. N Falls > C. Lovely Tower
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Detox Mountain Jackson Falls > … > C. Hidden Peaks > C. Cranial/Detox Wall
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Hidden Treasures Jackson Falls > C. N Falls > C. Lovely Tower
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
More Classic Climbs in Illinois »

Weather Averages

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Prime Climbing Season


JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  
Oh I am going to Jackson, going get ma fill. Jan 25, 2007
Ben Bruestle
Pueblo, CO
Ben Bruestle   Pueblo, CO
Illinois Climbers Association:

iclimb-ica.org/pages/index.… Oct 13, 2008
Las Cruces
cuclimbing   Las Cruces
To all you climbers stuck in Charleston, IL, don't feel bad. I grew up in the countryside, and go down any creek for long enough you'll find something to climb. The map I posted above has a spot of mine with a 20-30ft sandstone cliff. Rock quality is so so, if I still lived there I'd get a pic of the face. The Embarrass River has some faces too, but you gotta wade upstream for a few hours. Happy climbing! Dec 16, 2008
Took me long enough to get some Illinos photos posted up here. These are all 80-83 vintage Kankakee River State Park. It would be a very popular bouldering location today with many roof moves just off the deck and most walls less than 30 ft in height. many routes are 5.8 and 5.9 A shame the DNR would not budge on requests allowing us to continue climbing there as of June 1983. Nov 24, 2009
Broomfield, CO
sweatpants   Broomfield, CO
Why did the DNR stop allowing climbing? Nov 24, 2009
They removed access stairs and forbid climbing because drunk kids with coolers of beer, in the park at night illegally, have trashed it up and fallen down or off the cliffs too. THAT in their mind was related to the use of cliffs for anything vertical. Senseless. But climbing had not yet become a widely known indoor sport back then; no X Games, no MTV or action sports media, so nothing for them to relate to except guys who fall off cliffs with coolers full of beer.
We wrote letters, made calls, had a meeting, explained our simple use, clean climbing, no pitons, toprope mostly, etc..and they still said NO. This was long before the Access Fund got started to the degree it is today. Chalk was not an issue, as it was the same substance and color as the dusty calcium carbonate limestone rocks. Fishermen leave bait containers and trash, and hike down the same rugged cliff trail that we do,but they get to stay. (they pay for stuff, we didn't; so go figure) Trespass and you would get your gear taken away plus a fine.
Since then, with the lack of climbing traffic on the cliffs, there is a major increase of plants on the blocky rocks. Many holds are gone from dirt and invasive plant roots prying them off the walls. Hard to believe we were safer than nature turns out to be. Nov 25, 2009
If you visit Rock Creek you can see the remnants of past climbing...fixed pins on a lot of the walls. Rumor has it that Mike McCarrin had authored a hand drawn guidebook... I have also heard of some harder routes being established in the creek (.13ish) by McCarrin???
A few years ago i was speaking with a local & was told that another canyon exists in the area. apparently it is on private property, but is supposedly deeper and more undercut than rock creek...does anyone have any info on this??? Jan 4, 2010
Is there an admin for Illinois? I was proposing to someone that some organization could be done, specifically for Starved Rock but there doesn't seem to be an admin. If not, any locals want to volunteer? Mar 1, 2010
Dan Roberts
Eastern Iowa
Dan Roberts   Eastern Iowa
I am looking for old guide books. Midwest preferably, but I'd be interested in most anything. Kind of a hobby. I like to know the history and true route names of the places I climb. Jul 27, 2010
Madison, WI
Remo   Madison, WI
I agree with Rhoads. Illinois needs an admin. There are some really bad route descriptions that could use some cleaning up. Anyone? Sep 12, 2010
Lee Frazer
Durango, CO
Lee Frazer   Durango, CO
Where's the best place to boulder in S. IL? Jackson Falls? Somewhere else? Any advice would be appreciated. In S. IL. for Thanksgiving, but going through rock withdrawal. Thanks folks. Nov 22, 2010
Lee, lots of Boulders down there. Jackson Falls will have the most easily found high quality problems. Bring your harness and shoes as you will probably be able to hook up with some people for some belays. Nov 23, 2010
Clint C  
I'm looking to compile some sweet photos of IL or any midwest climbing for a writing project.
Please send me any you have to clateboulder@yahoo.com

Please send in a jpg low resolution format.

Appreciate it,

Climb on Dec 13, 2010
southern indiana
mattmaxwell   southern indiana
Lee -- check out "The Sandstone Warrior" guidebook by Matt Bliss. book dedicated to bouldering in So Ill. popular (as in just a few people) areas: Jackson Falls, One Horse Gap, Dixon Springs, Holy Boulders, Giant City....... Dec 13, 2010
Howdy Folks! I will be in Pontiac for the majority of August and I am wondering if there is any climbing nearby? Sport, Trad, Bouldering anything! Thank you in advance for any input or advice. Jul 28, 2015
Tyler - I work in Pontiac. No local climbing that I am aware of, but if you are still around I would be happy to go to the gym in Bloomington with you. PM me. Aug 30, 2015
Ted Pinson
Chicago, IL
Ted Pinson   Chicago, IL
Multi pitch in Illinois? Where?? On a possibly related note: any idea where the cover photo of Vertical Heartland was taken? Nov 30, 2015
Saint Louis, MO
AaronJ   Saint Louis, MO
Ted: The photo on the Vertical Heartland cover is of Fancy Lads at Draper's Bluff, which has been closed to public climbing for a few years. There are some multi-pitch climbs at Giant City State Park and Cedar Bluff, but I think it's mostly short pitches or traversing. Also this: pursuitofexploration.com/20… Dec 4, 2015
Dave Hug
Carbondale, Illinois
Dave Hug   Carbondale, Illinois  
Hey Ted,

In my opinion, the best multi-pitch route in the state is Tempura Tour at Giant City. Last year some friends and I spent a lot of time scrubbing and digging out cracks to open up three more pitches to make the route climb from the Makanda Layback to Georges. The route is well protected, has been throughly cleaned, and is very adventurous.

Here is the link: mountainproject.com/v/tempu… Dec 8, 2015
Chris Arnold
St. Louis
Chris Arnold   St. Louis
If anyone is looking for a Holy Boulders partner, I'm looking to get into climbing a bit more outdoors. I won't have a pad for awhile, strapped for cash. Just started in July or so, about a V4-V6 climber with a few Stone Fort trips under my belt in Tennessee. PM me

Chris Feb 8, 2016
Old thread but maybe someone will see this...

Is Sanstone Warrior worth picking up if I’m mostly looking to boulder at Holy Boulders? I know that area specifically doesn’t have its own guidebook Apr 6, 2019
Jacob Luciani
St. Louis
Jacob Luciani   St. Louis
Holy Boulders is only mentioned in Sandstone Warrior as being closed at the time of publication. That being said, there are a bunch of other areas listed in SW to make up for it, including a few in the vicinity of the Holies. For example, coming from St. Louis you've actually got a shorter drive to The Beach and The Graveyard, both of which have more complete info in the guidebook. Apr 6, 2019