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Routes in Mississippi Palisades

Access Climb T 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a
Blank Face TR 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Bowline T,TR 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Crack-a-Toe-a T,TR 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Decapitator T,TR 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Difficult Crack T,TR 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Double Overhang T,TR 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Ethos TR 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Face Off TR 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
First Crack T,TR 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Java TR 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Knob Off TR 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Next To Nothing 12.a TR 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a PG13
North Chimney (Flat on Your Back Crack) T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Nosey T,TR 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Over and Up TR 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Papoose T,TR 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
Pretzel TR 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Pretzel Face TR 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Purgatorio V5 6C PG13
Quiver T,TR 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a PG13
Return Engagement TR 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c PG13
Riverview Ridge T,TR 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Second Crack T,TR 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Sentinel Chimney T,TR 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
Sentinel East Face T,TR 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Sentinel North Face TR 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Snaky T 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
Third Crack TR 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Twin Cracks TR 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Up and Off TR 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Wrap-Around Route T,TR 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a PG13
Unsorted Routes:


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.

The favorite section here goes by a few names, but most people know it as "The Cove". It is a stone ledge roughly 30 feet by 30 feet behind the dominant Sentinel Tower. Several routes can be found in this small space, easy to moderate, plus a few harder lines. Getting into The Cove requires a class 4 scramble over some well worn holds (smooth as glass) and a few boulders.

Due to the close nature of the routes in The Cove, things can get very crowded here. Overlapping belay stances can be a hassle, but climbers with half a wit and a dose of courtesy shouldn't have any trouble. During the busy summer weekends the whole area can become overrun with gearless trundle-happy yokels who WILL step on your rope, gear, dog, etc. Be advised. Watch for flying cigarette butts from the observation deck above.

There are a few other areas along the palisade - please contribute if you are familiar. I'll do my best to update this soon.
South Sentinel and Forgotten Wall both Closed. Details

Getting There

Use a map to find Savannah, Il and then head north a few miles to Mississippi Palisades State Park. Camping is available at the north end of the park, but if you want to get away from the Good 'ol RV Folk (who mostly stay huddled within their giant rolling metal crap houses), you'll have to pack it in a mile or two to the primitive sites on the eastern hills. This is not recommended for climbers, however, as you'll be an awfully long walk from the crag. Instead, look for tent sites at the south end of the campground (sites #45-60). You'll be reasonably far from the RV's, and you can still car camp and then drive to the crag, which is located at the south end of the park. Ask park staff for more details and a map.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Mississippi Palisades

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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Just to be sure, is Bee Wall open now? I have heard it was. Any other access changes or openings? Aug 31, 2017
Thanks Caleb, I will take a look at that! I am definitely not expecting the climbing I am used to here (Within 30 minutes, I can access probably 10,000 lines), but I am hoping to keep my skills a little polished out in Chicago. Thanks for the tips and suggestion in Wisconsin. Jul 12, 2017
Brandon - This definitely won't be up to colorado standards of climbing, but plenty of fun / challenging stuff out at the palisades. There are bolted anchors set up along the sentinel cove area which are accessible by trail, I think there are 4 - 5 different anchor locations which each covers a handful of routes. The Sentinel tower has bolted anchor / rap ring on top and has an easy 5.4 climb to the top which can certainly be solo'd.

Twin Sisters area only has one bolted anchor set-up which is on top of the free-standing tower, which you could potentially solo up depending on your comfort level. The northern face (with difficult crack, crack-a-toe-a) you can walk up top to, but there aren't any bolts for anchors, plenty of places to sling webbing though. The western rock / "tower" over in that area also has an easy, ~15' 5.easy solo climb to get on top, but no bolts for anchors, definitely need trad gear to set anchors up there.

Indian Head also has an easy solo to the top, which can be accessed by taking the trail to the top of the hill then an easy scramble down an overgrown switchback trail to get into a little cove area where you can climb ~15' up to the top. No anchors here either though - people typically create a super long anchor from the trees across the cove. There's a big flat rock on top that I've put gear in for an anchor, but YMMV.

Don't forget to look into Devils Lake in Wisconsin if you haven't either, a similar distance from Chicago and tons of more climbing. Jul 12, 2017
Almost every route can be top roped. The exceptions are the Twin Sisters and the Sentinel which is frequently soloed. Jul 6, 2017
I am moving to Chicago from Colorado and wondering if I should bring my climbing gear with me. Can you easily set TR on these routes? I don't climb trad and there doesn't appear to be any bolts. Thanks! Jul 6, 2017
I found this on the IDNR website. I remember when i climbed here back in the 90's certain areas were off limits. See below, hope this helps.

Rock climbing is allowed in the park but only in specific areas. Rock climbing is allowed at the Sentinel Area, Twin Sisters and Indian Head. The south tower of Sentinel Rock is closed to climbing. Climbers should bring their own equipment and go directly to the bluff, no check-in is necessary. Permanent anchors are not allowed. Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not maintain the rocks, cliffs, or other natural features of Mississippi Palisades State Park and are not responsible for climber safety and climbing protection on cliffs. Climb at your own risk! May 15, 2017
What are the ethics of bolting or rebolting in the area? Last time I was there I saw some dangerous stuff that needs replaced and would be willing to do it. Nov 7, 2016
James Schroeder
Sauk County, WI
James Schroeder   Sauk County, WI  
Aside from Purgatorio are there any other established boulder problems here? If so, could someone who knows them post them? Thanks, James. Nov 2, 2015
Ted Pinson
Chicago, IL
Ted Pinson   Chicago, IL
Nice could use some more precise directions to crags, overlooks. Based on the trail map, we drove all the way to the top parking lot when heading for the sentinel, when it was a much shorter walk from the lower lots. May 24, 2015
Dan Roberts
Eastern Iowa
Dan Roberts   Eastern Iowa
A top rope version of Red Wing, Mn. Fun place to climb with great views and exposure. Good footwork refresher after climbing at Pictured Rocks. What is the story with those beautiful cliffs south of the Indian Head? Did I spy bolts? Jul 27, 2010
A.J. W
Stillwater, OK
A.J. W   Stillwater, OK
wondering about the routes referred to first and second crack? depending on what website and person these can be two different route each. I understand first crack to be between pretzel and double overhang and second crack to be between nosey and black face. I added third crack as a route located between blank face and up and off. wondering if anyone has clarification or whether this naming can be agreed on? thanks and the cove is a great little crag for the midwest Mar 27, 2010
Joe Ballent
Salt Lake City, UT
Joe Ballent   Salt Lake City, UT
agreed! was there this october and witnessed a wedding on top of the Sentinal- the groom led the route in his tux! pretty impressive. Nov 16, 2009
The area between the Sentinel and the main wall is referred to many times on this site as "The Cove". Climbers in the 80's called it "The Quadrangle". In the 60's it was known as "The Cleft". It is a wonderfully pleasant place to spend an afternoon climbing and socializing. Sep 26, 2009

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