Mountain Project Logo

Midwest climbing in the summer

Original Post
mike varlotta · · Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 10

My son and I have 2 weeks in June and the month of July to climb around the midwest. We will be climbing from OH & MI down to OK and possibly TX and AR. I know that summer climbing in most of these parts is not ideal, but being a teacher, that's when i have the time to play -we will have to make due... I have started to piece together an itinerary, but would welcome any beta as to destinations that might be most enjoyable in the dog days of summer. For a trip like this, that beta will be key. I expect that some places will simply not be worth visiting that time of year, whereas others might have a decent enough combination of shade and or elevation to be worthwhile. I would love it if some locals could weigh in and help us put together a list of places to consider (and others to absolutely avoid.) Thanks much!!

Juggler · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 1,090

What about Devil's Lake near Baraboo, WI??

Nathan Self · · Louisiana · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 90

Sport, trad, doesn't matter?

Jackson Falls, Il
lots of sport routes, shade, and a waterfall

Arkansas will be hot and buggy. You know this. Horseshoe for sport--not sure on summer shade.
Jamestown can be shady.
Sam's Throne for chasing trad shade.

Avoid texas. Scorching.

Patrick H. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 15

I'm from Missouri. I would say most crags in MO are not worth visiting, especially in the summer when it's super muggy. However, in Arkansas there are tons of good sport routes in the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, especially the North Forty section. Good variety of grades and good in the summer.

Chris treggE · · Madison, Beersconsin · Joined May 2007 · Points: 9,300

Spend 1 week at Devil's Lake, 4 weeks in the Black Hills, and 1 week at Devil's Tower.

Max Cody · · The road · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 96

If you're going to climb in So Ill, go to Kinkaid instead. Deep water soloing is much more enjoyable that time of year.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

One word, two syllables: headlamp.

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,650

Seek the shade, and plan for siestas.

Mike Kubes · · Duluth · Joined May 2014 · Points: 108

Shovel Point & Palisade Head near Silver Bay, MN offer great climbing over Lake Superior. Its the opposite direction you mentioned but worth it if you've never been. Check out the Duluth MN area on up to Grand Marais MN. Lake Superior keeps things nice and cool throughout the summer. Inland cliffs are pretty buggy but are an option if you're looking for some trad climbing and seclusion. Both Shovel and Palisade are located within Tettegouche State Park, which also offers offers great hiking, waterfalls, camping and trout fishing. Several other State parks are in the area and if you really wanna dirtbag it you can always camp for free in the Superior National Forest.

Shovel Point and Palisade Head are approached from the top of the cliff allowing most routes to be TR easily. This approach however makes for a committing lead. There is a strong NO BOLTING ethic and even NO CHALK ethic in the area so bring gear. That being said the park service has installed 3 sets of huge, custom made hangers at the top of the cliff at Shovel Point in order to save the trees. I know it sounds ridiculous but bring 30-50' of webbing.

During the week you most likely wont see any other climbers. Weekends can be "busy" by Minnesota standards.

PM me for more info if you'd like. There are a few areas that are not published in any guidebook or on MP.

The Black Hills also offer some great climbing. I think there is an ethic not to climb Devils tower in June.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053

Oklahoma has some great shaded climbs in the Wichita mountains. The Narrows has good afternoon shade and south breezes. The walls on mount Scott are late day shade (upper) and some shade a little earlier on the lower wall.

June July can be brutal in OK but it's doable and worth it for the quality granite.

Don't camp in the refuge in July lake lawtonka is cooler with a breeze off the lake and swimming if it's really hot.


Jason Ackerson · · Lafayette, IN · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 10

Devil's Lake is your ideal summer climbing destination if you are restricting yourself to the midwest.
But if you have a whole month off, why not head west? The drive from Chicago to Denver is only 2 hrs longer that the drive from Chicago to the Wichita Mountains in OK.

J.Kruse · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 105

climbing at jackson falls in the summer won't be much fun. i remember one trip in august, while trying to hide out from the head midday, sitting motionless in the shade and watching droplets of sweat drip off the end of my nose. i second the motion earlier in the thread, head to the (black) hills!

Dustin Stotser · · Springfield, MO · Joined May 2014 · Points: 363

Arkansas is definitely going to be hot, muggy, and buggy. Poison ivy can get quite bad as well. As others have stated, night climbing will be a cooler bet.

One person above mentioned the North Forty area at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. This area is one of the closest to parking and has a plethora of moderate routes including many of the HCR classics. One big problem with the North Forty is it is south facing and is an oven in the summer sun. The Westside areas, in HCR, are a better summer option, IMO. They face east and thereby stay a bit cooler especially later in the day. Another point of mention about HCR is that it is a legit ranch and you will have to deal with goats/horses and notably their...mess. All negatives aside, it is a great crag with PLENTY of camping space. The Buffalo River is very close to HCR giving the option for a cool dip.

There are numerous other smaller crags in northern Arkansas that are worth a visit, but will have a similar environment, minus the livestock, but with much less parking/camping options. Sam's Throne definitely deserves a mention as a wonderful trad area with shade chasing options.

Also, as mentioned above, if I was traveling that far to climb, I'd go to Colorado.

Whatever you choose have a great time with your son this summer!

Vincent M McLain · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 35

I'm working on a guidebook for MI and can definitely point you in the right direction for that state. PM me with some more info on what you are interested in climbing wise and I'll help you out.

Chris treggE · · Madison, Beersconsin · Joined May 2007 · Points: 9,300
Mike Kubes wrote:I think there is an ethic not to climb Devils tower in June.
Yes, hit (the shade at) Devil's Tower in July. And how did I forget the Palisade Head and Shovel Point. Go there too.
jdereks · · Minnesota · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 70

Chris gave the right answer. The black hills are a very special place. Maybe swing through Vedauwoo on your way south.

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

Yup,,,keep north to avoid serious heat and most of humidity. Devils Lake in June, out to Veedauwoo and Black Hills in July would be fun for you too.

mike varlotta · · Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 10

Wow everyone!! What great responses -- a goldmine of information! many many thanks to all of you. I will be reaching out to several of you individually with specific questions, but let me share a few more details that will give my request a bit more context. So the reason why I'm focusing on the specific states i mentioned rather than the obvious stellar destinations in the area is that my kids and I are in the midst of a family project to climb in all 50 states. I have already climbed quite a bit in Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, Colorado and every state out west. (I have also been to Devil's Lake, and a small crag in MN). The midwest states i mentioned in the original post are the ones i have not yet climbed in. This summer, my son and i want to hit as many as those as possible. It has been fun to be discovering some very cool areas that will never get written up in the rags --all part of the adventure. So not only will we most def hit up the obvious destinations in MI, OK, AR, & IL, but we will also be tying in somewhere in all those other states I mentioned --hopefully, with more help like the first round of responses that were posted, we will find the absolute best that each of those states has to offer in the middle of the summer.

Mike Kubes · · Duluth · Joined May 2014 · Points: 108

If you decide to head up to North it looks like Thunder Bay, Ontario has some great climbing. A gentleman named Aric Fishman, local guide, published a guidebook for the area this past fall. I personally haven't been up there but it is on my to-do-list. Moderate multi-pitch trad routes up to seven pitches!

Jason Ackerson · · Lafayette, IN · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 10

Wow what a cool idea. As someone who has climbed at many of our nations "lesser crags", I think this is a great idea.

If you have to do do Texas in the summer your best bet is Reimers Ranch outside Austin. When I lived in Texas we climbed all summer long just have to brave the humidity. Start early, climb until 11 or 12, then jump in the Pedernales River to cool off. If the lake is up, you can deep water solo at Lake Travis (about 15 min from Reimers)

For OK, go the Wichita's and chase shade in the Narrows or hit up Lower Mt. Scott in the evening. Camp at Lake Lawtonka.

For AR, any of the crags near the Buffalo River (Sam's Throne, Horseshoe Canyon) would be doable with the TX strategy, climb early, swim in the afternoon.

Honestly for me the biggest challenge for climbing in these states would not be climbing in the heat but sleeping. Tent camping when the nighttime low is in the 80's is rough, particularly when the humidity is high (Arkansas). If you have access to a trailer or RV with A/C, you'll have a much better time.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Midwest climbing in the summer"
in the Midwest

Log In to Reply