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Sport + bouldering near DC

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VictorN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

I'm going to be in DC for month starting early Sept and am trying to see if there are good sport or bouldering crags within a driveable distance from DC. It'd mostly be on weekends, possibly at the end of the day if it's close enough. From what I've found, most crags around the DC area (~2-4ish hours away) are trad...which I basically have zero experience in and am not really interested in unless a really seasoned vet is willing to take on basically a complete newbie hah. It seems my best bet for sport would be New River Gorge?

Thanks in advanced!

TaylorP · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

Elizabeth Furnace is about 1.5 hours from DC, right off of 66. It has a few trad lines, but it mostly sport. Its a small cliff but definitely the closest sport climbing to DC

Luke B · · Hyattsville, MD · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 15

Safe Harbor in Pennsylvania is about 2-2.5 hours from DC. It's an ok place to go in late fall and winter. Summer is way too hot there.

There's also Reed's Creek and Smoke Hole Canyon in West Virginia are about 3 hours from DC. I've never been to Smoke Hole and have been to Reed's Creek once. Reed's Creek was a lot of fun. Make sure to buy the Rakkup guide if you go to either Reed's Creek or Smoke Hole. The Rakkup guide has more routes than Mountain Project, and I believe the proceeds go towards development of the crags.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,794
VictorN wrote: I'm going to be in DC for month starting early Sept and am trying to see if there are good sport or bouldering crags within a driveable distance from DC. It'd mostly be on weekends, possibly at the end of the day if it's close enough. From what I've found, most crags around the DC area (~2-4ish hours away) are trad...which I basically have zero experience in and am not really interested in unless a really seasoned vet is willing to take on basically a complete newbie hah. It seems my best bet for sport would be New River Gorge?

Thanks in advanced!

Having never been to the PA crags mentioned I can't speak personally of their quality, but I do know the guy that put out the most recent guidebook, and I doubt he would waste his time on a chosspile, but that's possible.

You can't go wrong at the NRG though.  Keep in mind if you're climbing 5.10 and below, the early bird gets the worm, and by the worm, I mean not waiting to get on a route and having ten people behind you watching you and waiting for you to get off it.
Andrew S · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 46

Harper's Ferry has some pretty good bouldering

Pat K · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 40

Elizabeth Furnace, talking headwall and buzzard rocks

I F · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 1,962

Safe Harbor North has a couple chossier subareas, but they are mostly the very new routes. The "choss" is typically small flakes that look like good crimps til you pull on them so you wont be dropping big chunks on anyone. Haven't been to SH south yet but from what I understand it is far more travelled and thus tends to be cleaner. 

Sebastian Bailey · · 29 Palms, CA · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

As someone who was trapped just south of D.C. for two solid years, I've explored pretty much everything around there. Here is a list of my old haunts, feel free to PM me if you want more details on any of them:

D.C. Area
Northwest Branch Bouldering. Has all the spray paint and broken glass you'd expect from a city crag, but I still had loads of fun there. A decent amount of problems.
Springfield Bouldering. Super small area, same city crag issues, but some super fun lines (and at least one very hard one)
Great Falls/Carderock. TR only as there are no bolts and placing gear is...suspect. Lots of lines, although I wasn't a huge fan of the style. That being said they are beautiful and climbing is always fun. There is definitely bouldering to be had, but it's more exploratory than other areas I've mentioned.

Within 2 hours:
Rocks state park, MD. Some good bouldering, a few (mostly easier) trad lines. Enjoyable place
Elizabeth Furnace, VA. Not much over 5.10, but there are some awesome 5.10 sport lines.
Harrisburg area, VA- some fun small crags, mostly trad. Check out MP for more details. There is one good bouldering area here- can't remember the name.
Safe Harbor, PA- trad and sport single pitch area in PA. Decent.
Birdsboro Quarry, PA- sport area in PA. super fun lines, some city crag issues, some manufactured holds.
Harper's Ferry, MD?- fun bouldering and trad. Although I think there have been access issues here of late. Regardless- a really beautiful place to spend the fall.
Richmond area, VA- some decent bouldering

Within 3 hours:
Seneca Rocks, WV- multipitch trad. Lots of history. Isn't full of choss/danger despite what some people think
Franklin Gorge/smokehole/reeds creek, WV- All beautiful, fun sport areas not far from Seneca. Definitely buy the rakkup guides. I spent most of my time at Franklin (never actually made it to Smoke Hole), but I think there are access issues with Franklin now unfortunately.
(another note- the county that houses these areas is a cell service black hole. There is only one small carrier that services it. Don't let that deter you, but don't expect service in there)

Within 5.5 hours:
The New River Gorge, WV- Cannot stress how great this place is. Absolutely worth the drive. The best single pitch climbing and bouldering I have ever done. Ever.

Edit: I believe the Gunks are also technically about 5 hours away and have some good bouldering. But beware that 95 traffic...the one time I went up there the "5 hour drive" took 9 hours.

Luke B · · Hyattsville, MD · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 15
Ian F wrote: Safe Harbor North has a couple chossier subareas, but they are mostly the very new routes. The "choss" is typically small flakes that look like good crimps til you pull on them so you wont be dropping big chunks on anyone. Haven't been to SH south yet but from what I understand it is far more travelled and thus tends to be cleaner. 

I've only been to SH south and have found the rock to be of ok quality. No significant issues with choss, especially if you go to areas with lots of 5.9 climbs and below like Electric Co. Sector.


The main issue with Safe Harbor for me is the cliffs seep lots of water. Many climbs are wet for a few days after a rain storm.
Craig Chammings · · Cherry Hill, NJ · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 0

Haycock mountain in PA has great bouldering, but the trails get super overgrown this time of year and the trails turn into rock scrambling pretty quickly. I'd definitely recommend the gunks app guidebook for that area, as there's way more than what's on MP and the GPS navigation feature makes getting around manageable.

Sourlands is a small bouldering area just outside of Princeton, has much better trails and landings than haycock and is a pretty good place to go if you're projecting something on your own. It does get a lot more crowded and be prepared to have a lot of hikers and families look at you funny. 

Birdsboro has some good, varied sport climbing, but friction isn't great and the rock quality doesn't inspire confidence.

Safe harbor south is mostly technical slab. I haven't been to the north end in years but it seems like there's more variation and I've heard they've been developing a lot. 

VictorN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

Wow, what a great response from all of you guys, thanks so much! I'll have to spend some time digging around what I wanna hit up. I have a co-worker with me who might be up for some sport but she doesn't boulder. But I'd rather boulder than sport, hah. If any of you guys are around in Sept and wouldn't mind letting another tag along with your group on the weekends... I'm in the 5.10-11s range and V5-ish.

I also just realized I technically posted this in the wrong subforum...as Maryland is listed under southern rather than NE haha.

John R · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0

I would add Old Rag mountain in VA to the list. The approach is a workout and there aren't many sport lines but it should be easy enough to setup TR and I never found much granite anywhere else near D.C. Given the long approach, I would normally camp overnight .  

If you are in northwest there is a small bouldering spot down the trail that runs in front of the Italian Embassy - it is tiny but clean and worth checking out if your are nearby (Cleveland Park/Dupont/Georgetown/Glover Park). A good after work stop.

DC traffic is brutal, as I am sure you've noticed, depending on where you are MD or VA can be easier to get to - (Edited to add) if you are in NoVa, you might get better VA suggestions from the southern states forum.

Jake G. · · Maryland · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 0

Don't listen to those guys talking about Northwest branch. It's really not all that bad. I see family's hiking there all the time. It's really close to the city and the boulders are close to a major road that you may be driving on anyway. It would be a very practical place to project. Some guys complain about landings but I really don't think they are that bad,, way safer then the problems at rocks. Depending on your skill level I'd recommend trying crimptastic v3sus/v6sds, the business v6 (if the logs have washed away you'll have to build a new landing though), warm up on crack line v2 then head over to snowflake and do all the variations, if your really good the chaos roof has a couple double digit problems that look like they'd be cool for those way better then me. As for weekends, yeah theres some bullet hard sandstone in wv you've got to get on at least once. 

MattH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 420

Surprised nobody's mentioned cooper's rock for bouldering which is 3 hrs away and really shines in your grade range. There are lots of fun but stout v3-v5 problems from roofs to slab-y pocket pulling. Southern PA also has a lot of quality areas (Governor Stable and Mt. Gretna are the closest standouts and are about 2-2.5 hrs away).

Seth Derr · · harrisburg, pa · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 2,205

Governor Stable is closed starting Sept 1 until sometime in Mid December. Gretna is a jungle until October at least, same with Haycock, and diabase in the summer is silly.  Old Rag would still be a bit of a slog too but it may not be too bad getting to the stuff at Sunset or toproping at the PATC.   Safe Harbor can be awesome from dawn til around 11:00 at South and as late as 2:00 at North.  If it's cloudy or we get a cooler (sub 75 degrees) weekend then it's good all day. As someone mentioned above, South does tend to seep for a while after rain but at North if it ain't actively raining the rock is dry. All that being said, if you're trying to decide between the New River Gorge and literally anywhere else, the answer is the New River Gorge.

Eric D · · Gnarnia · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 235
Harrisburg area, VA- some fun small crags, mostly trad. Check out MP for more details. There is one good bouldering area here- can't remember the name.
It's "Harrisonburg" and the good bouldering area is 2nd Mountain.  Not a huge area but definitely quality.
VictorN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0

Thanks all! Driving out to DC next weekend and hoping to get outside the first weekend after! If anyone's up for a trip, let me know!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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