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Illinois Rock Climbing 

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Submitted By: Jon Richard on Jan 23, 2007
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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The lesser known beauty of Southern Illinois from ...


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 need to be highlighted:

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.

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: or contact the Illinois Climbers Association to find out other ways to help.

Giant City State Park is a great top-roping 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.

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.

Also important to note, and if you find yourself passing through the Northern section of this state while desiring to climb, do not fret, there are opportunities here as well. Mississippi Palisades, offers Limestone top-rope climbing year-round. And last but not least, Starved Rock offers some of the best ice climbing during the cold winter months in the state.

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


Rock Climbing Photo: Illinois Climbers Association

Founded in 2002. The Illinois Climbers Association is a non profit organization dedicated to promoting climbing knowledge, conserving climbing environments, and serving the Illinois climbing community.

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.

Rock Climbing Photo: Vertical Heartland 3rd Edition
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.

Rock Climbing Photo: 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.

Climbing Season

For the All Locations area.

Weather station 1.0 miles from here

897 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',97],['3 Stars',425],['2 Stars',294],['1 Star',69],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Illinois

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Illinois:
Yosemite Slab   V0 4     Boulder, 40'   Jackson Falls : Bouldering in the Canyon Pr...
The Mollusk   V2-3 5+     Boulder, 10'   The Holy Boulders : Mollusk Boulder
Big Wall Greg's Chicken Shack   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Sport, TR, 1 pitch   Jackson Falls : Mr. Jimmy
Luscious Babes   5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c     Sport   Jackson Falls : Mr. Jimmy
Deetle Dumps   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport   Jackson Falls : Royal Arch Wall
Stubborn Swede   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 60'   Jackson Falls : Hidden Peaks
Chimichonga   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport   Jackson Falls : Mr. Jimmy
Fine Nine   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 55'   Jackson Falls : Lovely Tower
Groovy Marcia!   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 45'   Jackson Falls : The Ranch
Venom   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch   Jackson Falls : Mr. Jimmy
Earthbound Misfit   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 55'   Jackson Falls : The Gallery
Cheerio Bowl   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Jackson Falls : Hidden Peaks
Master Marley   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 40'   Jackson Falls : Spleef Peak
Spiders From Mars   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport   Jackson Falls : Mr. Jimmy
Who Let the Snakes Out   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport   Jackson Falls : Snakes Roof
Group Therapy   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Jackson Falls : The Gallery
Wild at Heart   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch   Jackson Falls : Railroad Area
Lovely Arete   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 35'   Jackson Falls : Lovely Tower
Detox Mountain   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   Jackson Falls : Hidden Peaks
Hidden Treasures   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 40'   Jackson Falls : Lovely Tower
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Illinois

Featured Route For Illinois
Rock Climbing Photo: Dave Quinney topping out Cracked Shell on a warm d...

Cracked Shell V7+ 7A+ PG13  Illinois : The Holy Boulders : Vultures Nest Boulders
Start low on jug and throw to crimp ledge. Match and fight through slopers to finish....[more]   Browse More Classics in Illinois

Comments on Illinois Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Feb 8, 2016
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jan 25, 2007
Oh I am going to Jackson, going get ma fill.
By Ben Bruestle
From: Pueblo, CO
Oct 13, 2008
Illinois Climbers Association:
By cuclimbing
From: Las Cruces
Dec 16, 2008
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!
By Woodchuck ATC
Nov 24, 2009
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.
By sweatpants
From: Broomfield, CO
Nov 24, 2009
Why did the DNR stop allowing climbing?
By Woodchuck ATC
Nov 25, 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.
By JamesW
Jan 4, 2010
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???
By Tradiban
Mar 1, 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?
By Dan Roberts
From: Eastern Iowa
Jul 27, 2010
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.
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Sep 12, 2010
I agree with Rhoads. Illinois needs an admin. There are some really bad route descriptions that could use some cleaning up. Anyone?
By Lee Frazer
From: Durango, Colorado
Nov 22, 2010
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.
By Tradiban
Nov 23, 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.
By Clint C
Dec 13, 2010
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

Please send in a jpg low resolution format.

Appreciate it,

Climb on
By mattmaxwell
From: southern indiana
Dec 13, 2010
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.......
By TylerPhillips
Jul 28, 2015
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.
By Brad Christie
Aug 30, 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.
By Ted Pinson
From: Chicago, IL
Nov 30, 2015
Multi pitch in Illinois? Where?? On a possibly related note: any idea where the cover photo of Vertical Heartland was taken?
By AaronJ
From: Japan
Dec 4, 2015
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:
By Dave Hug
From: Carbondale, Illinois
Dec 8, 2015
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:
By Chris Arnold
From: St. Louis
Feb 8, 2016
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


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