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Best Rock Climbing Crags for Beginners in the United States 

Best Rock Climbing Crags for Beginners in the United States 

Looking for some exhilarating adventures in your Four Wheel Camper? Welcome to rock climbing! Contrary to popular belief (looking at you, Free Solo!), rock climbing is actually a very safe outdoor activity when practiced correctly. If you’ve been taking courses or learning to rock climb and are ready to take on the next step of outdoor rock climbing, we’ve got the perfect guide for you! Here are the best rock climbing crags for beginners in the United States: 

Best Rock Climbing Crags for Beginners in the United States 

Best Rock Climbing Crags for Beginners in the United States 

Toprope vs. Sport vs. Trad Rock Climbing 

You likely already know the difference between top rope, sport, and trad climbing, but here’s a quick refresher, as we use these terms throughout this article and they are essential to know before heading out for a climbing adventure! 

Toprope Climbing:

  • In toprope climbing, the rope can be set up through the anchor at the top of the route, without needing to lead. 
  • This setup offers a high level of safety, as the climber is protected from falling far by the rope’s tension.
  • Toprope routes are often used for introductory climbing lessons and for practicing technique.
  • Since the anchor is already established at the top, setting up a toprope climb typically involves less effort than sport or trad climbing.

Sport Climbing:

  • Sport climbing routes are pre-equipped with fixed bolts and anchors for protection.
  • Climbers clip quickdraws (sets of linked carabiners) into the bolts as they ascend, providing protection in case of a fall.
  • Sport climbing focuses on the physical and technical aspects of climbing, with an emphasis on strength, endurance, and movement efficiency.
  • Routes are often characterized by steep, challenging moves, and can range from short, bouldery climbs to long endurance routes.

Trad Climbing:

  • Trad climbing involves placing and removing removable protection, such as cams, nuts, and hexes, into natural features like cracks and pockets.
  • Unlike sport climbing, where the protection is fixed, trad climbers carry a rack of gear and place it as they ascend.
  • Trad climbing requires a strong understanding of rock quality, gear placement, and anchor building, as well as the ability to assess and manage risks.
  • Trad routes often follow natural lines up a rock face, and the climbing style can vary widely depending on the type of rock and terrain.
Rock Climbing

1. Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah 

Cottonwood Canyon outside Salt Lake City, Utah, is a climbing mecca for beginners and professional climbers. Reservoir Ridge, Dogwood Crag & Salt Lake Slips have many sport routes that range from 5.4 to 5.8, making them perfect for beginners looking to get comfortable on the wall! 

Because of the close proximity to SLC, the beginner cards in Big Cottonwood Canyon get busy quickly during peak climbing months. We recommend and early wakeup call to grab your slot on a route before the rush arrives! 

Best Rock Climbing Crags for Beginners in the United States 

2. Cody, Wyoming

This little-known rock climbing paradise has dozens of bolted routes that are perfect for beginners to get comfortable on rock. There are two main climbing areas located just a short walk from each other, one called ‘The Island’ and the other called ‘The Canyon.’ 

The Island is well established on websites like Mountain Project, while the canyon is not well recorded but boasts 40+ bolted routes that virtually no one visits. Finding ratings on canyon projects is a bit tougher as they are not well documented, but they range in difficulty. 

The area also features one of the best and easiest bolted multi-pitch routes in the United States called “I’ll tell you what’s cool.” It’s a bolted 6-pitch 5.8 directly in the heart of the canyon. You’ll have to cross the river to get access to the wall, so we don’t recommend attempting it in the spring & early summer when water is high! 

3. Red River Gorge, Kentucky 

The Red River Gorge is the holy grail of climbing in the eastern United States. It’s not uncommon for climbers to travel from Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee, and other nearby states for a crag weekend. 

In RRG, there is a crag aptly named the “Practice Wall,” and it doesn’t get much easier or better for beginner climbers to get comfortable on a rock than this. The wall has multiple sport routes under 5.5 and even a 5.1 route. Doesn’t get much easier than that! Once you’ve warmed up, the wall has additional routes between 5.6 and 5.8. You could spend all day here practicing leading, cleaning, and climbing outdoor rock! 

When you visit “The Red” as the climbing community calls it, you’ll want to stay at Miguel’s Pizza, which offers cheap camping in the field behind the pizzeria, which offers delicious pizza, pasta, and salad options for climbers looking for carb-filled meals. 

Best Rock Climbing Crags for Beginners in the United States 
Photo by Red River Gorge United

4. Moab, Utah

Moab has one of the easiest, most accessible, and popular sport rock climbing routes in the country. The roadside crag called Wall Street is just a short drive from town along the Colorado River. You can park directly at the base of the wall, which has dozens of routes from 5.3 to 5.12D. It makes it the perfect crag to set up your Four Wheel Camper for the day and enjoy climbing at one of the best beginner routes in the West. There is also a mix of routes, including both sport and top rope, which is perfect for beginners. 

In between tougher routes on Wall Street is a slabby section of rock that has the easiest sport routes that range from 5.3 to 5.6. If you aren’t comfortable with leading yet, set up some top rope to get practice before working on the next level of climbing. 

Like Big Cottonwood Canyon, this place is well-known & located in one of the most popular regions for climbing in the country. There are plenty of routes to spread out on, but waiting for routes, especially easy ones, is common! Arrive early to claim your spot. 

Best Rock Climbing Crags for Beginners in the United States 
Photo courtesy of Hunter Imagery & Moab BASE Adventures

Looking for the perfect rock climbing rig? View our pop-up truck campers that are built to get you to the most rugged and remote rock-climbing routes in the country! 

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