Nothing inspires your next vacation quite like taking up a new hobby. Cooking? Off to France you go! Star gazing? Maybe a trip to see the northern lights. Horseback riding? Get thee to Argentina!
A few months ago, I took up indoor rock climbing and I can barely think about anything else. And yes, by even the kindest standards I’m nothing more than a complete beginner, but already I’m dreaming of the day when I can take a dedicated rock-climbing vacation.
Here are some of the best rock-climbing spots in the U.S.:
Yosemite National Park, California
Arguably the most famous rock-climbing spot in all of the U.S., this is where the sport first took off in America and it’s still an important pilgrimage for climbers today. The most famous route is the unforgiving El Capitan, a 3,000-foot, granite monolith.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Far friendlier to beginners, Joshua Tree offers a wide variety of “trad” routes and nice weather in the spring and fall. But climbers beware. In the summer the sun scorches and scaling a sheer rock face can become very unpleasant.
New River Gorge National River, West Virginia
New River Gorge offers more than 1,400 established routes and all three of the most popular types of climbing — traditional and sport climbing, and bouldering — making it a crowd pleaser. But don’t be fooled by the embarrassment of riches. This spot is best suited to experienced climbers.
Mount Katahdin, Maine
Mount Katahdin is nestled in Baxter State Park and boasts the title of the highest peak in Maine. (It’s just over 5,000 feet.) In addition to offering excellent climbing and stellar views, the mountain is also the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Home to world-famous Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park is as stunning as it is challenging. Longs Peak itself stands out from the other mountains, soaring to the screeching height of 14,259 feet. There’s only one route to the summit that doesn’t require roping in for a little rock climbing — and even that is only open briefly during the summer. If you’re going to brave Longs, you’re in it for the long haul.
Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Instantly recognizable, this rock formation is shot through with cracks — perfect for climbers who love to crack climb. In fact, the longest crack-climbs can stretch up to 400 feet! But make note that the park asks climbers to voluntarily abstain from scaling Devils Tower during the month of June. It’s sacred to Native Americans and this voluntary closure is a gesture of respect.