6 Wildest Rock Climbing Locations in America

In 2017 Alex Honnold climbed the most brutal rock face in the world, El Capitan, without a climbing partner, ropes, or safety equipment. The mountain, in Yosemite National Park, has claimed the lives of 25 climbers, and is the site of over 100 climbing-related accidents each year. Remarkably, Honnold survived the climb, as documented in the 2018 film Free Solo, which received critical acclaim. While the film describes El Capitan as the gnarliest mountain on Earth, there are plenty of other crazy rock faces, attempted by ambitious climbers each year. Every route receives a grade, to let climbers know the difficulty. Honnold completed a 5.12 on El Capitan. The world’s hardest route, Dawn Wall, is a 5.14. Here are 10 of the best rock climbing locations in the United States, all graded over 5.10. 


Otter Cliff

Acadia National Park, Maine

The most popular rock climbing in Acadia, visitors must repel down a cliff to reach the bottom. Besides the challenge of the route, climbers also have to pay attention to the tide. When it comes in it submerges the base of some routes. 

East Side

Pinnacles National Park, California 

The tallest wall on this Entrada rock tower is about 350 feet with four published routes rated 5.9 and 5.11. It’s part of the Courthouse Towers in the national park, which includes 5 other towers with challenging climbing routes. 

The Three Gossips

Arches National Park, Utah

The tallest wall on this Entrada rock tower is about 350 feet with four published routes rated 5.9 and 5.11. It’s part of the Courthouse Towers in the national park, which includes 5 other towers with challenging climbing routes. 

Painted Wall

Black Canyon, Gunnison National Park, Colorado 

The highest cliff in Colorado, and the third tallest in the country after El Capitan and Notched Peak. The routes are all 5.9+ and take several hours of hiking to access. Each year the wall closes to climbers to protect the peregrine falcons nesting there. 

Miners Falls 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan 

There’s 3 miles of snowshoe trekking just to get to the base of this 40 foot ice column. Pictured Rocks is on the northern coast of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, not too far from the shores of Lake Superior. 

Steven King’s Library 

Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee 

Many of the routes feature “steep” faces that create overhangs, with some extending out for up to 40 horizontal feet. There are over 350 routes, some rated as high as 5.14, and impossible for all but the most experienced climbers.  

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