Reach New Heights at These Top Climbing Destinations
The secret’s out – once overlooked in favor of the rocky West, Chattanooga is now a thriving climbing capital, attracting adventurers on a national and international scale. Quality sandstone crags surround the city, and along with the area’s two climbing gyms, offer ample opportunity to enjoy a physical and mental challenge. Here, we’re sharing the seven climbing spots you don’t want to miss.
1. Foster Falls
This year-round destination, a part of South Cumberland State Park, is a premier climbing site only 40 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. The challenging, two-mile-long cliff line consists of vertical to overhanging sandstone, which overlooks the Little Gizzard Creek below. The crag is reached via the Fiery Gizzard Trail, allowing climbers to hike past the 60-foot waterfall that gives the area its name (and also offers a place to cool off post-climb). Of the nearly 200 routes, most are 5.9 and above – favorites such as Ankles Away (5.9+), Twist and Shout (5.9), and Something’s Always Wrong (5.10d) will undoubtedly leave an impression, but easier routes such as Gravity Boots (5.7) and Jacob’s Ladder (5.8) are perfect for getting your feet wet. The most experienced of climbers will get a thrill from the Right and Left Bunkers, providing a particularly unique challenge with their ferociously overhung routes.
2. High Point Climbing & Fitness
With two locations in Chattanooga and a third in nearby Cleveland, High Point Climbing & Fitness has established itself as a Scenic City institution. The original downtown location has over 30,000 feet of climbing space, from auto-belay walls and a toproping room to two bouldering areas and a lead climbing pit. A dedicated Kid Zone is fun for the whole family with several themed walls and a tower jump. One of High Point’s most unique features is the outdoor transparent climbing wall overlooking the city, which is even backlit once the sun goes down for night climbing. If you’re new to the climbing scene, consider honing your skills at one of High Point’s class offerings, including basic belay classes, the Lead Belay Class, and Intro to Bouldering. A summer camp for kids ages 5 to 14 allows a love of climbing to be instilled early in your little ones.
You’ll have to make the short trek to North Georgia to reach Rocktown, widely recognized throughout the Southeast for its bouldering scene. Among its spectacularly sculpted sandstone boulders, here you’ll encounter bomber slopers, crimpers, rails, huecos, and intense top outs. Although a relatively newer climbing location, there are already more than 500 problems to tackle, from Soap on a Rope (V4) to Golden Harvest (V10). You should expect to do some hiking when you arrive; the trail, while easy, is on the long side (about 10 minutes on foot). Climbing at Rocktown is most popular during fall and winter when friction is optimal, although it’s not typical for there to be large crowds any time of year – meaning you can take your time, space out, and savor the climb.
4. Stone Fort
Another one of the best bouldering spots around, Stone Fort – or “Little Rock City” – boasts solid gray and orange Cumberland sandstone practically begging to be scaled. You’ll find this gem on the property of Soddy-Daisy’s Montlake Golf Club, and for a small fee, you can gain access to this highly concentrated boulder field for the day. Stone Fort isn’t exactly a hidden gem, however – as one of three legs of the annual Triple Crown Bouldering Series, this locale has gained world-class status among the climbing community near and far. Super Mario (V4), The Sternum (V5), and Tennessee Thong (V7) are classic routes worth trying, but don’t sleep on others like Fire Crack Flake (V1) or Storming the Castle (V2). No matter which of the nearly 700 problems you tackle, you’re sure to delight in discovering narrow corridors and tunnels among the house-sized blocks.
5. Sunset Rock
Treating climbers to sweeping views overlooking Chattanooga, Sunset Rock proves that great rewards await those who take a risk. Located on the western face of Lookout Mountain, Sunset is a long and linear cliff line offering single-pitched traditional climbing, with routes ideal for beginners and the most hardcore climbers alike. It sees a good amount of shade throughout the day, making this locale a great summer option, although quite doable in the winter as well. A short five-minute walk from the parking area at Sunset Park will take you to the base of Sunset Rock proper, where you will likely encounter other climbers vying to summit this block of sandstone – with its friendly approach and exquisite rock, Sunset really is a “crown jewel” of the South. Just be sure to be off the crag by sundown, in accordance with national park regulations.
6. Synergy Climbing and Ninja
For another indoor option, check out Synergy Climbing and Ninja. A brainchild of climbing legends Lisa Rands and Isaac Caldiero and in collaboration with the Tennessee Bouldering Authority (TBA), this Southside gym is contributing to the climbing community in a big way. At Synergy, you’ll find a 10,000-square-foot bouldering area that features hundreds of boulder problems catering to all skill levels. The gym also has climber training equipment and a ninja obstacle zone (complete with auto belays on the Ninja Zone climbing wall) in addition to fitness areas, a yoga room, and a café. If you’re hoping to tackle one of Chattanooga’s most popular outdoor climbing destinations but are hesitant to go at it alone, you’re in luck! Synergy also offers guided trips, available almost every day, to spots including Foster Falls and Stone Fort.
7. Tennessee Wall
Along the Tennessee River Gorge in Prentice Cooper National Forest, the Tennessee Wall, also affectionately known as the T-Wall, is two miles long and a must-do for traditional climbers. A predominantly single-pitch crag, the T-Wall first underwent route development in 1984, and new routes are continuing to be developed today, primarily in the west section. Currently, more than 600 documented routes will allow you to experience arêtes, cracks, dihedrals, overhanging walls, and plenty of additional diverse features; a few to try include Nutrasweet (5.7), Golden Locks (5.8+), Moon of the Crow (5.11a), and Hands Across America (5.12c). Note that the south-facing T-Wall is most pleasant to summit in the cooler months (think September through June), as summer turns this fiery orange sandstone cliff line into a sauna.