From the rugged gorges of the southeast to the aptly named Rocky Mountains, the public lands of the United States are teeming with climbing possibilities. During this year’s National Forest Week, we’re highlighting a selection of our favorite rocks located on National Forest lands.
While distinct signage and traffic jams clearly define the boundaries of national parks like Yosemite and Zion, national forests have subtle and inconspicuous boundaries. It is likely that many climbers who frequent the rocks on this list do so without realizing that they have entered the forest.
And as luck would have it, this week (July 12-18) is National Forest Week, organized by the National Forestry Foundation (NFF). A congressional chartered organization that works to inspire meaningful connections between people and national forests, the NFF hosts virtual events, learning initiatives, giveaways and more during this festive week.
“During National Forest Week, our goal is to get the word out,” Mary Mitsos, NFF President and CEO, told us. “By engaging the community, we can invite more people to enjoy and manage these lands. “
To help celebrate this week and the fun of National Forests, we’ve put together our short list of great rock climbing areas on these public lands.
Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest
In the same way that surfers revere the perfect waves of the North Shore of Oahu, climbers the world over cherish the sandstone walls of the Red River Gorge. While some are skeptical that Kentucky could be home to world-class rock climbing, a visit to the Red will clear all doubts.
Located on the traditional lands of the Cherokee and Shawnee peoples, the Red River Gorge is a National Designated Natural Site currently managed as part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Although a dash of classic trad lines can be found throughout the throat, red is most often associated with overhang. bolted sport climbing. Remarkable rocks such as the Dark Side and the Motherlode are real manifestations of a sport climber’s biggest dreams. Endless paths covered with chalk of clipped finger buckets rise into the sky.
Thanks to 400 million years of geological history and a unique combination of cementation and chemical weathering, Red’s wedges are comfortable to grip and feature a soft, sticky texture reminiscent of 100 grit sandpaper.
For the most part, the routes are well protected and the falls are clean. The Red is the divine abode of a sporting climber – happiness shines in the faces of delighted cliff enthusiasts.
Spring and fall are the best seasons to visit the Rouge, although periods of rainy and stormy weather can occur at any time. Miguel’s Pizza is a basic food and camping center that is essentially the core of the rock climbing culture in the Red River Gorge.
All climbers should be aware that there are many land management designations in the area in addition to National Forest Lands. Some areas are private and managed.
Before hitting the rock, always review the specific rules, regulations, and ethics that may apply. Local climbing organization Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition is an excellent up-to-date resource.
American Fork Canyon, Uinta National Forest
American Fork Canyon is located less than an hour south of Salt Lake City in the Uinta National Forest. Hundreds of pocket-laden routes on slippery and technical limestone make American Fork a fantastic place to hone your climbing skills.
In the late 1980s, bolt-protected sport climbing was a whole new concept – a spark in the eyes of a few visionary and resourceful climbers scattered across the globe. During the first wave of the sport climbing revolution, American Fork quickly became one of the first fully bolted boulders in America.
During those early years of canyon climbing, the world’s most talented climbers frequently traveled to the United States to challenge themselves on the demanding routes, which were among the most difficult in the world at the time. From the creative home of American Fork, sport climbing has quickly spread to the United States and beyond.
Today there are approximately 500 established routes in American Fork. The steep canyon walls generate plenty of shade and good climbing conditions can be found almost any month of the year. Classics exist at all levels, although a large portion of climbs are 5.11 and above.
Almost all routes feature at least one of American Fork’s signature football-shaped oblong pockets. A technical tip from the locals: If in doubt, try a hand jam in a pocket. Traditional climbing skills may be the key to sending to this iconic clipping wonderland.
In addition to star climbing, the Uinta National Forest is also home to Mt. Nebo, the highest peak in the Wasatch Range. The name of the forest is derived from the word Ute Yoov-we-teuh, which means pine or pine forest.
Taquitz Rock, San Bernardino National Forest
One of the cornerstones of rock climbing is that new generations can return to the testing routes of bygone eras. Taquitz Rock, a large granite outcrop in California’s San Bernardino National Forest, is a living, interactive museum of rock climbing history.
As the cradle of the now universal Yosemite decimal system, Taquitz has served as a testing ground and productive inspiration for nearly a century of recorded history. Today, modern climbers can travel to Taquitz to experience the very first 5.9 in the United States and imagine what it was like to be at the forefront of free climbing in 1952.
Most of the climbing on Taquitz follows elegant systems of fissures to the top of the pyramid-shaped formation. While there are single pitch routes, the most popular climbs are at least three pitches in length.
All climbers visiting Taquitz should be aware that this is a traditional rock and much of the climbing is bold and serious in nature, and that route finding on the steep approach and descent can be difficult.
While there are many great lines to climb on Taquitz, some of the heavyweight classics are Fingertip, Open Book, and The Vampire. These popular routes are popular on weekends, so it’s wise to be flexible. Make sure you come to the rock with a plan B in mind.
The San Bernardino National Forest is the traditional land of the Cahuilla and Soboba peoples. Just beyond the top of Taquitz Rock is the actual top of Taquitz Peak at 8,846 feet. Other top notch climbing possibilities nearby include Suicide Rock and a huge volume of magnificent granite boulders.
Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest
Nestled in the Pisgah National Forest, Looking Glass Rock is a 500-foot-high granite dome surrounded by dense stands of ancient trees. The climbing style at Looking Glass is as vintage and worn as the neighboring pines and hemlocks. This is in part due to its traditional cliff features such as delicate equipment placements and heady slab roads.
The fall and winter months provide the best conditions for climbing Looking Glass. However, various aspects and microclimates allow comfortable climbing all year round.
On the steep and intimidating north side, the tough free climbs and Yosemite assist routes remained shaded throughout the day in the summer. The south side of the mountain is more suitable for beginners, with many routes in the 5.7-5.10 range.
For climbers with a resume steeped in overhanging athletic routes and powerful boulders, Looking Glass is sure to offer a new challenge. This cliff illustrates the art of slab climbing, and for those who are not trained in this discipline, 5.10 can easily look like 5.12. This is especially true in the humid air of North Carolina.
In addition, many holds and holds are little more than barely detectable ripples in the granite. The sloping horizontal pockets known to locals as “eyebrows” make up the majority of tricky equipment locations. Do not forget your rack of Tricam!
One of the oldest national forests east of the Mississippi, Pisgah is inextricably linked to the history of American forestry. Located in the southern part of the forest, the Biltmore Forestry School was the first forestry school in the United States.
The management practices developed here have played an important role in the birth and growth of the US Forest Service. Modern-day Pisgah exists in the traditional territory of the Cherokee and S’atsoyaha peoples.
National Forest Week: explore everything
The theme for this year’s National Forest Week is “Explore It All. Seven in 10 Americans live within 2 hours of a national forest. However, in-person access to forest land is not easy for everyone.
“For many people, visiting a national forest is a logistical challenge,” Mitsos said. “While we always encourage people to go out and spend time in their local green space, we also want to provide educational resources about the national forests and grasslands that are easily accessible, even when the actual places are not. “
During National Forest Week, the NFF will host virtual events including a photo contest, live chats and a forest-themed raffle with an artist Bryn merrell.