When visiting the southeastern mountains, have you ever seen those people walking along the parkway or at a rest stop with something that looks like a large foam pad strapped to their backs and wondered what in the world they're doing? Most likely they're headed out to go bouldering at one of the many local bouldering sites and the things on their backs are crash pads. Bouldering is a form of climbing that involves climbing without ropes on rocks or large boulders that are usually fairly low to the ground. The thick foam crash pads they carry in are to break their falls when the climber doesn't make it to the top of the bouldering problem.


In Boone, Blowing Rock, and the surrounding areas, you could say that bouldering tends to be more popular than traditional rope climbing. People travel from all areas of the country to sample some of the many bouldering areas. With the multiple bouldering areas in this region, you can find boulders suitable for beginners (although the beginner boulders are not always easy) to extremely hard bouldering problems suited only for experts. Bouldering takes a combination of upper body strength, grace, tough hands, and lack of fear. Beginners should be wary of bouldering problems that seem easy but end up high off the ground. And, bouldering is inherently more dangerous than rope climbing for the simple fact that the climber is supported by their own muscles and has no rope to fall back on. These warnings aside, spring is prime bouldering time in the high country, provided the rain stays away.

Some popular local bouldering areas include Blowing Rock boulders, 221 Boulders, Grandmother Mountain boulders, and Lost Cove boulders. Blowing Rock boulders are full of boulders fit for a wide range of climbing levels. One of the most popular bouldering areas around, this locale has multiple rocks fit for beginners as well as for the toughest boulderers around. The rocks range from 5 to 20 feet off the ground in some places to short and overhanging in other areas. To access Blowing Rock boulders, park in the lower parking area of the rest stop off highway 221 just where it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike down the obvious trail until you reach the boulders. Also off of highway 221, you can find 221 boulders. This is an area of about 10 boulder fields and is located off 221 around where the 221 joins the parkway. Another very popular bouldering area is Grandmother Mountain boulders. Grandmother boulders tend to be sharp and some get very high off the ground, but are some of the best in the area. The area is vast and popular and takes some exploring to find the right spot not already taken over by other climbers. It is one of the largest bouldering sites in the area. To get to Grandmother, park at the Grandmother Mountain pull-off on the parkway and hike the trail until you come to the rocks covered in chalk. Lost Cove bouldering area is yet another popular area for climbers. Lost Cove boulders are located on a south-facing slope, making them warm on chilly spring days. The bouldering problems here are difficult and not recommended for beginners, but still fun for those skilled enough to attempt them. Lost Cove boulders can be found off Roseboro Road (off the parkway near the Grandmother Mtn. Pulloff). Drive down the dirt road a couple of miles and park at the vague pull-off probably already full of cars.

As with any other sport involving rocks and no ropes, bouldering is dangerous, so please be cautious when seeking out new areas you are unfamiliar with. And even though these areas are wildly popular and most likely overrun with climbers please respect the surrounding vegetation and surrounding private property. Please remember to park in designated parking areas so as not to affect the delicate access issues for bouldering spots in this area. Also, try car-pooling and pack in anything to bring in to reduce impact on these areas.Bouldering

Blowing Rock Boulders:

The Blowing Rock Boulders are located off of US 221 South right outside the town limits of Blowing Rock. These are the closest boulders to the Boone area and offer problems ranging in difficulty from moderate to difficult. Be sure to check out the 5.10 wall for some interesting moderate problems as well as the Pump Wall for a killer four arm flaming traverse.

Contact info:
7738 Valley Boulevard
P.O. Box 2445, Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Phone: 828-295-4636
Toll Free: 877-750-INFO

The Dump and 221 Circuit:

The Dump and the 221 Circuit is composed of ten roadside boulders and boulder fields on US 221 South between Blowing Rock and Linville. This area contains some of the harder boulder problems in the region. Problems at these locations range from intermediate to extremely difficult offering challenges to locals and visitors alike. The area boulders are spread out and are accessible only from certain pullouts along 221. Many of these pullouts can only hold two to three cars so please car pool and do not park anywhere but the designated locations.

Beacon Heights:

Beacon Heights is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway directly past Grandfather Mountain and the 221 intersection. The area offers easy to moderate problems in cool and shady surroundings that make for a beautiful bouldering spot on those hot summer days. The area boasts an excellent warm up wall approximately fifteen to twenty feet tall that offers an extended traverse and ample holds to stretch out on before hitting some of the more moderate problems. Top outs are generally straight forward and clean and the landing zone is relatively free of hazards. Be sure to take in some of the panoramic views around the boulders including fabulous vistas towards Linville Gorge and a great profile of Grandfather Mountain.

Contact info:
PO Box 2136
Asheville, NC 28802-2136

Grandmother Mountain:

Grandmother Mountain is located a little farther south along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This area contains some of the most abundant bouldering opportunities in the region. The area is also consistently cool in temperature during the summer months and has more than enough problems to keep you busy for several days. Contact your local outfitter about some of the best problems in this area and double check on any access issues with certain parts of the mountain. Finally, when visiting this area make sure that you park in the designated parking areas, which are the Grandfather and Grandmother Mountain pullouts. These are the only acceptable places to park.

The Vermin Scale:

The standard bouldering rating system is called the V-scale or Vermin Scale. This is an open ended system created by bouldering guru John Sherman. Below is a chart of how the V-scale corresponds with the Yosemite Decimal System for roped climbing. Note how the scale is completely open ended which allows for the difficulty levels to be consistently pushed.

Lost Cove Boulders:

Lost Cove boulders are located down a gravel road off of the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Linville. This area receives a solid amount of sun making it an excellent place to play in the later months of the year. Erosion and access are serious issues for this area. The main parking spot can only hold four cars so carpooling is highly recommended. The area and trails are quite steep and erosion is a serious concern. Staying on the trails and parking only in the designated areas are a must.

Class 5 Yosemite System Decimal System

Bouldering Sherman V-Scale


Footsloggers Bouldering Cave:

As anyone who has spent anytime in Boone can tell you there is a fifty-fifty-ninety chance the weather will work in your favor. For those rainy days Footsloggers in Boone offers a comprehensive bouldering cave and campus board. The cost is seven dollars for the entire day and is a great place to work off those rainy day blues.

For more information on Bouldering in the High Country check out This web site offers updated access information, directions to the boulders, parking recommendations and regulations, as well as the ever important updated weather reports for the areas. The site also lists local outfitters, amenities, area advocacy groups and land ownership information for each area.

See also:

North Carolina Outward Bound | Climbing Spots | Climbing The High Country

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