Climbing Spots

Climbing Spots

The High Country is recognized by climbers around the world as a top spot in the southeast for climbing and bouldering. No matter what your skill level, you can find something to climb in this region. However, inexperienced climbers should go with an expert guide who can help you have a safe and fun climb. Local outfitters also know all the best places to climb and can tell you how to get there.


The growing popularity of climbing and bouldering in the last few years has raised the issue of environmental impact. Many areas are closed to climbers because of sensitive ecosystems that could be irreparably damaged by too much traffic. You can help keep as many areas open as possible by respecting National Park Service warnings about delicate plant and animal life.

Climbing vs Bouldering:

Bouldering is a field within the sport of rock climbing, and it's very popular in this area, thanks to the multitude of boulder fields. Bouldering is free-form technical rock climbing that doesn't require ropes or other mountaineering equipment. Bouldering challenges, called "problems", may be only a few feet off the ground, but that doesn't mean they are simple to climb. Beginners as well as expert climbers can improve their technique by bouldering.

While this area is rich in bouldering opportunities, many prime locations are on private land or public lands with restrictions against climbing. Make sure you aren't breaking any laws by contacting one of the area outfitters to find out about where you can legally go bouldering or climbing. Howard's Knob, a famous bouldering spot, is private land and is now closed. Other areas are closed because climber traffic damages the sensitive environment. Get in touch with an outfitter for information on these and other locations.


Near Grandfather Mountain and the intersection of U.S. 221 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Beacon Heights has beginner to moderate bouldering opportunities. It's also still a relatively uncrowded area with great views and cool weather conditions. Grandmother Mountain Boulders is a little farther south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make sure you park in the parking areas and not on the side of the Parkway.

Blowing Rock Boulders and The Dump:

You can park at the rest area on Hwy 221 just past Blowing Rock and hike down to this great bouldering spot. The Dump is a little farther down the road and offers intermediate to advanced climbing opportunities. The bouldering problems here are very difficult.

7738 Valley Boulevard
P.O. Box 2445
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Phone: 877-750-INFO (4636)


This area offers something for everyone. Table Rock, on the east side of the gorge, is a popular spot with beginners and intermediate climbers. There are some permanent bolts and anchors and several areas to climb besides Table Rock itself. The gorge is for more serious climbers and has no permanent bolts. This area gets crowded on the weekends, so you might want to plan a weekday excursion. The dirt roads approaching the area can be rough, so it takes a while to reach the parking area up near the rock, but the view and climbs are worth it. Be sure to take plenty of water and watch for sudden weather changes that can sneak up from behind the rock.

Burke County, North Carolina, USA
Range: Blue Ridge Mountains
Coordinates: 35°5310N 81°5304W / 35.88600°N 81.8845°W


Near Grandfather Mtn off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shiprock is easily accessible and is an established climbing area with over 50 routes of varying difficulty. It's a good spot for beginners or the more advanced.

The environment around Shiprock is very fragile. The National Park Service has posted signs and constructed fences in order to protect fragile and rare alpine plant species. Failure to respect these warnings could result in the area being closed. Please help preserve the delicate ecosystem in this area. Keep in mind that climbing is prohibited elsewhere on Grandfather Mountain. Parking for Shiprock is at the Wilson Creek and Rough Ridge Overlooks. Don't leave cars on the side of the Parkway.


Footsloggers, located in downtown Boone on Depot Street, boasts the area's only climbing tower. The 35-foot structure has routes of all difficulties and is a perfect place to get an introduction to climbing with the help of experts. For rainy days, Footsloggers also has an indoor bouldering cave. Call 828-262-5111 for more information.


Although dates for this year's competition weren't available at press time, keep checking the website at for more information. The event usually takes place in September or October. This is a nationally famous competition and area, but remember this: Houndears Boulders is only open to climbers once a year during this competition. Don't try to climb there any other time or you could ruin it for everybody!


Although it's technically in the Piedmont, Stone Mountain is only a short drive away from the High Country and it's definitely worth a visit. Unique because of its smooth white granite, Stone Mountain is known for friction climbing and as a difficult place to lead climb. You should be a serious climber or be accompanied by one before tackling Stone Mountain. Located near the Virginia border near Elkin, North Carolina, Stone Mountain is not far off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Camping is permitted in the park. For more information, call the park at (910) 957-8185.

How Hard Is That Climb?

Appearances can be deceiving when you're looking up a rock face, but luckily, most climbs in popular areas have already been rated using the Yosemite Decimal System. Terrain is rated from Class 1 (normal hiking terrain) to Class 6 (more vertical, can't be climbed without aids like rope, anchors, etc.). Most recreational climbing takes place on Class 5 terrain. Within that class, climbs are rated from 5.1 to about 5.12. Of course, the actual rating of climbs is subjective, but consensus over time makes the system surprisingly consistent. Weekend climbers will probably not exceed 5.8 - going beyond that requires serious skill and dedication! Pay attention to the ratings for your own safety. Bouldering problems are rated on a different scale. For information, ask an expert at one of the local outfitters.

Appalachian Challenge Guide Service.......828-898-6484
Edge of the World.......................1-800-789-3343
Rock & Roll Sports........................828-264-0765

See also:

Bouldering | North Carolina Outward Bound | Climbing The High Country

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