Rock climbing in the Southeastern USA


Southeast Climbing Areas

Map of southeast climbing states. Currently detailed sites in blue. Site yet to be added in Brown. Remaining states in green.

General Information - Rock climbing areas in the Southeast United States.

The southeast climbing region is contained within the following states: Alabama , Arkansas, Georgia , Kentucky, North Carolina , South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Climbing areas within four of those states are described at this web site. Additionally, Florida is described, though it, Mississippi, and Louisiana do not contain enough climbable rock to consider any portions of the state a climbing destination. Five more state descriptions will be added with time. (link - SEMaps site)

graphic - relief map of southeast USA shown in green. State outlines superimposed in blackThere is a great variety of rock climbing in the southeast. The Southern Appalachian range contains the highest peaks on the east coast. Generally referred to as the Blue Ridge, this series of more than a dozen mountain ranges plays itself out on the west side of the Continental Divide as the Cumberland Plateau. The mountains fade gradually into the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee where the rock gives way to sand and clay.

These are ancient mountains, with some of the oldest exposed rock on earth. Once taller than Everest, the highest peaks are now in the 6,000 foot range. Eons of erosion have left our southern mountains rounded and rolling. But the rock that is left after all this time is some of the best. Granite, schist, and quartzite predominate in the eastern high places, sandstones in the canyons of the Cumberland region to the west. Many southern classic climbs are found on the great exposed domes of rock. Other areas follow long ridge lines above rivers and canyons. Within this vast variety lie excellent terrain for all types climbing - bouldering, top roping, sport climbing, trad climbing, aid climbing, ice climbing, and big wall.

Some of the best bouldering (link - FAQ) is found where the Cumberland Plateau (link - Sherpa Guides Site) finally gives way to the flatlands in northern Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Following Lookout Mountain south from Chattanooga, TN, Rocktown, GA, Sandrock, Al, and Horse Pens 40 are premier bouldering areas. Boat Rock is located in urban Atlanta. Also of note are the areas around the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock in North Carolina.

Many other areas of the Cumberland are well suited to top rope climbing (link - FAQ) . Sunset Rock, The Tennessee Wall, and Foster Falls are three areas surrounding Chattanooga, TN with cliff heights in the 60 - 100 foot range on quality southern sandstone. Additional popular top roping areas include Mt. Yonah, GA, and Crowder's Mountain, NC.

Compared to western areas of the United States, the southeast has relatively little sport climbing (link - FAQ). This is mainly because the quality of the rock is so good and there are typically adequate natural features to promote routes that do not require fixed anchors. The most southern of sport climbing destinations is Foster Falls, TN. Obed / Clear Creek is to the north. Additionally areas of the Red River Gorge, KY and New River Gorge, W. Va. offer sport routes.

The most predominant form of climbing in the region is traditionally lead single and multi-pitch climbing (link - FAQ). The Tennessee Wall and Sunset Rock, TN , Sandrock, Al, and Looking Glass Rock and Crowder's Mountain, NC, as well as Lost Wall, GA are good places to find great single pitch climbs.

For big walls and multi-pitch climbing, go to the taller mountains in North Carolina. Linville Gorge alone offers enough classic and varied multi-pitch climbing to keep a climber busy for a long time. The ultimate east coast slab experience can be found a Stone Mountain, NC while the biggest walls are at Whitesides Mountain. Excellent aid climbing (link - FAQ) routes can be found here, as well as the north side of Looking Glass Rock. When the ice is in, the longest ice climbing routes will be found at Whitesides. Just across the range in Georgia is Tallulah Gorge with a handful of two and three pitch routes.

Because of the the mild climate, climbing is a year-round pastime. Even in the depths of winter, southern exposures are warm on sunny days. The shaded north faces hold the ice. Spring tends to be wet, a battle between winter and summer that goes back and forth for a couple of months with furious fronts rushing through. Summer continues to see rain, but in more predictable afternoon thunderstorms. Fall is ideal - warm, beautiful colors, dryer, clear days.

The settings for southeast climbing range from the urban rock of Sunset Rock, TN and Boat Rock, GA, to the wilderness of Linville Gorge. Many are within National Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, or State Parks. All have access concerns (link - FAQ) which climbers should be aware of. Generally, when climbing in the southeast, pad trees used for anchors to prevent bark damage, avoid hunt closures, respect peregrine falcon closures - (link - FAQ), stay on trials, pack out a little extra trash, read all signs at trailheads, leave no trace.

Coming soon - areas listed as "coming soon" need your contribution. You will be credited for photos, descriptions, topos, etc. E-mail Wayne.

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Regional Visitor Guide -

City closest gym closest climbing how far   Local Retailer
Asheville, NC ClimbMax Looking Glass Rock, NC - trad lead, aid 1 hr to trailhead   buy gear
Atlanta, GA Atlanta Rocks Boat Rock - bouldering 30 min - 1 hour  buy gear
Birmingham, AL Urban Outpost The Boulderfeilds - bouldering    buy gear
Charlotte, NC Inner Peaks Crowders Mountain - trad lead , top roping 30 min - 1 hour  buy gear
Chattanooga, TN Tennessee Bouldering Authority Sunset Rock - top roping, trad lead 30 min  buy gear
Columbia, SC Stronghold Athletic Club Crowders Mountain - trad lead , top roping    buy gear
Greenville, SC Rocks and Ropes and Boats Table Rock State Park - trad, aid 30 min - 1 hour  buy gear
Knoxville, TN Climbing Center - Knoxville (865) 673-4687      buy gear
Louisville, KY Rocksport      buy gear
Nashville, TN Classic Rock Gym      buy gear
Boone, NC Footsloggers Ship Rock - trad, aid, bouldering    buy gear