By Penny Fox
California’s diverse terrain makes it a destination not only for its sparkling coastlines, but glorious mountainous areas just waiting to be explored. The Golden State is home to some of the greatest rock climbing opportunities in the U.S. Whether you’re a novice or a long-time climber, these five cool rock climbing spots in California are among the best.
Located in Yosemite Valley, California and part of Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne Meadows is another world. The Great White Book is an awe-inspiring climbing route that offers a challenge for the best climbers with cracks, knobs, and edges, and a 95-foot section of sheer sandstone that’s endurance testing at its best. The Pleasure Dome above Tenaya Lake is a misnomer because you’re climbing polished rock in sections with poor protection. Make sure to take plenty of water and insect repellent, especially in the summer. You’ll also want to have your camera with you for some amazing aerial views. There are several campgrounds in the area, but not all are open year-round. Check the website before going and make sure you don’t need a wilderness permit if you want to stay at one of the backcountry campgrounds.
Located in northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park provides a fun adventure for adults and kids of all ages. There are volcanic remains like mud pots, fumaroles (steam and gas vents), boiling springs, and red cinder cones scattered throughout the region, and views of the area that will take your breath away. The park is home to two of the best climbing areas in this part of the state, too. Bellybutton is the largest of the crags found in the park with an elevation of 165 feet. Eagle Peak is good for climbing when it’s cooler because the warmth of the sun makes the climb very pleasant. Because the park has areas where there is still volcanic activity, make sure to stay on the established trails, check weather and availability reports, and bring plenty of water.
At Sequoia National Park, climbers will find the great Castle Rock Spire. But as a fair warning, this area can get hot and it’s not uncommon to see rocks and the occasional rattlesnake in the area. So be prepared! Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you’ll want to allow a full day to hike and access the Paradise Creek trail—you’ll be well-rewarded for your efforts. The best time to climb is May through August when water is more available. There are several camping grounds in the area, but make sure you hang food at your base camp away from where you’re camping. Bears have been known to help themselves to whatever they find. It’s a good idea to get a backcountry permit, too, since rangers keep a check on all overnight vehicles and owners.
Located in Joshua Tree National Park, Ryan Campground, with an elevation of 4,300 feet, offers several excellent rock climbing opportunities on the climber access trail there. Climbers can choose between the main attraction, Headstone Rock, which has two rocks worth climbing: a 50-foot pillar of sheer rock known as SW Corner, and Cryptic, a steep and challenging rock wall, plus Lost Rocks, and the Manure Pile. The area was home to Native Americans for hundreds of years, then became used by cattlemen and miners for the natural resources found there. Joshua Tree became a national monument in 1936, and resulted in 825,000 acres being set apart, but it was reduced in size in the 1950s to allow for mining. For those who choose to stay overnight, there are 31 campsites on a first-come, first-serve basis. Bring your own water.
Located in San Diego, California, with an elevation of 3,648 feet at the summit, most of the mountain is in the Cleveland National Forest and is surrounded by private property or Native American land. This is hiker and climber paradise and one of the most strenuous efforts in the state. What do you get when you combine sunny California and multi-pitch climbing? Serious rock climbing fun! Better wear your helmet on this trip because there is some strenuous climbing and rappelling to be done that may result in a bit of spinning. You might even see a falcon or two while climbing. Make sure you read up on the areas and be prepared.