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Rock Climbing in California: What are the Best Spots to Go? post image

Rock Climbing in California: What are the Best Spots to Go?


Ana Rosberg

July 25, 2019

Last updated on March 22, 2022 by the Explore-Share team


California has it all, stunning beaches, rugged mountains, pristine blue lakes, forests, surreal like deserts, and celebrities. It also has amazing rock climbing opportunities for all ages, levels, and styles! With its mild to warm climate, this is a wonderful location to enjoy outdoor sports year-round.

Furthermore, many of the rock climbing locations in California are near to a city, which is perfect for those who are looking for a brief escape from the modern world to reconnect with nature. Additionally, all of the top rock climbing spots in California boast awe-inspiring landscapes and breathtaking wilderness. Below, we share with you the most rocking spots for rock climbing in California for you to start planning your adventure!

1. Joshua Tree National Park

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hartegan.

Located in southeastern California, Joshua Tree National Park, which comprises part of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, is a unique rock climbing spot.

The landscapes in this stunning location are dotted by Joshua Trees, hence the name of the park, and also by rugged rock formations and boulders, especially in the Mojave Desert. Some of these rocks, including the Pinto gneiss, are over a billion years old. You can also find a variety of granites, many smoothed over by water, and inselbergs, which are isolated rock hills and ridges. Therefore, this is an ideal spot for rock climbing with over 8,000 routes and both single and multi-pitch options just 60 km away from Palm Springs and 200 km away from Los Angeles.

In brief:

  • Closest city: Palm Springs

  • Difficulty level: All levels

Book a guided climbing trip in Joshua Tree National Park!

2. Mammoth Lakes

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hartigan

Located in Mono County, to the east of California, Mammoth Lakes is a unique spot that boasts a section of the Sierra Nevada system, as well as the Long Valley Caldera (one of the largest calderas in the world), hot springs and great rocky terrain for climbing. Rhyolite domes and an obsidian dome make up the rock formations in this region that is also famous for its forests, lakes and stunning landscapes.

One of the most popular spots for rock climbing in this region is the Mammoth Lakes basin in the Inyo National Forest. Some of the top walls for single-pitch, trad, sport, and top-rope climbing in this area include Horseshoe Slabs, Sunshine Wall, Wavy Gravy Wall, North Face, East Face, and Dike Wall, which offer climbing options for all levels. Additionally, Mammoth is a great place to visit when off the walls!

In brief:

  • Closest city: Fresno

  • Difficulty level: All levels

Join this rock climbing day trip in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and enjoy a unique adventure in the California wilderness!

3. Temple Crag, Sierra Nevada

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hartigan.

Located in the Palisades, a group of rugged rocky mountains in the Sierra Nevada system famous for their alpine climbing options, Temple Crag is a favorite among rock-climbing enthusiasts. It has an altitude of 3,957 m and is also renowned for the three beautiful emerald green lakes on the approach to the crag.

This spot offers many climbing options for intermediate to advanced climbers including Venusian Blind (5.7; Grade IV; 13 pitches in total), Moon Goddess Aret (5.8; Grade IV; 18 pitches in total), Sun Ribbon Aret (5.10a; Grade IV; 22 pitches in total), and Dark Star (5.10c; Grade V; 16 pitches in total).

Keep in mind that to climb this crag you will need a permit from the National Forest Service, a seasoned guide will be able to help you both tackle the rocks and handle logistics.

In brief:

    • Closest city: Fresno

    • Difficulty level: Intermediate and advanced

Book your place now on this 1-day guided trad climbing adventure in Temple Crag, California!

4. Lake Tahoe

Photo courtesy of Mimi Vadasz

Lake Tahoe is a popular spot in the Sierra Nevada mountains with many possibilities for all kinds of outdoor adventures year-round, and rock climbing is no exception. Big Chief, Twin Crags, Donner Summit, Trippy Rock, Spooner Crag, Ninety-Foot Wall, Mayhem Cove, Lovers Leap, Pie Shop, Sugarloaf and Phantom Spires are some of the top climbing locations in the region.

Trad and sport, granite and boulder, easy, intermediate, advanced, you name it, with hundreds of climbing routes, the Tahoe area is tops for rock climbing!

In brief:

  • Closest city: Sacramento in California, or Carson City and Reno in Nevada

  • Difficulty level: All levels

Try an easy, beginner multi-pitch climb in Lovers Leap, or join a more challenging program for intermediate climbers on a multi-pitch adventure in Donner Summit!

5. Mount Woodson, San Diego

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hartigan

Mount Woodson is located to the southwest of California, near San Diego. This stunning peak is a well-known rock climbing destination with granite slabs and enormous boulders of which the Potato Chip is the most famous.

With over 400 routes to climb up the mountain, there is a perfect spot for everyone, regardless of the level of expertise, and it is a popular rock climbing destination for those who want to train and practice. Trad and bouldering are the most common in Woodson, although top rope and lead climbs are also popular. Regardless of your preference, you will love the stunning views from the top of this breathtaking peak.

Furthermore, because it is just 44 km away from the city, this is a great spot to take a short breather and get back in touch with yourself and nature.

In brief:

  • Closest city: San Diego

  • Difficulty level: All levels

Take a rock climbing course adapted to your level and enjoy climbing in Mount Woodson near San Diego.

6. Point Dume, near Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of Mountain Sense Development

Located on the coast of the Pacific, Point Dume is a promontory in Malibu that is perfect for beginner rock climbers. Not only is the view breathtaking, but there are also some straightforward single-pitch routes that are very easy to access. In fact, it is a great location for kids who are just starting out in the sport (read more about children and rock climbing here). Additionally, Point Dume Natural Preserve is also a good place for whale watching!

In brief:

  • Closest city: Malibu

  • Difficulty level: Beginner

Take your children on a unique rock climbing adventure on these outdoor-rock climbing lessons for kids near Los Angeles.

***California is a unique rock climbing destination with options in the desert and by the sea. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned climber, whether you prefer bouldering, single or multi-pitch routes overlooking the sea or under the shade of a tree, you will find the perfect option for you. Choose one of the certified guides at Explore-Share.com and start planning your next rock climbing adventure in California!

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