Rock climbing in the southeast is unique in the sense of how concentrated the different climbing locations are. From Asheville, NC to Birmingham, AL, to some classic spots in between, you can spend a surprisingly small number of hours in the car and more time on the rock. This tick list is a mere suggestion of southeastern climbing areas. Ideally you could spend a month or more and see new rock everyday, but that little thing called "work" tends to get in the way for most of us. A week off, good wheels, and a couple of trusty friends, and you have a perfect recipe for a week-long road-trip and enough time to get a great sampling of the best of southeastern climbing.
1. RUMBLING BALD
Rumbling Bald is about a 50 minute drive southeast of Asheville and located near Lake Lure. With over 900 boulder problems, the Bald is one of the largest bouldering areas in the southeast, and it is easy to spend a full day there. The area hosts everything from easy five foot lowballs to 40 foot scarefests on compact Gneiss boulders, reminiscent of Yosemite granite. Due to its location, Rumbling Bald is a favorite for winter bouldering when the sun is shining and temperatures crisp, providing for excellent friction. Spring and fall are also prime times for bouldering in the Bald, but avoid the summertime, as weeds, poison ivy and mosquitoes take over. Chimney Rock is the closest town to Rumbling Bald and it's a sleepy one, as there's not much activity there other than in the summer. Heading northeast back into Asheville is your best bet for a good meal and place to stay. Highly recommended for excellent eats is Rosetta's Kitchen, High Five Coffee Bar for caffeinated drinks, and French Broad Chocolate Lounge for sweets.
2. TENNESSEE WALL
Heading west out of Asheville towards Tennessee, you'll hit Chattanooga in about four hours — a climbing mecca famous for its high quality sandstone climbing. Tennessee Wall, or T-Wall, is just 25 minutes from downtown Chattanooga heading in a northwest direction following the Tennessee River. Fall, winter and spring are the best seasons for trad and sport climbing here as it gets a lot of sun exposure. Camping is available and free and convenient when spending a full day at T-Wall, taking on the roughly 600 classic routes available. Provisions can be picked up at the local grocery stores at the base of the mountain or you can hit up Shuford's Smokehouse for some authentic southern-style BBQ.
3. STONE FORT
Stone Fort is Chattanooga's most accessible and concentrated bouldering area and can get crowded at times. From downtown, head up Mowbray Mountain to the Montlake Golf Club parking lot, register and pay the user fee in the club house, walk a few more steps and start climbing. Prime season is the same as for most climbing areas in the southeast; fall, winter and spring. If you'd rather sport climb, Leda is a favorite local crag that you pass on your way up the hill. The same registration and user fee applies and parking is available at Chickamauga Creek.
Lodging is widely available all over the Chattanooga area, but especially climber-friendly is the Crashpad Hostel located in the Southside district. Here you can easily meet other climbers and have some great food and drinks at the unique establishment next door, called the Flying Squirrel.
4. SUNSET ROCK
From the most concentrated to the most beautiful. Sunset Rock has an easy approach, quality routes, and killer views. This crag, located on top of Lookout Mountain, is a destination well worth visiting while traveling through Chattanooga. The parking lot is located only about 15 minutes from downtown, but give yourself some time to navigate the winding roads and take in the views. The area is traditional only and can be climbed in the summer, as it remains cool due to elevation and shade, and it's fantastic all year round. Not a trad climber? You can still enjoy this area, as it is home to many great hikes and scenic views that makes for a perfect rest day activity.
5. FOSTER FALLS
Foster Falls is located about 45 minutes west of Chattanooga and is a popular sport climbing destination year-round. The crag offers 179 routes and a wide variety of grades and heights and is great for all levels of climbers. The approach is easy and you get a good view of the actual Foster Falls both from above and below, and the falls itself just so happens to be a great spot for cooling off after climbing during the hot summer months. If you get caught in a summer storm, don't fret, just move to one of the "bunkers" for some steep juggy climbing to finish up your day. Camping is available for free (you just need to register), and the nearby towns of Tracy City and Jasper will have groceries, gas and restaurants.
Just 45 minutes south of Chattanooga, crossing the border into rural Georgia, you will find one of the best winter bouldering areas in the southeast: Rocktown. Bouldering in the fall is also possible, but springtime can be a bit wet. Rocktown is a large area with boulder clusters spread out all over the place, so be prepared for a fair amount of hiking. Be sure to check out classics like Hueco Simulator for some great warm ups, and definitely test your skills on four star climbs like Standard Deviation, the Orb or Golden Harvest. There is a parking fee and rustic camping is allowed in designated areas. Pack in and pack out supplies.
7. HORSE PENS 40
Horse Pens 40 offers access to hundreds of problems for very little effort and is believed to be one of the most concentrated boulder-fields in the world. The area is a privately owned park located in Steele, Alabama, just an hour northeast of Birmingham. There is an admission fee to the park and they also offer tent and RV camping. HP40 is known for its annual bouldering competitions like the Triple Crown and Sloperfest, making this area a classic climbing destination you don't want to miss. For food and other convenience items, visit the nearby country store and restaurant.
Originally written for RootsRated.