We climbers are infamous for our ability to make home on the road. Unafraid to sleep in our cars and able to get by with very little, we do whatever it takes to be near the crags and mountains we love.
Sometimes the camping situations are less than ideal. But sometimes the stars align and inexpensive, ideally situated campsites exist within a stone’s throw of world-class climbing. Some are even within reach of a pizza and cold beer, too. Here are five of the best climber campgrounds in the U.S., where the accommodations are as awesome as the climbing.
Yosemite’s Camp 4
A visit to Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley might be the closest thing a climber can get to a sincere pilgrimage. The rowdy home base for the climbers of Yosemite’s golden age, Camp 4 is still the valley’s climbing hub. Its popularity—or perhaps climbers’ penchant for overstaying their welcome—resulted in unique registration requirements for snagging one of the 35 tent sites, which are not available by reservation. Spring through fall, a ranger arrives at the campground’s kiosk at 8:30am each day to start accepting registrations, but a line often forms even before that. The sites themselves aren’t much to look at and can be pretty noisy, but staying there among the boulders near the base of Yosemite Falls is a cultural experience and the best access to the soaring walls above.
Joshua Tree’s Hidden Valley Campground
Photo by James Harnois – REI Employee.
Hidden Valley has been called the Camp 4 of Southern California, and for good reason. Nestled amongst Joshua Tree’s famous piles of grippy monzogranite boulders, it’s within walking distance of hundreds of trad climbing routes. Some routes—and boulder problems—actually sit within the campground. Its 44 sites are first-come, first-served and super popular, though, so get plan on arriving early on weekends or during peak season, November through March. Or get a pack of friends together and reserve a group site ahead of time.
City of Rocks
City of Rocks is a heaven of trad and bolted climbing in southern Idaho that isn’t close to anything much, which is a huge part of its appeal—aside from its gorgeous, climber-friendly pocketed granite domes and spires, of course. And with more than 60 campsites strewn all over the park, each one is either near a climbing hub or boasts a private sunrise or sunset view—or both. With no entrance fee to the park, the $12.72 per night camping fee is a steal, particularly since you can fill up your water jugs within the park and head into the nearby town of Almo if you really need a pizza or a soak or shower at Durfee Hot Springs.
Miguel’s Pizza at the Red River Gorge
No climbing trip to the Red River Gorge’s steep sport routes would be complete without a stop at Miguel’s—the pizzeria-cum-campground that’s become the climbing headquarters for the area. For just $2 a night you can pitch a tent outside and then come home from climbing to a hot pizza or rice bowl and a cold beer. Showers go for $1.50 and Internet for $2 a week. Could it get any better for a climbing dirtbag? Oh, yes: Miguel’s has a gear shop, too.
Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch
OK, the Climbers’ Ranch isn’t really a campsite, it’s more like a hostel. But at $16 a night for a bunk in the vicinity of Jackson Hole, I don’t think anyone would argue about its value. Located inside Grand Teton National Park and with a view of the Grand right out the back door, the former dude ranch boasts a communal cooking shelter, laundry facilities, a small mountaineering library and hard-wired Internet access. Prices are a little higher for non-American Alpine Club members. But compared to other campsites in the park or around Jackson, it’s still a steal and the climbing access is as good as it gets.