When it comes to outdoor rock climbing, some of the iconic locations in the Western states, such as California, Colorado, Oregon and Wyoming, might be the first to come to mind. Although Atlanta and its surrounding areas might be limited by geography, there is still a variety of good crags and boulders to hone your skills whether you are a beginner looking for fun routes or a seasoned climber ready to tackle the next level.
If you are looking to give rock climbing a try, check out REI’s classes in the Atlanta area suitable for beginners, including hands-on introductory lessons.
One of the best things about climbing in and around Georgia is that most rocks are accessible nearly year round, so you have more time to explore and try out different routes. Here are some of the best outdoor rock-climbing spots—including some favorites among adaptive climbing athletes—in the Atlanta area and across the Southeast.
- Location: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Roswell, Georgia
- Route types: Top rope and several trad climbing options
- Difficulty: 5.6 to 5.12a
- Best for: Top-roping on a blocky, slightly overhung cliff
Allenbrook near the Vickery Creek Trail in Roswell is a hidden gem for top-rope enthusiasts looking to build strength and endurance. Located behind the historic Allenbrook House in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area just 20 miles north of Atlanta, this short, overhanging cliff offers a handful of fun top-rope routes of varying difficulty. There are also a few bouldering and traditional (trad) climbing options.
Experienced climbers may enjoy Rumors Right (5.10b), a top-rope option that leads to the cliff face, or Rumors Roof (5.10b), which provides a trad variation.
Allenbrook is also where REI hosts one of its hands-on rock climbing anchors classes where you can learn how to utilize natural features to build an equalized and efficient anchor for climbing.
Hope Oldham, supervisor of field experiences for REI in Atlanta and an avid climber, said while Allenbrook is a small crag and does not offer much for beginners, it is a great spot to practice setting up anchor systems and rappelling.
“It overlooks the Chattahoochee River, and you don’t realize how close to Atlanta you are,” said Oldham. She cautioned that climbers should not leave valuables behind in their cars.
- Location: South Fulton near downtown Atlanta
- Route Types: Bouldering
- Difficulty: V0 to V6
- Best for: Slab bouldering with a few overhangs and crack problems
Known for its long, egg-shaped granite boulders, Boat Rock is a popular climbing spot close to the city, 13 miles west of downtown Atlanta. Here, you can find more than 100 bouldering problems—most of them slab, with the addition of several crack problems and overhang areas.
According to the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC), an REI partner and nonprofit “dedicated to preserving climbing areas” across the region, Boat Rock has a rich history of climbing and was home to one of the first bouldering competitions in the U.S. in the 1980s. The SCC states on its website that climbing at Boat Rock can be quite technical and requires a “great deal of balance and footwork.”
“You go to [Boat Rock] for bouldering and not rope climbing, but it is a great spot to practice with climbing anchor equipment, and of course practice that boulder project,” said Oldham.
While Boat Rock is an excellent spot to test your mettle, some climbers we spoke with said climbing there can be a humbling experience. You will need spotters and a crash pad for most bouldering problems at Boat Rock. However, there are also some beginner-friendly options, such as Easy Crack (V0−) and Easy Crack Traverse (V1), for a quick, fun outing.
- Location: Stephens County near Toccoa, Georgia
- Route types: Bouldering, trad, top rope, sport
- Difficulty: 5.6 to 5.12a; V0 to V6
- Best for: Friction, bouldering and trad climbing
You will need to travel a bit more out of the way to reach Currahee Mountain, located about 85 miles from Atlanta near the town of Toccoa in northeast Georgia. The poorly maintained dirt road leading to the mountain may be off-putting, but if you can get past that, Currahee offers some great friction climbing on mostly granite slab.
According to the SCC, Currahee Mountain has four climbing areas:
- Brick Wall, which has good top rope options with bolts and a trad route
- Small Wall, featuring four routes
- Slab Wall, as its name suggests, offers excellent slab routes with sparse bolting
- Buzzard Wall, with anchor access and 10 routes
It is worth noting there is an active community effort to clean up the graffiti and litter in the area and conserve the outdoor amenities Currahee has to offer.
- Location: Sawnee Mountain, Cumming, Georgia
- Route types: Top rope
- Difficulty: 5.5 to 5.10−
- Best for: Beginners, top roping on a scenic hiking trail
If you are looking for a quick climbing trip or combining hiking and rock climbing for a full day of outdoor activities not far from Atlanta, Indian Seats at the Sawnee Mountain may have just what you need.
Along the Indian Seats Trail, which leads to a summit with a scenic, north-facing view, you can find around 10 top-rope options, many with newer bolts and beginner-friendly. Climbers who tested out these routes say this spot is great for first-time outdoor sends but be sure to bring your helmets to protect yourself because the climbing routes can be hidden from the view of hikers and children who may kick rocks off the trail.
To climb here, don’t forget to obtain a $3 climbing pass from the Sawnee Mountain Visitor Center before you hit the trail.
- Location: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Sandy Springs, Georgia
- Route types: Bouldering
- Difficulty: V0 to V9
- Best for: Trying out a dozen bouldering problems in a single afternoon
Although Island Ford is on the smaller side compared to some of the other climbing areas in the region, it is easily accessible just north of Atlanta in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. It offers various bouldering problems and overhangs with low to mid-range difficulty levels.
From pumpy overhangs to a few easier crack and friction problems, you can enjoy an afternoon of bouldering in a pleasant, wooded area along the Chattahoochee River. While most of the problems are in the V0-V5 range, advanced climbers can test their skills on the Urban Bum (V9) which has a few challenging holds midway.
- Location: Pigeon Mountain, Walker County, Georgia
- Route types: Trad, top rope
- Difficulty: 5.6 to 5.11c
- Best for: Trad climbing
Located on Pigeon Mountain near Lafayette, about halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Lost Wall is predominately a trad climbing area, offering around 50 trad routes. It’s also got a few options for top-ropers and sport climbers.
The rock wall is made of sandstone and may not have the cliff line length or height to match the crags in nearby climbing areas in Tennessee. Still, it’s a fun spot to visit with excellent vertical faces and a waterfall nearby. Single-pitch lines range from 40 to 120 feet high. Pipe Full of Fun (5.10a) and Laurel Lie (5.10a) are among the favorite routes.
- Location: Panola Mountain State Park near Stockbridge, Georgia
- Route types: Bouldering
- Difficulty: V0 to V6
- Best for: Honing your skills on crack problems, overhangs and slabs
Located within the Panola Mountain Preserve about 20 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta, this medium-sized granite bouldering field is beginner-friendly and has a mix of slabs, overhangs and crack climbing. It features around 30 bouldering problems within proximity to one another.
Due to the significant ecological system of Panola Mountain, where rare plants and animals are present, most of the area is closed to climbing and bouldering. The only spots where bouldering is allowed (with a permit) are the South River boulders and Panola Mountain boulders, thanks to an agreement between park rangers and climbers back in 2007. If you plan to climb here, check in at the main ranger station at the Panola Mountain State Park Nature Center for more information on what is required to access the boulders.
- Location: Lafayette, Georgia
- Route types: Bouldering
- Difficulty: V0 to V10
- Best for: Climbers of all experience levels, tackling a wide variety of bouldering problems
Rocktown, just 3 miles north of Pigeon Mountain near the Tennessee border, is known as one of the best bouldering areas in the Southeast. Its unique sandstone formations are home to hundreds of bouldering problems ranging in difficulty from V0 to V10.
Some climbers describe Rocktown as an “otherworldly bouldering paradise” as it is filled with large boulders 30 to 40 feet high and offers problems for climbers of all experience levels. You can hone your skills on a variety of formations, including bomber slopers, crimps, huecos, rails and top-outs. Be ready to hike about a mile to reach the climbing area from the parking lot.
- Location: Leesburg, Alabama
- Route types: Sport, trad, top rope, bouldering
- Difficulty: 5.5 to 5.12d; V2 to V5
- Best for: Families, climbers of all skill levels, adaptive climbing
Although Sandrock is in Alabama, it is a favorite among Atlanta-area climbers for good reasons. About a two-hour drive from Atlanta, Sandrock is a longtime climbing institution in the Southeast, offering a wide variety of sport, top-rope and trad climbing as well as bouldering for climbers of all skill levels. It is also a popular spot among adaptive climbing athletes.
“Sandrock is one of the most accessible outdoor climbing areas in the region,” said Eric Gray, a climber since 2010 and the founder and Executive Director of Catalyst Sports, a nonprofit and REI partner that acts as a change agent and empowers people with disabilities through adventure sports.
“Access from the parking lot to the crag is a very short distance, and individuals in wheelchairs can reach that area with minimal assistance,” Gray said. “There is also a wide range of grades to choose from for beginners to advanced climbers.”
In addition to the accessibility, climbers also praise Sandrock for its family-friendly qualities. There are campsites, showers and toilets nearby, and it can make a fun day trip or action-packed weekend for beginners or advanced climbers alike.
- Location: Lexington, Georgia
- Route types: Bouldering
- Difficulty: V0 to V10
- Best for: A day trip solving some great bouldering problems
A small bouldering field located 17 miles southeast of Athens, Georgia, Shaking Rock features a variety of bouldering problems with difficulty levels ranging from V0 up to V10. The large granite boulders are egg-shaped, with some stacked on top of each other. It is dubbed the “Boat Rock without the texture” by the climbing community.
Many of the bouldering problems at Shaking Rock are short but with challenging mantles. And there’s such a plethora of bouldering problems near each other that the Southeastern Climbers Coalition describes Shaking Rock as a climbing spot where “you can boulder all day without putting your pad on your back, or even taking your shoes off.”
- Location: East Palisades in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Sandy Springs, Georgia
- Route types: Bouldering, top rope, trad climbing
- Difficulty: V0 to V9; 5.6 to 5.10a
- Best for: Tackling a variety of bouldering problems and top-rope climbing
After a short hike in the East Palisades part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, you will find this small cliff outcropping in a relatively quiet, secluded area along the river. Climbers can have a good time tackling some of the dozens of bouldering problems here or opt for the top-rope routes ranging from an easy 5.6 to a challenging 5.10. There are also a few trad options to keep things even more interesting.
Advanced boulder climbers can test their skills on the challenging triangular face of Chisel (V8) up to Marietta Mangler (V10) with a name as intimidating as its difficulty level. If you are looking for a longer route, Haven (5.10a) is a great top-rope line to try and features small crimps, ledges and pockets.
- Location: Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, White County, Georgia
- Route types: Trad, sport, top rope, bouldering
- Difficulty: V0 to V9; 5.4 to 5.11d
- Best for: Climbers of all levels looking for an action-packed weekend of trad or sport climbing
A long-time training site for the U.S. Army Rangers since the 1960s and dubbed “Georgia’s climbing school,” Yonah Mountain’s unique features have drawn climbers of all levels for decades. Whether you are a beginner or advanced climber into top-roping, bouldering or trad, there is something for everyone at this popular climbing area located between the towns of Cleveland and Helen in North Georgia, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Atlanta.
The Army Balance Climb area is great for top-roping and lead climbing. There are also several multi-pitch routes, some of which may require two ropes for descending via a double-rope rappel. If you plan on getting out there in Georgia’s prolonged, hot summer season, consider the routes in the Lowers area where there is shade, as the southwest-facing Main Face can become intolerably hot. Be prepared to hike uphill for up to an hour to reach some of the climbing areas.
Local climbers Wei-Chuang Chan and his wife Agnes Liao live in Atlanta and have been climbing together since 2017. The couple said Yonah Mountain is their “most memorable outdoor climb” so far.
“You can see the routes from the parking lots. Even though the trail to the top is straightforward, you do have to cross a few boulders to get there, so the approach is pretty fun,” said Chan.
“Mount Yonah is also good for beginners, though the hike is somewhat moderate to strenuous,” Liao added. “The scenery at the top of the mountain is gorgeous—you get two activities with one hike.”
Go Out on a Limb
Rock climbing is an excellent sport that challenges both the mind and the body. For those who are learning how to climb, Gray, who has worked with many adaptive climbing athletes through his work at Catalyst Sports, has some great advice.
“Whether you are a first-time adaptive climber or have dabbled in the sport before, there are always people willing to share their excitement of the sport of climbing with you,” he said.
“[Don’t] be [intimidated] by people that are stronger climbers than you. We have all been in your shoes and have all been given insight and feedback along the way,” Gray added. “[It’s] what makes the climbing community such a great one.”
Many climbers also consider the sport as an excellent recharge activity because it requires one’s full attention and engagement.
“My favorite thing about climbing is how once you are on the wall, that’s all I think about,” Oldham said. “I’m constantly thinking about 100 things at once, and climbing is the only place I’m engrossed in one thing only.”
“Find a community of people who know more than you if you want to get better at climbing,” the REI outdoor leader added. “Taking classes is a great first step, and a safe and encouraged way to practice the riskier skills.”
“As with every sport, you need to stretch and train, cross train and hydrate. Climbing is hard on the body and the mind,” Oldham noted. While hitting the crag at the gym or outside [every day] is good practice, make sure to do the research on how to take care of yourself so you [lessen] your chance of injury [falling included].”