Fall is often the high point on the climber’s calendar. Conditions are cool, dry and fairly reliable—plus you’re in bone-crusher mode having climbed all summer (…right?). This favorable superfecta presents good friction in what are commonly known as “sending temps,” and like migrating birds, climbers take off to chase glory.
Using a combination of Mountain Project climbing season charts, which show the number of ticks or successful climbs logged by its users at a given crag each month, website and app traffic, and some local expert advice, we’ve highlighted the country’s best crags for fall climbing.
Use this list, divided by region, to guide your migration, whether you have just one stop or want to climb until the snow falls.
Rumney, New Hampshire
World-class sport climbing just two hours from Boston
This sport climber’s paradise hosts the best schist you’ll find anywhere. Whether you’re just starting to climb or a seasoned professional, there are ample lines that will fit your fancy. Make sure to check out Millennium Falcon on the Main Cliff. Plus you’ll get to witness the leaves put on a show as the trees prepare for winter.
The Shawangunks, New York
Roof-pulling high above the fall colors
Famed for its burly roofs, horizontal cracks, and, well, interesting pro, the Gunks have been climbed since the 1930s. Bring your tricams, and prepare for the pump and the sandbags. The Gunks hosts classic routes like High Exposure, a steep, two-pitch 5.6 first climbed in 1941, and Bonnie’s Roof, a 5.9 first climbed by Bonnie Prudden in 1952, 15 years after a doctor told her she’d never be able to climb again. As you feel the exposure more than 100 feet off the deck, just remember: You’ll never be as badass as Bonnie.
The Adirondacks, New York
Adventure climbing in Upstate New York
If you want abundant rock but more solitude, look north to the Dacks. This massive, wild region was set aside as a preserve in 1885. Now, at over 6 million acres, it’s the largest state park in the contiguous U.S. While thousands of routes exist in the region, they’re dispersed to over 200 distinct areas, boasting everything from six-pitch adventures to tenuous, single pitch projects. While the climbing’s predominantly trad, you’ll find the occasional bolted line, as well. For a variety of brilliant moderate to hard climbs from one to five pitches, make your way out to the Poke-O-Moonshine Face.
Red River Gorge, Kentucky
Sport climbing heaven
Come for the overhung jug hauling, stay for the pizza. The Red is arguably the most popular climbing locale in the Southeast, due to its strong community, natural beauty and abundance of steep sport lines. Bolts abound on this Kentucky sandstone, and you’ll find ample routes of all imaginable difficulties. The Red’s also home to the famed Miguel’s Pizza, perhaps the only camping joint in the country that doubles as a pizza parlor. And don’t forget to soothe the pump with a nice, cold Ale-8-One. Huck your way up A Brief History of Climb (5.10b) to get a sample of the style.
The New River Gorge, West Virginia
Limitless technical climbing on perfect, southern sandstone
The New River Gorge holds more than 60 miles of cliff and more than 3,000 routes. The diversity of style here is boundless, but the area’s known for a few distinct traits: long reaches, fancy footwork and healthily spaced bolts. Although the area doesn’t have many options for beginner climbers, it’s a perfect locale to hone your technique. To get a taste of what the climbing’s all about, fire your way up Legacy on the Snake Buttress.
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Arkansas
A climbing hub for anyone who loves ranch dogs, goats and bullet-hard stone
If you think your climbing party could use a few more goats, horses and ranch dogs to hang out with, make the journey over to HCR. The ranch hosts spectacular scenery, stellar sport climbing, tenuous trad and bullet-hard boulders—as well as a welcoming community of climbers. Finesse your way to the top of Crimp Scampi to get used to the style. Nearby, you’ll find more world-class sandstone climbing at places like Sam’s Throne, Fountain Red, Cave Creek and Candy Mountain. Don’t forget to gorge yourself on an Excaliburger from the Ozark Café before you leave.
Shelf Road, Colorado
Beautiful limestone crimping in the high, Colorado desert
In the high desert just outside Cañon City, Colorado, hundreds of high-quality limestone routes sit waiting for temperatures to cool enough for climbers to start pulling down. Nearly all the climbing’s bolted, but ample routes exist for anyone climbing 5.8 and up. Cut your teeth on the endless, sunny routes on Cactus Cliff. Just watch out for the cholla.
Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Fall friction just a half hour from Salt Lake City
LCC boasts hundreds of high-quality, quartz monzonite routes of all varieties. Here you’ll find everything from classic, single-pitch romps like The Coffin to 12-pitch adventures like Stiffler’s Mom. Most climbs are traditional in style, but the coarse rock makes for excellent friction.
Devils Tower, Wyoming
Iconic crack climbing in the plains of Wyoming
First climbed in 1893 by some local ranchers with a handmade ladder, Devils Tower is a crack climber’s paradise. Start your trip on the Durrance Route, the area’s easiest summit route, and one of the “50 Classic Climbs of North America.” Continue your adventure on any number of the hundreds of crack climbs that line the perimeter of the Tower. “People always think summer’s the best time to climb,” superintendent of Devils Tower National Monument Tim Reid says. “But I think there’s no time to climb Devils Tower like the fall.”
Smith Rock, Oregon
Thousands of routes just a couple hours from Portland
The birthplace of sport climbing in the U.S., Smith hosts enough climbing to keep you busy for years. Marvel at the first 5.14 in North America, drink some whiskey with the other dirtbags at the Bivy and be sure to venture beyond the main crags to the interesting basalt climbing in the upper and lower gorges. Bolts here are a little spacy, and the first one is often high—so bring a stick clip. Crimp on up Moons of Pluto to get a sense of what the climbing’s all about.
World-class bouldering and adventurous cragging over Icicle Creek
Just outside the quirky Bavarian town of Leavenworth sits world-class bouldering and spectacular moderate climbing on beautiful granite. Most of the climbs here are traditional in nature, and most are single pitch. However, if you look hard enough you’ll find ample multipitch adventures, like Orbit and Outer Space. For those who want to ditch the rope, the area’s also home to some of the best bouldering in the states at the Forestlands in Icicle Creek.
Hip-splitting stemming in the Washington desert
With Dr. Seuss-like columns of basalt, Vantage offers sport and trad lines for nearly any level of climber. While you can find all styles of climbing here, it’s the stemming that makes the place unique. Check out the abundance of classic, moderate lines on the King Pins. Make sure to do your yoga and stretch those hips before heading this way.
Indian Creek, Utah
Laser-cut lines that haunt the dreams of crack climbers the world over
How do you know it’s fall in Utah? All the license plates turn green. While verdant license plates flow over the border from Colorado, climbers from all over the country flock to the desert in search of perfect sandstone cracks as soon as fall comes around. Indian Creek is a crack-climbing mecca, and hosts four-star lines from 5.9 and up. Make sure to bring some tape, borrow every last cam you can convince your friends to give you, and hit the road. Cut your teeth on the abundant moderate lines in Donnelly Canyon. To get a taste of some more desert cracks, head up to Long Canyon, and for some of the best towers the desert has to offer, venture towards Castle Valley.
Joe’s Valley, Utah
Picturesque bouldering a short walk from the car
While the trad-heads will get their fix down at the Creek, the muscle-bound boulderers can find everything their hearts desire over at Joe’s. One of the best bouldering areas in the country, beautiful, striped boulders dot the landscape and host hundreds of engaging and powerful problems. Best of all, you’ll only have to haul your pad a few minutes from the car to get a good pump. Power your way up Bowling Ball for a piece of what the area has to offer.
Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona
Adventurous trad climbing just outside Flagstaff
Thrash your fingers and hands in hard cracks at Pumphouse Wash, or perfect your technique on the beautiful columnar basalt at The Waterfall. Bring all the gear you can muster and a solid lead head. The area hosts tons of offshoots and side canyons, so those with a thirst for exploration can get a taste of adventure here, as well.
The Road Goes on Forever
Fall isn’t the only time you can make the best of the weather. If you know where to go, you can find sending temps any month of the year. But make sure to do your research first. Before you pack your gear, use this map to find the crags that are in season whenever you hit the road.
(Move tab below to highlight sendiest crags in a given month.)