Thanks to its mountains and natural rock formations, North Carolina is an ideal place for rock climbing. Whether you’re after multi-pitch ascents of awe-inspiring cliffs, or easy-access bouldering (climbing close to the ground, without ropes or harnesses), there’s something challenging and beautiful for you.
Marion You’ll be surrounded by unspoiled beauty at the third-largest wilderness area in North Carolina and one of only two wilderness gorges in the Southern US. Linville Gorge has climbing options for all skill levels, but be sure to climb Table Rock or the Amphitheater. After climbing, cool off at Linville Falls, a waterfall fed by the Linville River.
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Brevard Named for the way its signature granite dome face reflects the sunshine, Looking Glass Rock rises from the valley floor to an elevation of almost 4,000ft. Offering East Coast climbers a rare taste of granite wall climbing, Looking Glass Rock is known for its slab routes and unique “eyebrow” feature (small, horizontal grooves with sloping, downward-facing edges). Get to the top and you’ll marvel at nature’s majesties.
Roaring Gap Stone Mountain features an insane 600ft granite dome, rising from the North Carolina foothills. After reaching the top of the dome, climbers can look down on Hutchinson Homestead, a restored mid-19th century mountain farm. Be sure to get your papers in order -- rock climbing here is allowed by permit only.
Kings Mountain There are two main climbing areas at Crowders Mountain: the “Main Wall,” and the “Hidden Wall.” The views at both locations make you forget that Charlotte is only 30 minutes away. All climbers must register with the park staff and must possess a valid rock climbing/rappelling permit.
Cashiers This one is recommended for the experienced climber. Laurel Knob is known as the tallest crag east of the Mississippi, soaring to a height of 1,200ft. Climbing here was technically illegal until the Carolina Climbers Coalition purchased climbing rights in 2006 -- and we’re thankful they did. The height and difficult-to-reach location make for a truly unique experience.
Cashiers Only the seriously adventurous need attempt to climb the bad ass cliff at Whiteside Mountain. Mark your calendars, because Whiteside is subject to a seasonal peregrine falcon closure from January to August each year.
Linville Ship Rock towers 4,000ft above the piedmont on Grandfather Mountain's Rough Ridge. A popular and easily accessible crag, Ship Rock can be crowded depending on the time of year. Make a day of climbing by checking out nearby Boone, or by enjoying the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Danbury Moore's Wall is the home of some of the earliest climbing in North Carolina, with the first recorded ascent occurring in 1959. Part of Hanging Rock State Park, Moore's Wall requires a permit to climb, and you can stretch your dollar by enjoying the 20 miles of hiking trails... if you can still function after your climb, that is.
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Erin Maddrey loves the great outdoors and luckily does not have a fear of heights. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Erin Maddrey.