Beginner's Guide: Best Outdoor Spots to Rock Climb in SF Bay Area
Outdoor climbing may be riskier than indoor climbing, but it's a must-do for any person who craves adventure. Breathtaking scenery, coupled with the rush of adrenaline from reaching new heights, undoubtedly makes the risk a reward.
If you're completely new to rock climbing, I recommend learning about the sport's terminology, equipment, and techniques before proceeding. Also, keep in mind that there are various types of rock climbing:
Remember to take a few professional classes before you tackle any of these spots! Now that you're well versed in rock climbing styles, read on for the best outdoor spots to rock climb (as a beginner) in the Bay Area.
1. Indian Rock Park (Berkeley)
Indian Rock Park boasts a ton of great bouldering spots, all concentrated in one park. The pinnacles of the mountains showcase the San Francisco city line, a view of the Golden Gate Bridge immersed in fog, and even a distant glimpse of Mt. Tamalpais. Indian Rock Park has bouldering spots for all skill levels. Even kids and families can enjoy sunny days lounging on the rocks.
Best Spots in the Park: Pegboard (V1), The Ramp (V4), Pitfall (V4), The Bubble (V5)
2. Castle Rock (Santa Cruz Mountains)
Castle Rock is consistently listed among rock climber's must-visit places. Castle Rock, nestled in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, also provides a host of level V0 to V7 (and more!) bouldering problems. Climbs range from 10 to 120 feet high. This is a fantastic place to sport or trad climb, as well.
Best Spots: Mr. Magoo (V1), The Beak (V2), Bates Arete (V4), Lost Keys Traverse (V6), Nature Nazi Arete (V7), Puckered Starfish (Sport), The Falls (Sport), Donkey Dong (Sport)
The "Mr. Magoo" Boulder
3. Pinnacles National Park (Salinas Valley)
Pinnacles, unlike the other parks, is unique in that it the majority of its rocks are made of a softer volcanic breccia, as opposed to granite or sandstone. The majority of routes here are catered towards sport-climbing, with pre-placed chains, bolts, and anchors. Pinnacles is a perfect destination for applying indoor rock climbing techniques to the outdoors. If you visit, be sure to sight see wildlife in the area. Some routes even close during the first six months of the year to protect nesting peregrine falcons and eagles.
Best Spots: West Side for taller rock formations, East Side for higher rock quality
4. Garden of Eden (Santa Cruz Mountains)
Garden of Eden, as its name suggests, appeals the most to nature lovers. It's one of the most pristine spots for bouldering and climbing novices, with tons of V0 trails. At the end of the climb, Garden of Eden offers a divine watering hole for those trying to escape the California heat.
5. Twin Peaks (San Francisco)
Though not in the midst of the woods, Twin Peaks visitation area has a fantastic retaining wall that seems like it was built purely for climbing. Though only 15 feet tall (but 240 feet long!), the climb feels much higher because the wall is already situated on a tall mountain peak. Twin Peaks offers a panoramic view of the San Francisco skyline that attracts photographers, tourists, and locals alike.
Scaling the Twin Peaks Retaining Wall | Source: [x]
6. Cragmont Park (Berkeley)
Another great spot for beginners, Cragmont Park is located just a little ways from Indian Rock. At 40 feet tall, the rock has both fun bouldering spots towards the bottom, and pre-placed anchors for sport climbing at the top. Cragmont Park is unique in that there's such a variety of topography to satisfy all skill levels. It's as if the rocks sprouted up specifically for rock climbing! This park also has a rather interesting history: in the 1930s, this was the choice spot for Sierra Club Rock Climbing members. You can still find some of the things they left behind in the more secluded trails!
7. Mt. Tamalpais (Marin)
Mt. Tamalpais, or Mt. Tam as its known by the locals, has four main rocks to climb, ranging from 25 to 40 feet. Because of the sheer height of the mountain, most areas are suited for traditional climbing. However, the jagged volcanic serpentine rock introduces unique bouldering problems and makes even a short climb seem much more challenging and interesting.
Best Spots: Bootjack Boulders (V4), Rock Spring Boulders
Where do you want to try rock climbing? Comment below!