10 Rock Climbing Gyms to Conquer Nationwide
Some indoor rock-climbing gyms cater to children celebrating birthday parties or company team-building retreats. Gyms for serious climbers can be much more exciting. Even the ones with the toughest routes have beginner-friendly areas and rent out harnesses, shoes, chalk, and belay devices. (First-time visitors should expect to sign a waiver.)
Climbing gyms typically have top-rope climbing and bouldering areas, as well as private rooms for instructor-led classes. Visitors are also likely to find a fitness room, locker rooms, showers, and a steam room or sauna. The 10 climbing gyms on this list go beyond the usual amenities, offering features such as 24-hour access or 25-foot bouldering routes that overhang foam pits and attract top climbers. Many are reasonably priced for visitors looking for something memorable, healthful, and challenging to do: $15 to $30 for a day pass with rentals.
While not as big as other climbing gyms in terms of floor space, Earth Treks' Rockville location is one of the country's largest based on climbing space: 38,500 square feet. There are more than 200 top-rope climbs available, as well as a "topout" bouldering area where climbers can rest at the top. Earth Treks offers members free ice-climbing tutorials each winter.
Expanded in 2012, Hoosier Heights has four bouldering areas, 40 top-rope lines, a fitness area, and a gear shop. One of the coolest features, though, is the 25-foot "Snake" -- a bouldering problem that arches back into an overhang. A foam pit beneath the route keeps climbers safe.
Upper Limits near downtown Bloomington has a few features that make it stand out. A 1,700-square-foot outdoor bouldering area and a 110-foot outdoor top-rope and lead-climbing route are both lit at night. There are also five 65-foot silos, each with eight or nine routes on the inside. Climbers can even take an elevator to the roof of the 120-foot building and rappel down the side.
As one of the country's largest climbing gyms, Stone Summit's Atlanta location is on many climbers' list to visit. But Stone Summit's Kennesaw location, which recently opened in time to host a youth national championship, is bigger than its predecessor, at more than 31,000 square feet. It has 35- and 60-foot top-rope and lead-climbing walls as well as 5,000 square feet of bouldering space.
Carabiner's has some of the tallest indoor climbing walls in the country -- up to 65 feet. Some climbers do not like the mandatory use of Grigri braking devices, although the gym provides them, and say it can be hard to distinguish some routes' holds, but they can't resist the challenge of the extra height.
Vertical Endeavors' Glendale Heights location is one of the largest climbing gyms in the country, with more than 45,000 feet of climbing space. That includes three bouldering areas and a tower specifically for crack climbing (inching along a crack in a cliff), in addition to top-rope climbing, auto belays, and lead climbs.
The developers hit a snag in the construction of this gym when they could not build up; to solve the problem, they carved out the concrete and put the floor 20 feet below ground level. That allows for 40-foot walls inside the building, as well as two 15-meter speed walls and 55-foot top-rope, lead, and auto-belay walls outside.
Part of Touchstone's network of climbing gyms, this is one of the largest harness-free bouldering gyms in the country. It has more than 14,000 square feet of climbing wall, including walls up to 17 feet, for more than 300 climbing problems -- including a Great Arch (providing a test of craggy, unpredictable terrain) and a Wave Wall (in an wavelike arc) over foam floors to catch climber falls.
Owned and designed by climber Chris Sharma, Sender One has 50-foot top ropes, a speed-climbing wall, and 18-foot bouldering problems, some of which top out. Grigris are required and come attached to each top rop. Within Sender One is Funtopia, a child-focused area with towers, fences, and building facades to climb.
The Denver Bouldering Club has two gyms with a combined 10,000-plus square feet of climbing space and more than 400 problems. The locations are open 24/7, including workout areas, showers, and free Wi-Fi.