April 8 2016
Chattanooga’s Five Best Places to Rock Climb
Chattanooga is to rock climbing what Vail is to a skiing. The amount of sandstone in this region is not only vast but of stellar quality, attracting climbers from around the world. It would take years to explore all the climbing the area has to offer, but you can start with these five destinations surrounding the city.
1. Stone Fort
Only a short drive from downtown Chattanooga, you'll find one of the best boulder fields in the entire country. Stone Fort (also known as Little Rock City) has placed Chattanooga in the national bouldering limelight because of its killer sandstone and outstanding lines.
Access is a breeze to this highly concentrated boulder field located on Mowbray Mountain. Just a few steps off the Montlake Golf Course sits a plethora of great warm ups in the Front Area. Though this area has great rock everywhere you turn, do not get too caught up here. Instead, venture back to try out some of the not to miss classics like Super Mario (V4), The Sternum (V5), and Tennessee Thong (V7) along with many, many more. The fantastic rock at Stone Fort is sure to have you coming back again and again.
2. Sunset Rock
If any crag can be considered the “crown jewel” of southern sandstone climbing, it would be Sunset Park. Located on the west brow of Lookout Mountain in the Chickamauga National Battlefield Park, Sunset is considered the cradle of the Chattanooga climbing scene. It was where most of the leading sandstone route activists first cut their teeth and pushed the standards of difficulty. One visit to this area and you'll know why: it has exquisite rock, a friendly approach, and tons of high quality routes.
Sunset Rock is a long, linear cliff line that runs along the bluff on the north side of Lookout Mountain. It is shady for most part of the day, making it a bit chilly in winter, but fairly comfortable in summer. From the parking area, a quick five-minute walk leads to the base of the main overlook, Sunset Rock proper. On the approach, you will pass a number of routes—some of which are closed to climbing—until you reach the base of Sunset Rock. This buttress offers traditional routes in all difficulties that can be easily top-roped or led.
Head south into Georgia and toward Pigeon Mountain to find Rocktown, which boasts more than 500 established problems. About 45 minutes from downtown Chattanooga, Rocktown requires a fair amount of hiking, but it will be worth it. Look for classics at the very recognizable Orb Area and later tick off high-star problems like Soap on a Rope (V4) and Golden Harvest (V10) along with many others.
Rocktown is mainly a fall and winter destination when temperatures are crisp and the friction optimal. There is plenty of parking, a little creek to freshen up in by the parking lot, and designated camping as well.
4. Foster Falls
Part of South Cumberland State Park, Foster Falls is about 45 minutes west of Chattanooga, and it features some of the most popular year-round sport climbing in the Southeast. The cliff line is made up of vertical to overhanging sandstone that overlook Little Gizzard Creek. The crag offers 179 routes at a wide variety of grades and heights, great for all levels of climbers.
The hike to the cliff line is easy, and you get a good view of the 80-foot tall Foster Falls both from above and below during the approach, which also provides an excellent opportunity for cooling off after climbing during the hot summer months.
5. Tennessee Wall
Just a short drive heading northwest out of Chattanooga—right along the Tennessee River—sits a fiery orange and magnificent sandstone cliff line called the Tennessee Wall. Known locally as T-Wall by climbers, it’s about two miles long and famous for its diverse features including cracks, arêtes, dihedrals, and overhanging walls and roofs.
T-Wall is mostly known for its traditional style of climbing with a few sport routes mixed in. You’ll find more than 600 documented routes, enough to keep you coming back again and again and again.
Photo credit-top to bottom: Jake Wheeler, Whitney Boland, Jake Wheeler, Jake Wheeler, Whitney Boland, Chris Watford