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JUL 14, 2020



California is known for its world-famous climbing, walls where big-name climbers got their start, and national parks where you’ll still find as many climbers as there were back in the '60s. But what if you’re just looking to check out the climbing scene or get in a few routes after work? Lucky for you, SF has plenty of indoor climbing gyms, and we’ve got you covered with this list of the best.

If you wanna upgrade your East Bay climbing experience, this gym is a beaut. Seriously. The bathrooms look like a spa, the gym is bigger than its Oakland neighbor, and it has all the weights, classes, and climb-space a gym-goer could ask for. It’s set in a remodeled warehouse, allowing for taller routes and a cool time-capsule experience. Wanna take your date for a climb? Berkeley Ironworks is the place to make your move.

In SF proper, there are quite a few excellent fitness studio choices, but Mission Cliffs is undoubtedly one of the best spots to get your climb on. With well-set and interesting routes on the bigger walls and some bouldering (low-wall) space, this place is perfect for the first-timer or vetted climber. Talk to a staff member about getting your belay card (so you can get on those big walls) or just drop in for a yoga class. Either way, this gym has it all.

Another great choice for someone living in the city, PG resides in the Fort Mason area (think epic views of Crissy Field), and is a better option for anyone working or living near Pac Heights. With two stories of climbs to choose from, this gym also has a bigger (and some say better) bouldering selection than your typical climbing gym. So if you want to start on the small walls with the option to go higher, give this place a try.

Alas, PG has a sister location in the South Bay. For those living on the Peninsula, this may be your rock gym go-to. With awesome top-roping and lead climbing routes (think clipping in your own rope as you climb), as well as bouldering and standard gym equipment, this place is small, but mighty. While it might not be the fanciest gym, PG offers fitness classes and climbing space without bells and whistles — but the central peninsula location makes it an easy choice for climbers who commute.

If the city isn’t where you spend your nights and weekends, no worries — you can still get your climb on. In an old warehouse (complete with smokestack) in Uptown Oakland, there is an intimate gym perfect for your regular climbing circuits. Although it’s noticeably smaller in size, and certainly not as fancy as some of its neighboring gyms, this place still maintains a variety of challenging routes for climbers of all levels.

If you’re willing to travel a bit (or live by Walnut Creek), DRG is another great spot for a climb. (It’s also managed by world-famous climber Hans Florine!) Having held the record for speed climbing the Nose on El Cap (translation: he climbed the infamous route in Yosemite really, really fast), he now oversees this 11,000-square-foot space of rock climbing bliss. With top-roping and bouldering routes galore, this Touchstone gym also offers a variety of classes including Aikido, CrossFit, and boxing. So whatever your fitness passion, this is the place to break a sweat in Concord.

If you wanna get your boulder on in the East Bay, this El Cerrito climb gym is worth a visit. Just north of Berkeley, the gym is a bit more low-key than some of its neighbors. With only a handful of top-roping routes (rated strictly for beginners), this is a great place to take kiddos for a birthday party, practice your slacklining (tightrope walking for climbers), or get up a few bouldering routes. But if you’re interested in excelling your climbing game, we recommend a day pass and membership elsewhere.

In the same family of gyms as Mission Cliffs, members of Touchstone can enjoy both of these facilities. Although it’s strictly a bouldering gym, this place is huge and offers a great variety of low-wall climbs (did someone say perfect team-building event?). Challenging routes and wide-open spaces make this a favorite in the climbing community. And while the gym has fewer cardio machines than its sister location in the Mission, it is currently expanding and offers a growing curriculum of fitness classes.

Author’s Note: Still can’t decide? Here’s a Fitt Tip: choose your membership based on location. Touchstone is by far the largest gym family in the area (and in California for that matter), with five gyms off this list included in one monthly fee. But if you plan to spend your time in Pac Heights or South Bay, Planet Granite’s three-gym membership deal may be the better choice.


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