Let’s be honest: You can’t call yourself a climber until you’ve scrambled up a slab. Ditch the colorful sport rock for the day; get outdoors to climb some real rocks in the Bay!
While SF-proper may not have as many crags as you’d like, branching out to surrounding counties is sure to satisfy your climbing itch (and we know the best routes around town). So call up your friend who has the rope and take your beta (aka your climbing game) outside.
Beaver Street Wall
Beaver Street Wall is one of the few rock climbing places in the city. Settled in the hills (like the rest of San Francisco) of Corona Heights, this glassy slab offers great views of the city to all who successfully flash its routes. Best of all—you can actually top-rope here with minimal set-up. With bolted anchors on top, the wall requires basic outdoor climbing knowledge, allowing climbers to set up a rope and get after it.
Interested in doing some untethered (read: badass) climbing? Boulder San Francisco’s Glen Canyon. With six climbing areas to choose from, this park offers a great place to…hang. Work out some bouldering problems, trust your crash pad, and wander the natural wonder of the city’s only urban canyon.
Castle Rock State Park
They call it the “Fontainebleau of California” because it’s enormous—and beautiful. About an hour south of the city, climbers can spend a day (or a few, since you can camp here) climbing in the hillsides of Los Gatos. Arrive early, parking fills up quickly — and a street parking ticket is $70. Once you’re set up, you’ll find that Castle Rock has a huge selection of climbs. But Goat Rock is a great place to start (prep for a short hike in). Fitt tip: Bring a full trad rack. Purists ripped out some of the bolted routes.
If you want to climb in California, then of course you’ll be curious about the place where it all began. And even if you’re not quite ready for the big walls (because they are big), Yosemite is still a must-see for anyone interested in climb culture. Stop by the Mountaineering School in the Valley, or call ahead and book a guide to get you started on your first outdoor multi-pitch. And be sure to stop by Camp 4 to meet some local climbers and see the boulders where the world’s best have spent their “down days.”
For some challenging outdoor sport routes, head north of the city to Mickey’s Beach, rising just south of Stinson Beach. Honestly, this spot offers tough sea cliff climbs, but with a few 5.9’s for the beginners, anyone can enjoy it here. Be sure to pack a beach blanket as well as your climbing gear and hang out (or boulder) on Stinson Beach after hitting the crag.
Mount Tam (also in Marin County) is a great place to learn trad climbing (trad…as in traditional climbing aka placing your own gear). Hosting plenty of short climbs to practice gear placement and mock lead, this area is as beautiful as it is accessible. If learning trad doesn’t interest you, then still be sure to check out the bouldering routes and awesome city views.
For a serious lesson in bouldering history, head to Indian Rock. A favorite of the greats, this bouldering post is a busy hangout for local climbers. Filled with vertical and traverse routes, it’s a great place to get in some climbs or relax on your crash pad with local climbers. Big news: Dogs are welcome, so bring along your pooch.
Pinnacles National Park
Another monument of Yosemite’s famous climbing crew, South Bay’s Pinnacles National Park is adventureland for the seasoned climber. Anyone who’s been will be fast to tell you that it ain’t granite (see: climbers’ favorite rock), but the park still offers a variety of bolted and trad routes. The weather stays pretty nice even during the rainy winter months—making it a favorite for Bay Area climbers in December-March.
This East Bay crag has a variety of climbs, but is best to visit in the cooler months. As any local knows, the East Bay gets hot in the summer (a place called “Diablo” can’t be any cooler). Though, a springtime visit will have you singing in the mountains like Julie Andrews among wildflowers. Climbers can top-rope, trad, or sport-climb, but bringing extra long slings is recommended in order to safely build top-rope anchors.
Consumnes River Gorge
If you’re willing to drive a bit farther from San Fran (2.5 hours), you’ll arrive at an epic spot for crack climbing. These cliffs, in the quaint town of Placerville, aren’t as likely to have many Bay Area climbers as they are to have locals scaling cliffs in sneakers. Who wouldn’t want to climb though? Filled with an assortment of climbing routes, this spot also hosts a famous multi-pitch climb. Spoiler: Consumnes River Gorge is a river gorge, making for pretty awesome scenery.
Lover’s Leap is Lake Tahoe’s famous crag. It’s packed with challenging (5.10+) multipitch granite routes and is a hugely popular outdoor spot (like Tahoe, in general). Despite how crowded it may seem, the area is densely-packed with climbs — booking a stay is smart. You may want to save this one for your more experienced climbing group, though — the majority (if not entirety) of climbs here are trad.