Best Places to Rock Climb in Austin area
One of the great things about Austin’s central Texas location is that there is easy access to a number of excellent rock climbing destinations.
Any lover of outdoor activities is going to eventually get the urge to try rock climbing. The good news is that, as a resident of Austin, you have plenty of options at your disposal. From the Barton Creek Greenbelt, located just minutes from downtown, to places in the outskirts that will require the better part of a day, there’s something to fit your needs. There are even indoor rock gyms you can try out if you’re not ready to face the great outdoors.
I wrote this round up of places to go rock climbing in the Austin area. If you’ve been considering giving it a try, I highly encourage you to get out there. With views at places such as Enchanted Rock, you’re going to love it.
Where to Climb
This is Texas so the urban climber might not expect to find any climbing outside of the gym. But don’t be fooled. Austin has some crags where you can really pull down. The in-town crags are mostly close to downtown, offering a quick getaway from that droll business meeting. The out-of-town crags include Enchanted Rock, one of the best areas in the Lone Star State, as well as the famed Reimer’s Ranch limestone cliff.
Austin offers lots of cliffs for climbing within city limits so the only limits you’ll encounter are your own pumped forearms. There aren’t a lot of cities, especially in Texas, where you can go bouldering on your lunch break and then rope up for a few quick climbs after work.
The Austin climbing scene at both the Greenbelt and the Austin Rock Gym is laid-back and friendly. It’s a small enough climbing community that locals don’t mind pointing out the routes or even offering you a quick top rope lap before they pull their rope.
The Austin urban climber finds–surprise–year-round climbing in central Texas, but all factors considered it’s best to avoid Austin in summer. It’s hot and humid with high temperatures often soaring into the 100s. The cliffs are usually slick and greasy in high summer. Trees, however, shade Austin’s crags all day so you’re always out of the sun, even on cloudless days. Bring lots of chalk and expect to sweat. Enchanted Rocks is hot with little shade.
Fall and spring are perfect with generally pleasant day temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Thunderstorms and occasional bits of rain move through every few days but the sky is usually clear and sunny. Winter is also good with only a few freezing days. You’ll be bouldering in shorts and a t-shirt on most days. Rain occurs regularly in winter so be prepared with a waterproof coat.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Barton Creek Greenbelt, with miles of cliffs along Barton Creek and almost 200 routes, is a good limestone climbing area in a city park only five minutes north of downtown Austin. The cliffs, up to 90 feet high, offer steep pumpy sport routes. Expect climbing chunky limestone with long reaches and lots of power moves. Bring mosquito repellent.
Check out New Wall and Great Wall at the end of Barton Skyway for some of the best climbing. New Wall is mostly vertical with routes from 5.9 to 5.12. Great Wall offers overhanging stone with power routes from 5.11 to 5.13. It’s accessed from Spyglass Trail at the end of Barton Skyway.
Other greenbelt cliffs are Gus Fruh with shady moderates; Urban Assault, a steep face with many manufactured pockets; and popular Seismic, with routes from 5.6 to 5.11.
Austin Rock Gym
4401 Freidrich Ln. Suite 300; (512) 441-2423;
8300 N. Lamar Blvd. Suite 102B; (512) 416-9299
It may not be as scenic as some of the other climbing spots – after all, these two rock gyms are located indoors – but it’s a great place to learn if you want to learn about rock climbing but too intimidated to get out there and give it a try. Here, you can take an introductory course ($25 for non-members, free for members) and then take a variety of other classes, course and clinics until you feel ready to hit the rocks yourself.
Want an instructor to go with you the first time you get outdoors on the actual rocks? Austin Rock Gym can hook that up, too. Specials, such as two for $20 day passes and two-week climbing passes fro $45, are also regularly offered online.
Bull Creek Park
6701 Lakewood Dr, Austin, TX 78731; (512) 974-6700
Bull Creek Park has a good short limestone crag with about 25 hard pocket routes. It’s a training area since drilled holds pock most of the routes. Expect hard bouldery climbing (over 80% are 5.12 or harder) with some reachy, height-dependent moves. You’ll also find lots of boulder problems with gravel landings. The cliff stretches along a scenic hiking trail and a creek. It’s shady and climbable in summer. Bring mosquito repellent in summer. Bull Creek Park is 10 minutes north of downtown off TX 222, west of Mopac Loop.
Milton Reimers Ranch Park
23610 Hamilton Pool Rd. in Dripping Springs; (512) 264-1923; www.co.travis.tx.us.
Reimer’s Ranch is an excellent weekend getaway for families, hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, rock climbers, and anyone looking to get away from the city. If you are new to the park, a park ranger can give you a map at the park’s entrance.
This park is filled with leafy trees, peaking rocks and wildlife that could be featured National Geographic. But don’t be deceived by it’s natural, calm setting along the Pedernales River. The climbing routes here are steep and difficult, with many that should be left for serious climbers only. Guided lessons are available through local rock gyms. Day-use admission is less than $10.
Pace Bend Park
2805 Pace Bend Rd N, Spicewood, TX 78669; (512) 264-1482
Pace Bend Park, on Austin’s south side, offers good bouldering and routes on a limestone cliff above cool water. You’ll find swimming to cool off between redpoint burns on warm days. Climb at both Thurman and Maugham coves.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
16710 Ranch Rd. 965 in Fredericksburg; (830) 685-3636; www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area draws visitors from across Texas to its giant granite dome for many reasons. The climb to the top of the dome is strenuous yet doable; the view from the top of the dome is incredible; and it’s an easy stopping point for folks on their way to Fredericksburg or San Antonio. But there’s another great reason to visit Enchanted Rock and that’s the rock climbing it offers.
Enchanted Rock, also dubbed E-Rock, is a delightful climbing area 95 miles west of Austin and north of Fredericksburg. This beautiful 1,643-acre natural area, with pink granite domes looming above grasslands and oak forests, is the original Texas climbing area.
Good weather, easy access, great camping, and excellent rock and routes make it one of the state’s best climbing venues. Look for both trad and sport routes on smooth slabs and steep cracks. Over 250 routes from 5.0 to 5.12+ are found. Weekends are busy but expect a friendly welcome from local climbers.
The best walls for climbing are Triple Cracks with lots of gear routes from 5.5 to 5.12; The Backside with the best slab climbing in Texas; the South Side of Fresh Mountain with both gear and sport climbs; Buzzard’s Roost West Side with excellent crack climbing; and Buzzard’s Roost Southeast Side with both sport and trad routes. The park also offers lots of bouldering.
Routes are available for all skill levers, and the scenery is fabulous. Day-use admission is $6 a day per person 13 and up.
Lake Belton, Texas
Roger’s Park, off I-35 north of Austin, is a bouldering garden. The area, one of Texas’ best bouldering sites, offers problems from V0 to V9. The park is near Belton, off I-35 at Exit 239A. Park at the boat dock at Roger’s Park, then hike a mile to the boulders scattered among trees.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park
100 Park Road 71 in Mineral Wells; (940) 328-1171; www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
This park, which is located along a tributary of the Brazos River, ones served a home to Comanche Indians, among others. These days, you’re likely to see eager athletic types such as mountain bikers, campers and rock climbers. All climbers much check in upon entering the park. Day-use admission is $5 a day, per person 13 and up.
5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744; (512) 243-1643
You’ll find a short, steep limestone cliff at McKinney Falls Park with lots of powerful, hard boulder problems. Most problems are harder than V3. Bouldering is allowed only on the single wall. Climbing elsewhere in the park could lead to an out-right ban on all climbing. Check with the park for possible closures. McKinney Falls Park, a fee area, is on McKinney Falls Parkway.
Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site
6900 Hueco Tanks Road No. 1; (915) 857-1135; www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
OK, this one is going to require a weekend trip from Austin – it’s located about 30 minutes from El Paso — but as it’s considered one of the best places for rock climbing in the country, I figured it would be worth a mention. The park covers 860 acres and was named for the huecos, or natural rock basins, that at one time captured rain water for the earliest settlers. What’s really cool is that when you visit, you can also schedule a guided tour to see historic rock paintings that have been there for centuries. Visitation here is limited, so you’ll want to call ahead for reservation requirements and entry restrictions. Day-use admission is $5 a day, per person 13 and up.