Few athletic endeavors exemplify the essence of self-sufficiency. Your body, a cliff face, and (usually) a piece of rope—it doesn't get much simpler or more exhilarating than that. Of course, before you go scaling Yosemite's Half Dome or the glaciers in the northern reaches of our nation, you might want to practice your rock climbing skills in a somewhat smaller setting.
Here are five great places around the country where you can do just that.
Acadia National Park
From bouldering by the beach to beginner courses on more serious mountain faces Acadia National Park in Maine is great for beginners who don't want to sacrafice scenery while getting a safe start in their new sport of rock climbing. Summer and Fall are definitely your recommended seasons—snow and rain can be heavy for much of the year, and that leads to slippery surfaces that are less safe for inexperienced climbers.
Jack's Canyon, Coconino National Forest
Nature and Nurture have combined forces to make the rock climbing routes at Jack's Canyon some of the most accessible and exciting in the country. The elements have worn plenty of irregularities into the limestone and sandstone walls of the canyon, and decades of climbers have carved additional hand and foot hold into the soft rock as well, making this what some call the world's greatest outdoor rock climbing gym.
Grand Teton National Park
Climbing opportunities at the Grand Tetons range from quick half-day courses to multi-day camping and climbing adventures (camping permits required). Beginners will want to stick to the lower sections of the slopes, away from the snow and ice, but there's no reason you can't enjoy some real mountain climbing on some real mountains even if it's your first rock climbing outing. You can even take advantage of some guided/instructional courses if you're so inclined.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
If you're on the shy side, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park give you plenty of chances to build hone your climbing skills while keeping you away from the crowds. World-class routes that many believe rival Yosemite in their beauty and quality none the less remain virtually unknown, giving expert climbers and beginners alike a place to practice, play, and partake in everything rock climbing had to offer. Though some routes are close to the parking lot, many are a day's hike away, so this site is recommended for backpacking enthusiasts on the hunt for something new.
Red River Gorge
Climbing at Red River Gorge has been going on longer than rock climbing has been considered a sport in and of itself. Features like Chimney Top Rock and the many miles of red sandstone cliffs were too enticing for proto-climbers and early pioneers of the sport, demanding to be climbed simply because they are there. Today, there are many well-marked routes and still plenty of room to explore off the beaten path, go gear up and get out there!