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The Ultimate Guide to Bouldering in California
Health & Fitness

The Ultimate Guide to Bouldering in California

Pack your climbing shoes, gather your thrill-seeking friends, and pick your rock—it’s time to go rock climbing in California.

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5 min read

March 22, 2021

When it comes to bouldering and rock climbing, California is a gold mine. Though the state is known for its sandy coastlines, the geological formations are just as outstanding. The different varieties of rocks, cliffs, and crags make bouldering in California an exhilarating outdoor activity. 

Pack your climbing shoes, gather your thrill-seeking friends, and pick your rock—it’s time to go rock climbing in California.

13 Destinations with the Best Bouldering in California

If you're looking for granite bouldering areas, Yosemite National Park is your best bet.

Yosemite National Park bouldering

Yosemite is one of the best-known bouldering spots in California. It’s no surprise that there are hundreds of rocks and climbing routes to explore. If you’re a beginner, try tackling Turtleback Dome or the Presidential Boulder. Looking for a bigger challenge? Try climbing Half Dome.

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You can easily make a weekend out of visiting Yosemite National Park. Besides the best bouldering in California, the park also offers plenty of other bucket list-worthy experiences.

Boasting over 8,000 climbing routes and 2,000 boulder problems, Joshua Tree National Park is an adrenaline junkie's heaven.

Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

Another one of California’s top rock climbing spots is none other than Joshua Tree National Park. With thousands of routes at your disposal, Joshua Tree has established itself as the spot to go bouldering in California. Short routes for beginners, advanced problems for experienced climbers—you can’t go wrong with bouldering in Joshua Tree. 

For climbers looking to hone their skills, the Hidden Valley campground is one of the best in California. It's located within walking distance of many climbing and hiking routes—making it a prime spot for adventurers.

The Devil's Punchbowl is an underrated bouldering spot that deserves to be on your bucket list.

Devil’s Punchbowl bouldering

While the previous two spots are popular among rock climbers nationwide, the Devil’s Punchbowl is more of a hidden gem. Nestled in the secluded foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, this desert oasis is a boulderer’s dream. The area is blessed with white sandstone strata—soft slabs that are great to climb.

Besides the best bouldering in California, the Devil’s Punchbowl is home to many trad routes for all skills levels.

Marvel at the stunning geological formations as you take over the boulder problems at Vasquez Rocks.

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park bouldering

Tilted slabs, steep overhangs, and deep canyons—bouldering of any sort or shape is possible at Vasquez Rocks. The dramatic desert is home to over 30 climbs. Its coarse-grained sandstone rocks make it all enjoyable. 

Feel like you’ve seen this California bouldering spot before? You probably have. The park has had its fair share of screen time on shows and films such as The Flintstones, Wild Wild West, and Star Trek.

Northern California bouldering

if you're going to boulder, you better do it in Bishop. Having a Bishop bouldering experience is a one-of-a-kind feeling.

Bishop Area Climbing

Bouldering in Bishop is like surfing in Huntington Beach—if you’re pumped about bouldering in California, this locale is at the top of the list. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, experiencing a quintessential Bishop climbing is a must.

Stinson Beach Bouldering

Bouldering and beautiful coastal views? Yes, please. Stinson Beach offers a one-of-a-kind Northern California bouldering experience. The rocks are superb for climbing. However, the difficulty depends on tide levels and the shifting of sand. The rocks can also get a bit slippery when the weather is foggy, so proper climbing shoes are a must for Stinson Beach bouldering.

While Lake Tahoe is famous for its waters, bouldering is also a quintessential activity.

Lake Tahoe bouldering

The Lake Tahoe area boasts plenty of extreme adventures everyone needs to experience, but bouldering is the best one yet. Every Lake Tahoe getaway itinerary deserves to have bouldering on the list. Especially ideal for summer climbing—mountain vistas, alpine lakes, and miles of climbable rocks—Tahoe is a can’t-miss spot for bouldering in California.

Trad climbing is the name of the game in Tahoe. If you're up for the challenge, try tackling the 90-foot wall of Donner Summit. This iconic location overlooks Emerald Bay, showcasing NorCal’s most picturesque views.

Climbing in Sonora Pass

A short drive from NorCal’s populous cities will take you to a bouldering spot in California that rivals Yosemite and Tahoe—sans the crowds. A true hidden gem in the bouldering world, Sonora Pass is a treasure professional climbers would hate us to expose.

While you’ll find beginner climbs in Sonora Pass, this spot is better suited for experienced climbers. If you’re up for a true challenge, head over to Jailhouse Rock. Regarded as the hardest climbing location in California, this Northern California bouldering spot is saved for the pros. Jailhouse Rock has several extremely steep angles and is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Bouldering in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will make you feel like the king of the world.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks bouldering

The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are the lands of giants—expect towering trees and imposing rock formations. Numerous trads and bouldering routes with views like no other are scattered around the sprawling NorCal park. Most formations are solid granite, with a few marble climbs found in the park as well.

If you’re planning on bouldering several coveted spots, consider turning your climbing expedition into a weekend-long backpacking trip. Some bouldering spots are at least one day’s journey, so prolong the journey for an adventurous trip. This Northern California bouldering experience not only tests your endurance but is also all about solitude.

Incredible spots to go bouldering in Southern California

Pack your gear and head over to Idyllwild for a can't-miss California bouldering adventure.

Idyllwild Bouldering

Idyllwild is one of California’s most reputable bouldering and rock climbing destinations. Idyllwild is a key place where the sport took hold in the state. The Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks are popular bouldering choices thanks to their location and variety of climbs. Tucked away in the majestic mountains, Idyllwild bouldering is an exceptional spot for all climbing enthusiasts.

Horse Flats Bouldering

This bouldering spot in Southern California is about an hour away from the city of L.A. Horse Flats Camprgound’s secluded nature makes it one of the best places for granite rock bouldering in Los Angeles. 

Despite being located in SoCal, this locale gets too cold for rock climbing in Los Angeles during the winter. So, if you’re ever looking to escape the scorching L.A. sun, keep Horse Flats Campground on your radar.

Soak in the majestic views of Point Dume after an exciting bouldering experience.

Climbing in Point Dume

Dreaming of bouldering in Los Angeles?. The perfect location for beginner and intermediate climbers is at Point Dume. Boasting expansive views of Malibu and the diversity in rocks and routes will leave you speechless.

You’ll find routes facing the ocean while bouldering at this Southern California locale. Resident climber favorites include Easy Boulder, Right Center, Arete, and Left Flake.

Black Mountain California Bouldering

Another San Jacinto hotspot, the Black Mountains are a premier locale for bouldering in Southern California. Experienced climbers will thrive here, given that the majority of climbs offer steepness and grade challenges. Sounds like something you’d enjoy? Enjoy a Black Mountain California bouldering experience at your own risk and you’ll find tall, challenging climbs waiting for you in solid granite.

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