Washington State is home to some of the best and most celebrated climbing routes in the continental United States. Washington has played a pivotal role in the development of modern climbing and mountaineering, with many routes pioneered by icons like Fred Beckey. Today, the Evergreen State offers climbers a healthy mix of sport, trad, alpine, and glacier climbs with ice and mixed climbing in the winter. With the rising popularity of gym climbing in Seattle and beyond, many new climbers are wondering what it takes to transition from the gym to climbing outdoors. Gearhouse has everything you need to take your climbing to new heights, from gear rentals to intro courses, climbing nights, and more. If you’re curious about climbing in Washington, dive in below as we explore the ins and outs of Washington’s climbing scene.
Climbing in Washington: An Overview
Washington has 10,460 total climbs (and growing) scattered throughout the state, from the Cascades to the Olympic Mountains and everywhere in between. Sport climbing makes up roughly 33% of Washington climbing routes, while trad climbing takes up 26.5%, and bouldering occupies 26.4% of Washington climbs. New climbers will be delighted to learn that although top rope climbs make up only 6.7% of mapped routes in WA, the state has roughly 800 top rope climbs. Iced, mixed, and alpine climbing each occupy less than 5% of total routes in the state, but there are still hundreds of routes to choose from within those disciplines when snow and ice cover the rock. Or, read on below for how to rock climb year-round.
Climbing Season in Washington
If you’re a multi-discipline climber, you’ll find an abundance of year-round climbing in Washington. If alpine, ice, and mixed climbing aren’t your cup of tea, you’ll find dry rock from late spring to mid-fall throughout much of the state, and even longer into the shoulder season in desert areas like Vantage.
Where to climb in Washington
There are dozens of climbing areas scattered throughout the state, with many located just a short drive from the city of Seattle. Washington has something to offer every climber, whether you’re looking for bouldering, sport, trad, or alpine climbing.
Gold Bar is just under 50 miles from Seattle and possesses some of the best Bouldering in the entire state. Located just off Highway 2, Gold Bar sits in the foothills of the Cascades and is home to over 300 different boulder problems, ranging from a V0 to V11. Gold Bar is a paradise for bouldering and contains some of Washington’s most celebrated problems.
Leavenworth and The Enchantments
Climbing in the Enchantments isn’t easy, but the otherworldly landscape makes the hike in well worth it. Beyond the stunning scenery, the Enchantments is home to world-class granite and approximately 55 different climbs. Popular routes include Der Sportsman, Ingalls Peak, Dragons of Eden, Solid Gold, and The Tipping Point. If the alpine isn’t your calling, Icicle Canyon has hundreds of routes to choose from, offering a mix of granite crags, world-class boulders and a handful of ice climbs in the winter.
Index existed as a secretive climbing mecca for years. It’s now one of the state’s most renowned climbing hubs. Located just passed Gold Bar on Highway 2, Index is only 55 miles from Seattle. Index is a massive area with towering granite walls that contains roughly 975 climbs. With a variety of levels and types of climbing, from 500-foot multi-pitch big walls to bouldering, Index has it all. While over 50% of the climbs in Index are trad routes, sport climbing, top roping, and bouldering are also available. Popular routes include Senior Citizens in Space, Princely Ambitions, Godzilla, Toxic Shock, and Rattletale.
If you’re itching to climb during the winter or shoulder seasons, head to the desert to Vantage, where walls of columnar basalt form a mix of trad and sport routes. Vantage offers over 600 climbs, ranging from beginner routes 5.6 and 5.7 to 5.12. Also known as Frenchman Coulee, Vantage is located off the Old Vantage Highway, approximately 2 and a half hours southeast of Seattle.
Exit 32 & 38 are two separate climbing areas located off I-90 that are grouped together because of their proximity to Seattle, making for easy after-work access in the spring, summer, and fall. With iconic hiking and climbing locations like Little Si and Mount Si, Exits 32 and 38 along I-90 have become synonymous with adventure to outdoor enthusiasts in the Seattle area. Exit 32 offers climbs rated 5.6-5.14, so there’s a route for every level of climber. The area has approximately 200 climbs, with sport climbing taking up most available routes. If you’re an advanced climber and want to test your limits, Little Si's World Walls is considered one of Washington’s hardest routes.
Just a few miles further along I-90, Exit 38, Deception Crags, is a favorite amongst Seattle area climbers. Deceptions Crags is home to climbs with ratings from 5.5- 5.12+. The Nevermind Wall, which can be accessed with the Iron Horse Trail, has some of the best quality rock in the area and offers 27 total climbs. The area contains mostly sport climbing, but there are a few entry-level top rope routes as well.
If you’re new to Seattle or new to climbing outdoors, head to Gearhouse to get beta on popular routes near Seattle. Stock up on gear with our member gear rentals before your next trip to the mountains or let our trip planning department perfect your adventure.