Few, if any, physical activities are as great for your personal fitness as rock climbing. Not only does it strengthen your core, but it enables you to build lean muscle and flexibility. Thanks to rock climbing walls, which allow just about anyone to take a crack at climbing, the sport is just as accessible as it is beneficial.
Rock wall climbing was born in the UK, invented in 1964 by physical education lecturer Don Robinson, who built a proto-rock wall by sticking bits of rock in a hallway for his students to practice on. The first commercial wall arose in Sheffield, England’s traditional climbing center. Then the sport gradually gathered steam and spread across the world.
If you’re looking to try your luck at climbing, here are the best American rock walls you should visit.
Marymoor Park Climbing Wall – Redmond, Washington
Marymoor Park stands at the north end of Lake Sammamish in Redmond, Washington. The park is King County’s biggest, oldest and most popular, with over 3 million annual visitors come to wander its vast expanses and climb its angular, pyramid-like rock wall structures.
Marymoor Park Climbing Wall differs from your average man-made rock face because it is set outdoors in the elements. The Marymoor wall offers a range of short-spurt climbing routes that stretch about 30 feet and have no particular names.
If you are tempted to test your limits, remember that afternoons are the peak climbing time. Peace-seekers should come to grips with the Marymoor wall’s sharp edges in the morning, at lunchtime or on a chilly day.
Note that the wall is free to use, but no gear is supplied.
Stone Summit – Atlanta, Georgia
Stone Summit claims to be suitable for anyone from a beginner to a top-tier world-class athlete. The rock wall is touted as America’s biggest climbing gym, equipped with massive walls that soar as high as 60 feet.
In total, Stone Summit offers 30,000 square feet of climbing surface, including a bouldering room that will supposedly captivate even fanatical gym rats. The main demographic, however, is old-school, hardcore wild men.
A review of Stone Summit, posted on Tripadvisor, describes it as “flat out awesome.”
Stone Summit day passes cost $15 for adults and $13 for children without gear rental. Besides climbing, the gym also hosts yoga and spin classes and has cardio equipment, circuit training and free weights.
Mesa Rim Indoor Rock Climbing Gym - San Diego, California
Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center sprawls across over 30,000 square feet, supposedly making it the biggest indoor climbing gym on the west coast. It also apparently has the highest indoor climbing walls in San Diego.
The center has over 200 routes, 150 “boulder problems” and “a multitude of crack-climbs,” according to the website. Climbing classes are available to novices and veterans alike.
On Saturday July 21, the center is running a “sun salutation” yoga workshop. According to yoga teacher Michelle Hackett, just 10 minutes of sun salutations will dramatically improve your ability to conquer the tallest, most diverse rock climbing in Southern California.
Mesa Rim Indoor Rock Climbing Gym is owned by Robert and Ranelle Kain. A former Silicon Valley biotech engineer, Robert Kain got hooked on climbing because it let him “flex both mind and muscle”. The idea for the gym came to him when he was scrambling over Joshua Tree rocks. A day pass is $17.
Chelsea Piers – Manhattan, New York, NY
Manhattan is home to Chelsea Piers, a sports and entertainment complex that hosts one of New York City’s biggest indoor rock climbing gyms and one of the toughest rock walls in America. The 46-feet high by 100-feet wide monster will force you to reach for the sky.
At Chelsea Piers you get over 11,000 square feet of “sculpted, three-dimensional imprint climbing surface,” the website says.
The many constantly evolving climbing routes will supposedly test the mettle of both climbing greenhorns and experts. If you want to up the ante, you can grapple with an extremely challenging, over-hung contest roof. Expert instruction is offered to climbers of all abilities and interest levels, including non-members.
Stone Age Climbing Gym – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Billed as New Mexico’s biggest indoor rock climbing gym, Stone Age aptly stands in the state’s largest city, Albuquerque.
The gym with the punning primal name claims to cater for anyone, whatever their “vertical goals.” Stone Age offers 9,600 square feet of floor space, over 12,000 square feet of climbing wall and it describes the challenges posed by its walls as “diverse.” Some climbs are as easy as ascending a ladder, while others are tough enough to make the most devoted adventure athlete wobble.
The climbing complex is well-named because it opened its doors in September 1997, when climbing gyms were a novelty. Back then, Stone Age only offered about half of its current indoor climbing terrain.
Check out the Stone Age staff page and you will see that the gym oozes character. Don’t miss the shot of adventurer Curran Lemp or the quote from colleague Nick Vandiver, who says, “I am psyched to be alive in such wild times…” A day pass costs $15.