Looking to challenge your body and take in the beauty of nature at the same time? Try rock climbing, one of the nation’s fastest growing sports. You don’t have to go far to find a great spot.
What to Look for
When considering locations, you’ll want to know the difference between traditional lines, sport routes and bouldering. Traditional lines use ropes and harnesses, and you place your own anchors in the rock as you climb. This style emphasizes adventure and a little risk-taking — perfect for self-sufficient outdoors people.
Sport routes, on the other hand, already have permanent anchors or bolts in the rock (generously placed by previous climbers), so you don’t need to hammer them in yourself. The fun here pushes you to practice your strength and endurance, along with your reflexes and flexibility on the rock face. You’ll still wear a harness and carry rope, but you don’t need as much equipment for these types of climbs.
Bouldering doesn’t use any ropes or harnesses; climbers ascend and descend without that safety aid, though these climbing routes should be fairly low to the ground with a friend to spot you, according to Outdoor Knoxville.
Need a breath of fresh air? Find more outdoor activities to enjoy in Tennessee.
Where to Climb
Some favorite routes to go rock climbing in Tennessee are at the Obed Wild and Scenic River area near Wartburg. Located in the Cumberland Plateau, this area is popular for its numerous crags, overhangs and hard rocks.
The park has routes for all skill levels. The Lilly Bridge Buttress is a great place to start with its shorter climbs and a swimming hole nearby for a relaxing rinse-off between sessions. For bouldering, try Lilly Boulder Field, which accommodates a variety of skill levels.
To learn more about the Obed Wild and Scenic River area, head to the Vistor’s Center at 208 North Maiden Street in downtown Wartburg, Tennessee or visit their website.
The Obed and Clear Creek area outside of Knoxville has a number of sport routes, all with fun names like Born on the 4th of July, Tarantella, Solstice and Maximum Overdrive. Here, you can expect hard sandstone and sedimentary layers — good for climbing all year. The Mountain Project says this ranks as some of the top Southeast sport climbing, with a number of bolts, anchors and other climbing-friendly features waiting for you in the rock.
Closer to the Chattanooga area, try Sunset Rock at Lookout Mountain. This route has 80-foot cliffs and a flat top to relax once you’ve ascended. Located nearby is Stone Fort, one of the locations for the Triple Crown Bouldering competition. This popular bouldering destination with big rocks has routes for all climbing levels.
Just Starting Out?
If you’re just starting to hone your skill, indoor rock-climbing and bouldering facilities are great ways to learn the ropes. There are facilities in the Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga areas. Check out this list by Indoor Climbing for more locations. Instructors can teach you proper technique in a more controlled environment before you try the real thing. Safety and education are especially important in climbing.
Rock climbing is a great way to stay in shape, build muscle tone and endurance. So scale new heights and see the world from a whole new view!
Have you ever been rock climbing? Have a favorite spot? Tell us about your experience!
Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.